Action 9

ACTION 9: Accident victims could be missing out on thousands of extra dollars

CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Summer Cline was rear-ended and pushed into the car in front of her. She says the repairs cost about $8,000.

Once things settled down, she realized her SUV wasn't worth what it used to be.  It hit her that, when she goes to sell it or trade it in, someone's going to find out it was in a wreck and she'll have to settle for less money.

So, she filed what's called a diminished value claim -- to get that money now before she takes that financial hit later.

Vehicle appraiser Billy Walkowiak says many people don't know about diminished value claims.  Your insurance company may not volunteer it, but you're entitled to it in both Carolinas.

"It's kind of the best kept secret in the insurance industry, Walkowiak said.  "The wreck history will follow your car.  And, if someone asks you if it's been in a wreck, you're going to be honest and tell them it has.  And they're not going to pay the same amount.  So, you need to be compensated for that loss."

He got Cline $2,500 for diminished value.  "Your car goes down in value when you're in an accident and you're never going to get that money back unless you fight for it," she said.

Some points to remember:

- You only have three years (from the date of the wreck) to file a diminished value claim.

- It has to be someone else's fault.  So, deer and utility poles don't count.

- You have to go through the other driver's insurance, not your own.

So how do you go about filing a claim?

  1. Get your vehicle repaired. You have to do this to compare the pre-accident value to the current value.
  2. Research the pre-accident value. You can do this at websites like Kelley Blue Book.  You'll want to look up the same make, model, mileage, condition, and geographic area as your vehicle.
  3. Take it to a professional appraiser or used car dealer to get the current value, and then file a claim with the other driver's insurance company.

Experts say some insurance companies will try to resist paying, so be persistent. You may have to threaten them with an attorney or take them to small claims court to get your money.