In North Carolina, if your car has been damaged in a wreck that was not your fault, you are probably aware that you have the right to get it fixed by the insurance company of the person who caused the wreck. But what happens if you get it repaired, and it is not worth what it was before the accident? For instance, if the repairs are over 25% of the value of the car, you have to disclose that when you sell the car, and you can bet that you will not get full price for it when you go to sell it or trade it in.
So, the law allows for you to recover depreciation. The way to determine if there has been depreciation is to ask a car dealer. If the dealer says that the car is worth less than before the wreck even after it has been fully repaired, the insurance adjuster will almost surely want to have that in writing. So, you should get the dealer to put the numbers down on stationary from the dealership.
You should not let any time pass before making your claim for depreciation to the adjuster. 11 NCAC 04.421(5) states the following:
“If a release or full payment of claim is executed by a third party claimant, involving a repair to a motor vehicle, it shall not bar the right of the third party claimant to promptly assert a claim for diminished value, which diminished value was directly caused by the accident and which diminished value could not be determined or known until after the repair or attempted repair of the motor vehicle. Claims asserted within 30 days after repair for diminished value shall be considered promptly asserted.”
So, if I were you, I would try to do it within thirty (30) days. It’s possible that there is a way around this, but I am not aware of it having been tested in Court. So, unless you want to be the guinea pig that it gets tested on, you should try and make your depreciation claim within thirty (30) days of settling your claim for repairs to your vehicle.
Insurance adjusters are particularly hard to deal with in regard to depreciation. Even if you do your best to negotiate a fair amount for depreciation, the adjuster may use a bully’s retort: “So, sue me.” You may be able to use Small Claims Court to do just that if you do not have a personal injury claim arising from the same wreck.
However, you should consult a lawyer first. Most lawyers are not going to be anxious to take a case for motor vehicle depreciation because the amounts involved are typically too small to justify the amount of time it would take to go through the process, but a lawyer familiar with this territory should be able to give you some advice and help you avoid serious pitfalls.
In summary, if your vehicle was seriously damaged by a careless driver in a wreck, it may be worth less than it was before the wreck even after it has been fully repaired. If so, you are entitled to be paid depreciation. To prove depreciation to the adjuster, you can get a written statement from a reputable dealer stating the amount of depreciation. And, be sure to make your depreciation claim within thirty (30) days of settling the repair claim.