Robert is an owner operator with a million accident-free miles. While parked at a truck stop in Florida, he was hit by a new CDL driver. The accident cost Robert $20,000 in repairs and 30 days down. Robert filed a claim with the other driver’s insurance company, who agreed to pay for the repairs. However, that adverse adjuster said, “We don’t pay downtime.”
Robert didn’t take no for an answer and decided to pursue his downtime further. He calculated all of his losses and contacted the adjuster’s supervisor. Robert backed up his calculations with supporting documents. He also explained why he couldn’t rent another truck because of his highly specialized equipment. In the end, Robert changed the supervisor’s mind and settled his downtime claim for the amount of his lost income.
As an owner operator, you make money only when rolling. Your truck makes no money while parked at a repair shop after an accident. Even if the adverse driver’s insurance company agrees to fix your truck, they might not be willing to pay your lost income or other losses.
After an accident, be sure to let the at-fault party know all of your expenses related to the accident. This includes not only repair costs and lost income, but towing, rental, hotel, and other compensatory damages. Insurance adjusters require receipts for everything, so be sure to keep these documents in a safe place and provide them as soon as possible.
Some states allow you to pursue diminished value of your equipment. What is diminished value? It’s the difference in value before and after the accident. Here’s an example: Your truck was worth $80,000 before the accident. After the accident, it’s only worth $60,000. Your truck lost $20,000 in value. So, get a valuation report from an expert and ask the other side to pay the loss.
Most insurance adjusters have a lot of files on their desks, so it’s important to keep your claim at the top of the pile. Stay polite and professional on each call, even when the situation gets frustrating. You will move the case along by listening very carefully to the proof the adjuster needs and asking pertinent questions. Confirm all conversations in writing, so all parties are on the same page.
The adjuster may ask about your mitigation. Mitigation basically means lessening your losses. It might mean renting a truck while yours is in the shop, co-driving with someone else, or filing a claim with your own insurance. There are many reasons why owner operators cannot mitigate their damages, so be ready for this question from the adjuster.
The other party’s insurance company may send you a release to sign before sending you a check. Don’t be too quick to sign it. Read it carefully. If you have any related open claims, make sure they are not included in the release. For example, if you have a personal injury claim pending from the same accident, make sure you aren’t signing your personal injury rights away.
Don’t wait long too to resolve your case. Every state has Statutes of Limitation. These laws limit the amount of time you have to pursue your claim. Be sure to consult with an attorney if you have questions on these and other legal matters.
Note: This is intended to convey general information only and not to provide legal advice or opinions. An attorney should be contacted for advice on specific legal issues.
About the author: Kelsea Eckert founded the law firm of Eckert & Associates, PA. As lead attorney, she focuses on collecting downtime losses for owner operators and small fleets across the United States. Ms. Eckert offers free consultations on downtime and other insurance matters. She can be reached at www.downtimeclaims.com and 1-800-Downtime.