HOUSTON – Millions of people drive behind the wheel in Texas every day.
There are 17.8 million motorists in the Lone Star State, according to the latest Federal Highway Administration report.
The vast majority, however, have no idea of the meaning of something called “impairment”.
It only comes into play after an accident, and a lot of it happens in Texas. According to the Texas Department of Transportation, there is one every 56 seconds.
So why bother about depreciation, considering that it is most likely something you may never have heard of? The reason is simple: if you are the driver who gets hit in an accident, you can leave thousands on the table even after the car is repaired.
As KPRC investigated 2 Investigates on Tuesday evening, depreciation is the depreciation of a vehicle after an accident with damage. For example, if a car is worth $ 50,000 and is hit, the blue book value will decrease by $ 3,000 due to the accident. The difference of $ 3,000 is the depreciation a driver can claim from the opposing insurance company.
“This is going to be a negotiation and if you don’t take your side you may not get it,” said Ben Gonzalez of the Texas Department of Insurance.
Texas is a state where drivers involved in accidents seek compensation for the depreciation of their vehicle.
Insurance companies don’t go out of their way to report depreciation to victims, according to several body shop experts KPRC 2 Investigates spoke to during our investigation. In fact, several well-known insurance carriers have no reference to this on their website.
“This is what insurance companies should tell you,” said Denise Maxwell of Collision Fix in northwest Harris County.
Maxwell believes there is a reason drivers are not being notified of the depreciation after an accident.
“For me, the insurance company doesn’t want you to know, and it’s better to embarrass you so you know they’ll save money in the long run,” Maxwell said.
Audrey Salazar found out the hard way the value is less.
“The only way I found out about it is by the fact that I was hit. Someone in a body shop mentioned it to me and I checked it out, ”said Salazar, owner of Diminished Value and Associates.
Salazar says dealing with insurance companies is a case of David and Goliath, with insurance companies knowing their position well.
“You know very well that you are Goliath,” said Salazar.
Salazar has been supporting accident victims on the difficult path of getting insurance companies to pay since 2018.
“I would say that insurance companies are currently offering an average of 10% of actual depreciation,” said Salazar.
According to Salazar, insurance companies do not want to pay for the actual loss in value, which is a gamble to fully compensate for the loss.
“Sometimes I like a crap shoot. And when you talk about a big conglomerate like an insurance company, they usually win, ”says Salazar, who says an impairment can be claimed up to two years after an accident.
WHAT CAN A VICTIM DO IF THE INSURANCE DOESN’T PLAY BALL?
The process can be lengthy. In Salazar’s case, it took six months for her depreciation to be paid off in full. In the opinion of all the experts we spoke to, insurance companies do not take it easy.
“It’s like they’re knocking you off like a fly because they don’t want you to come back and negotiate a higher settlement,” Salazar said.
So what can a victim do when dealing with an insurance company that is unresponsive or disparaging a victim after making a claim for impairment?
The Texas Department of Insurance is an option.
“If consumers call us and they don’t get what they want from the other party’s insurance company, we can step in,” said Gonzalez of TDI.
Gonzalez reveals that shortly after receiving a complaint, TDI can contact the company and ask, “What are you doing about it?”
Texas Department of Insurance complaints from 2016 to 2021. (KPRC)
Insurance companies that do not respond appropriately are of interest to TDI and are something the agency wants to be informed about. In the past five years, 614 drivers who complained got more money. The total amount? According to Gonzalez, it was $ 1.2 million, which averages about $ 2,000 per case.
There’s no one-size-fits-all formula, but vehicles no older than five years and less than 100,000 miles are the best candidates. A luxurious exotic vehicle worth tens or hundreds of thousands may be the exception. A driver cannot be to blame and must be requested. Since this is a negotiation, you should document all conversations with the insurance company. TDI regards this as evidence and accepts it through their complaints portal on their website.
Denise Maxwell’s greatest advice is: “Fight it. Fight against it. Do not give up. Don’t let insurance win.
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