If you have been the victim of a serious car accident, often the only way to continue driving your vehicle is to have it repaired. However, if your accident was relatively minor in nature – one that does not affect the functionality or safety of your car – you may be inclined to use your insurance check for other more pressing financial needs. The question is: Are you required to use the money you receive exclusively for your car repair, or can you pocket the money for other purposes? And does it change if you can make the repairs yourself?
The short answer is, No – you don’t necessarily have to use the insurance money after a car accident to fix your car. If you own the car outright, then what you do with the check after it has been cut is entirely up to you. If you want to fix the car on your own, you can do that, too. However, not using the insurance money for the required repairs is a bit of risk for you.
You may only be able to file a claim once
Let’s say you are in a slow-moving accident, and the other driver scratches the pain on your car. It looks “ugly,” but it’s drivable, so you opt to leave the car alone and use the money for something else. Then, 6 months later, your car is sideswiped by yet another car. You submit another claim to the insurance company.
In this case, your insurer is going to look very, very carefully at that claim. Often, repeated claims for the same or similar damages are a sign of fraud, so your insurance company is going to be wary of your claim from the start.
Furthermore, because you didn’t fix the damage the first time, you may not be able to prove that new damage occurred. As such, your insurance company will likely deny your claim, saying that it is not responsible for pre-existing damages. After all, they already paid you for the original claim, so they know that the car had sustained some damage.
Fixing your own car can cause problems later
This time, let us say that you are hit by a car while going through an intersection. The car sustained serious damage, and the insurance company cuts you a check for a few thousand dollars, based on the estimate from the autobody shop. You believe that it would be less expensive to fix the car yourself, so you take the check and put it to other use.
This, too, may prove to be a problem later. Unless you are a trained mechanic, or can prove that a trained mechanic did the work for free (i.e., calling in a favor with a friend, or asking a family member to work on the car), there is no guarantee that later damages will be covered. Unless there is proof that the car was fixed correctly and appropriately after the crash, any additional problems that arise may not be covered.
Retaining physical damage coverage on your vehicle
Finally, there could be a problem with getting certain types of coverage for your vehicle. If you intend to continue having collision and comprehensive coverage on your vehicle, you may be required to use your insurance check for the necessary repairs. The insurance company may not continue insuring your vehicle with physical damage coverage until the vehicle is repaired. The proof that your vehicle is repaired is usually based on a claim check sent to you and the body shop.
If you or a loved one has been involved in a serious car, truck, or motorcycle wreck, our Chattanooga car accident attorneys want to help. Wagner & Wagner has the resources and experience to help you get justice. We can hold any responsible parties for your accident accountable and fight for the compensation you deserve. We represent injured clients in Chattanooga, Cleveland, and the surrounding areas, as well as throughout North Georgia. To arrange a free consultation about your case, give us a call today at 423.799.3532 or complete our contact form.