You’re innocently driving along, obeying the law, when an irresponsible yo-yo runs a red light and sideswipes you. You’ve done nothing wrong. However, the insurance company can make you feel like you have when it won’t pay to repair or replace your car, especially if it’s a total loss. If it’s not a case an attorney will take, you might worry that you’re stuck with a lowball offer—or that you have to wait until the insurance company is done stonewalling to get it settled. However, that might not be the case.
One Do-It-Yourself Way to Use the Courts to Settle Car Accident Property Damage Claims
Luckily, South Carolina law offers an informal court procedure to resolve property damage claims fairly easily. It’s called property damage arbitration.
Here’s how it works:
- File. You file papers at the clerk of court’s office in the county courthouse where the crash occurred or where the at-fault driver lives. The clerk provides the papers for you. You’ll need the at-fault driver’s name and address, plus an explanation of why it’s the driver’s fault. The sheriff serves the papers on the at-fault driver. It costs you $10.00.
- Response. The at-fault driver has 30 days to respond to your filing, and he or she should send the served papers to the insurance company. That’s when the insurance company might get an earful from its customer about why it hasn’t settled your claim.
- Hearing. The arbitration panel at the hearing is made up of three lawyers unconnected to your case. The earliest hearing date is 60 days from filing the papers.
- Evidence. For estimates of the damage to your car, you’ll need two, both signed by the estimator. For completed repairs, you need signed receipts. For any other damaged property, like clothes or car seats, you’ll need bills or receipts. You can also have witnesses testify. You can get a subpoena from the clerk to force them to appear at the hearing.
- Award. If you win, you’re eligible to receive all property damage compensation allowed by law. It may even be possible to receive punitive damages, but these are rare and can be really hard to get without a lawyer.
- Appeal. The loser can appeal as provided by law, requiring a new hearing (that’s legalese for “do-over”) in front of a circuit court judge.
If the insurance company is truly ignoring or shortchanging you, don’t let them get away with it. If you have serious injuries and the insurance company is giving you this much grief already, step aside from the strain to see what an experienced lawyer can do to take over and make your life easier.
If you have other questions about your injuries, download our free report on car crash cases. You can also start an email or live chat right where you are. Unlike the insurance company, we promise to return your calls—and we’ll do all we can to make you feel good about it.