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General September 20, 2021
My client was in an accident and wrecked his beautiful black 2016 Harley-Davidson FXSB Softail Breakout. The bike had over $2,000.00 in mods and upgrades. The insurance company moved the bike to a local HD dealer who said there was over $15,000.00 in damage. The insurance company declared the bike a “total loss” meaning it is not practical to repair. In California the general rule is that is the cost of repair is over 75% of the value of the bike, the bike will be declared a “total Loss”. Now What?
Unless your bike is custom or collector bike with a special value, it’s best to try and reach an agreement because if you do not you will get screwed in the contractual appraisal process. The terms of your motorcycle insurance contract has an “appraisal clause” meaning if you cannot agree then each side hires an appraiser. This could set you back up to $500.00. Then, if the two appraiser can’t agree (which they rarely do) you will have to hire a third appraiser called an “evaluation umpire” to decide. The cost of the “evaluation umpire” is then shared by the parities (another $500.00). The bottom line is that in the end you could end up with LESS than the original total loss settlement offer.
Low Ball Total Loss Offer – It is an Unfair Claims Practice to compel you to institute litigation to recover amounts due under your insurance policy by offering a substantially less than the amount ultimately recovered in an action brought by the insured when the insured has made a claim for an amount “reasonably similar” to the amount ultimately recovered.
Delay in Payment – California law states that it is also an Unfair Claims Practice for an insurance company “Not attempting in good faith to effectuate prompt, fair and equitable settlement of claims where liability has become reasonable clear company”. In other words, it’s illegal for your insurance company to delay settling your total loss claim.
Forced Appraisal/Litigation – Finally, it is illegal for your own insurance company to essentially force you to litigate your claim by forcing you into appraisal by making a “low ball” offer. This could also be a claim for bad faith against your insurance company for breach of the implied covenant of good faith and fair dealing.
“Every California contract contains an implied covenant of good faith and fair dealing whereby each party promises to not do anything which will injure the rights of the other to receive the benefits of the agreement.” Wolf v. Walt Disney (2008) 162 Cal. App. 4th 1107, 1120.
But yes, if you go through your own insurance company you will have to pay your deductible but once liability is established, your insurance company can “waive the deductible” or you can seek reimbursement from the driver at fault’s insurance. The bad news is that if you have “liability only” insurance you are at the mercy of the driver at fault’s insurance company and they have no duty whatsoever to be fair, just or reasonable. In fact, there assigned “property damage adjustor” may seem nice on the phone but his or her sole job is to pay as little as possible and save money.
Sadly to say, but unfortunately, many so called “motorcycle law firms” and lawyers do not even help their client’s with their property damage claim leaving them “high and dry” and vulnerable to the abuses of the insurance companies. And also unlike others, at the Reinecke Law Firm, we never charge a fee, not a dime, to help you resolve your property damage claim.
About Motorcycle Injury Lawyer Tom Reinecke:
Since 1987, Tom Reinecke has been a highest rated California Motorcycle Injury Lawyer and has been named the “Best Motorcycle Lawyer” and the Motorcycle “Super Lawyer” in the Los Angeles Times Magazine. Tom was recently named one of the “Top 100” Personal Injury Lawyers by the National Trial Lawyers (2018, 2019). A graduate of UCLA, former Superior Court Judge Pro Tem, and author of California Motorcycle Law, Tom Reinecke has successfully handled thousands of motorcycle accident and injury cases in California and recovered millions of dollars for his for his clients.