Diminished Value After a Car Accident - Will Your Car Insurance Pay?

Why Your Car Is Worth So Much Less After a Car Accident

Diminished value lessens the resale value of your car
How to get the diminished value aid by your insurance company. Terraxplorer / Getty Images

What Is Diminished Value on a Car?

Definition: Diminished value is the perceived loss in value of a vehicle following a car accident. What this means is that if your car is damaged in a car accident, even if it gets repaired and is as good as new, the fact that it has a damage history, or is considered a vehicle that has been in an accident, will make it's resale value lower in the eyes of prospective buyers.

Some people think that the reason for the diminished value is due to aftermarket parts, but this is not the only possibility, even vehicles repaired at a dealership with authorized original parts will suffer from a diminished value once fully repaired. The reason for a car's diminished value is due to the fact that it has been in an accident. Once your car is listed, you're facing diminished value.This fact alone has created a diminished resale or trade value compared to other vehicles of the same kind that were never involved in an accident at all.

Example of Diminished Value After a Car Accident 

Consider this example: You have a brand new car. After an accident your insurance company fixed your car back to its original condition. You go to sell your car and since the new buyer checked out the vehicle's history report and found that it was in an accident, they are not willing to pay anything near what your car is actually worth and worse, some buyers won't consider buying your vehicle at all since it was in an accident!

Obviously, your vehicle has incurred more than just physical damage, but damage on its value also.

There are three ways that a vehicle may sustain diminished value following a car accident that may make you consider filing a claim.

3 Diminished Value Definitions

  • Immediate Diminished Value - The immediate diminished value is the difference in the resale or trade-in value of the car from before the accident to after the accident when repairs have been done.
  • Inherent Diminished Value - Inherent diminished value assumes the vehicle has been repaired following an accident to its original condition, with the exception of the fact that it is now considered as a vehicle that has been in an accident. This perception reduces the value a person may get for the vehicle when they try and sell it or trade it in, compared to what they would have gotten before, as in the example above.
  • Repair Related Diminished Value - Repair related diminished value is the lost value that is resulting specifically from the quality of repairs, for example, if the paint color is not a perfect match or if generic parts were used in the repairs or aftermarket parts, then the quality of the repair left a definite loss in value on the vehicle following the accident, beyond the simple inherent diminished value that already exists from an accident alone.

As you can see, diminished value can affect your car value on several levels after a claim. Once you understand all the areas that your vehicle value can get hit based on different circumstances, you may want to consider trying to get compensated for the overall diminished value following your car accident by making a diminished value insurance claim.

What is a Diminished Value Insurance Claim?

A Diminished Value Insurance Claim is when you request an amount of money from your car insurance company to compensate you for the difference between your car's value before the repairs (prior to the accident) and its current value now that it has been repaired. This value can easily amount to a few thousand dollars for newer vehicles. 

    Will the Insurance Company Pay for Diminished Value in My Claim?

    You may be able to get compensated for the diminished value on a claim, depending on the circumstances, and which state you are living in. Each state and insurance company has different policies.

    Insurance companies don't always pay for a vehicle's diminished value but many consumers feel that it is the insurance company's responsibility to pay for a diminished value claim. Insurance companies in most states will consider who is responsible for the accident to decide if they will pay a diminished value. In other states, they may not pay at all. 

    Diminished Value After a Non- Responsible Accident

    If you had a non-responsible accident, the insurance company is more likely to cover a diminished value claim. When someone else is responsible for your loss, you may be able to legally pursue the third party (the person responsible for the accident) or their insurer, but always ask your insurance company to pay your claim first, it could save you a lot of trouble.

    Diminished Value Claims and Uninsured Motorists

    If your accident is the fault of an uninsured motorist, ask your insurance company about a diminished value claim, many states will allow diminished value claims to be paid from the uninsured motorist portion of the insurance.

    Diminished Value After a Responsible Accident

    Responsible accidents are accidents that you are responsible for, so the perspective on whether an insurance company should pay for the diminished value is different than when the accident is not your fault. You may have a harder time trying to collect anything from your insurance company if the claim is considered due to a responsible accident. If you have legal insurance or access to inexpensive legal counsel, then you could consult your lawyer to find out what the likelihood of getting paid would be based on your state laws. It doesn't hurt to find out what your insurance company is willing to do for you specifically, but , in general, this situation is less likely to pay for diminished value.

    What to Do to Get Paid for Diminished Value

    So, what should you do if you want to be covered for the diminished value of your vehicle? First, check with your insurance company to see if they offer diminished value coverage. Some insurance companies may already offer it in their current policies or as an added coverage. 

    How to Figure Out Diminished Value After a Car Accident

    If you want to make a diminished value claim, it makes sense that you'll need to figure out how much value your car has lost due to the accident. If your vehicle is older and does not have a lot of value, then a diminished value claim may not make sense for you, especially if you are considering going to the court to get your payment. 

    Two Ways to Verify Diminished Value 

    The easiest way to get a quick idea is to use an online site like Edmunds.com or Kelley Blue Book to find out what the value of your car would be under normal circumstances (a pre-accident value). Then you can ask your car dealership to give you a trade-in value on your vehicle now that you've had an accident. This should give you a ballpark idea of the diminished value to help you decide if it is worth pursuing a diminished value claim. Keep in mind that the car dealer's trade-in value may not be the best possible rate, but if they can give you a written offer showing the fact that the value of the car is less due to the fact that it is accidented, then it's good enough for your own understanding.

    The second way to verify diminished value is to get a professional evaluation from a company that specializes in diminished value insurance valuations. This will be the most reliable information if you want a solid number, just make sure that your evaluator is qualified and recognized by insurers.

    What States Will Pay Diminished Value Claims?

    After a lawsuit in 2001, Georgia changed their rules to include payment for diminished value claims. Since then, many more insurers will consider a diminished value claim if supporting documents or circumstances make sense. Some states agree that insurance companies are required to pay the diminished value, so if you are in one of these states, you shouldn't have a problem. If you want to know if your state generally covers diminished value claims, you can contact your state insurance commissioner

    How to Make a Diminished Value Claim

    Once you have your evaluation and know how much you are going to claim for diminished value with all the supporting documentation, you can present your case to the insurance company and ask for compensation when you file your claim.

    What You Can Do If Your Insurance Will Not Pay Diminished Value After Your Car Accident

    If you are trying to collect on a diminished value claim and are denied by your insurance company, go to your state insurance commissioner first. If you get no help there and if it is important enough to you, you could hire a lawyer to help you recover the diminished value of your vehicle. Keep in mind that there are some companies you can find online that specialize in getting insurance companies to pay for the diminished value of your vehicle, but make sure you research the company first before giving them any money.