What If You Discover Car Damage After An Accident?

Even if you’re fortunate enough to escape personal harm, dealing with vehicle damage can be complicated.

In fact, some serious and costly problems might be discovered after the collision. That’s a tough situation, with almost no legal recourse.

Below, we’ll cover why your options are limited and how to ensure all damage is discovered upfront.

Can’t I Just Claim More Vehicle Damage Later?

Generally speaking, you get one shot at a vehicle damage claim.

When the insurer offers a settlement check, it usually includes (or is contingent upon) a waiver of any future damage claims.

From an insurer’s perspective, this makes perfect sense. The matter is resolved, and no longer a pending liability on their books.

But as a vehicle owner, it means categorically no compensation for damage you notice after settlement. Even if the damage existed all along, its absence from your claim means it’s effectively off the table.

How to Avoid Missed Damage

In the overwhelming majority of cases, there’s no way to claim damage that you discover later. Settlements are effectively final.

Your best (and only) option is to avoid that situation altogether.

1. Get a professional inspection immediately

It’s tempting to try to end the matter quickly and move on with life as soon as possible. The insurer may also pressure you to settle promptly.

But proceed with caution.

Some damage (to electronics or engine components, for instance) is difficult or impossible for most of us to detect. What’s more, the stress of a collision—let alone any injuries—makes it even harder to notice hidden but critical damage.

After photographing the scene and filing police and insurance reports, get your car to a reputable mechanic immediately. They will calmly and thoroughly inspect your vehicle from bumper to bumper. They will also provide a comprehensive damage summary, repair estimates, and other critical details that your insurer will take into account.

We can’t overstate the importance of documenting all damage at once!

While it’s important to avoid haste, keep in mind that your time is limited. At minimum, your insurer will require prompt notice of a collision. They may even require a full claim within just days of the accident, so prompt inspection is essential.

Note that the exact time frame depends on the terms of your policy. Unlike with personal injury claims, these are not subject to Washington’s statute of limitations.

2. Seek counsel from a collision specialist

Even if you were fortunate enough to avoid injury, some damage claims are still complicated to resolve.

For instance, disputes over fault and negligence can seriously derail negotiations, and all the more so when a third party’s insurance is involved. An experienced attorney can help streamline this stressful process and win you the fullest possible compensation.

Additionally, our team of car accident legal specialists can help you decipher the legalese and potentially negotiate a fairer settlement.

This is of the utmost importance if you are pursuing vehicle and injury claims at the same time. Those different processes with different remedies and statutes of limitations. Before you sign anything, it’s critical to understand which claim(s) any settlement or release documents apply to.

The Problem With Damage Discovered After an Accident

The aftermath of a car accident can feel as stressful as the collision itself.

And it only compounds that stress (and financial hardship) if you find vehicle damage after filing your initial claim. It’s worth reiterating that there’s virtually no way to add newfound damage to a settled claim.

What you can do is get a prompt, professional vehicle inspection that leaves no stone unturned.

And if it proves difficult to reach a fair settlement, or to pursue an injury claim at the same time, you can also choose a legal team with a track record of winning on behalf of accident victims.

If you’d feel more confident with counsel on your side, then contact us today for a no-obligations discussion.