Thanks for your tenacious persistence in prosecuting my claim with USAA... Without your expertise I never would have gotten over $21K plus tax from them. I have recommended you to friends and will continue to do so in the future.
— Jack Donnelly
LTC, US Army (Ret)
by Jason Knapfel
Father's Day is supposed to be a time to reflect on your family and how much you appreciate your children, just as much as they are supposed to return the favor during the holiday. However, that ideal scenario was abruptly put on hold on June 17, 2012.
In most ways, it was a pretty uneventful day like any other. At around dinner time, I set off to pick up my vehicle that I had just left at my brother-in-law’s house earlier that day. The plan couldn't have been simpler: my wife and kids would take me to get my car and they’d follow me back home for a relaxing evening together.
That ended in a split second.I drove back towards the main road only a few hundred yards from my brother-in-law's residence with my family following behind me in our Honda Odyssey. The intersection is not typical in regards to how traffic signs and signals are laid out. And I didn't find out until after the fact that this intersection had been deadly only a few short months before, with a pedestrian being fatally struck.
As for my incident, a man was crossing the street after hitting the button, which triggers a blinking yellow light. That means all traffic must yield to the pedestrian. Since I was heading east (see diagram below), I started out cautiously since I posed no danger to the pedestrian on my right (and as far as I can tell, all traffic had stopped as they were supposed to).
I didn't account for the inside lane heading westbound where an SUV paid no mind to the blinking yellow light and plowed through me and the intersection. In actuality the impact was my front bumper into their passenger door. I later found out that the passenger claimed to be sleeping - what a wake up call!
There were a lot of witnesses, since it was at the edge of a residential area and a public park. One eager witness came up to me to say I probably saved the pedestrian's life. Ever the skeptic, I didn’t totally buy it, but even just the possibility that fate unfolded in such a way that I may have been responsible for saving a life had my head in an existential whirl for days. What if I approached the intersection 10 seconds earlier, would he have died? What if I was 10 seconds later, would the SUV going at least 40 mph hit me square on my driver side door and taken my life?
Diminished Value: What a Revelation
Before June 17, 2012, I had never heard of the concept of Diminished Value claims. Ironically, the brother-in-law I met that day did, and recommended my wife and I investigate the possibility of being compensated for the lost value in my vehicle.
It's always worth investigating a claim, but given that my little 2008 Toyota Yaris had minimal miles on it, I knew it retained a substantial amount of its original value and that I stood to lose some of that value if or when I decided to sell it in the future.
This is where my wife got proactive, ever the vigilant overseer of our family financial matters. It’s also where we crossed paths with Autoloss.com.
We started our search cold with no referral, with my wife coming across Autoloss.com online. There, she filled out a questionnaire with our contact information. Within about 24 hours, we were sent an email introducing the President of Autoloss, Monica Fisher, letting us know that her company could get started that day if we just sent over the repair order.
That was on a Friday. The following Monday we were sent over a draft of the detailed report. Once we approved it, we paid the modest service cost of $249 which included the company’s report and if the insurance company didn't accept it, Autoloss.com would help navigate the process of going back and forth with the insurance company to get a settlement.
Autoloss determined that the pre-loss fair market value for my vehicle was $14,653. When they factored in the damage, the value dropped to $10,990. So, after some simple math we requested a diminished value claim of $3,663.
State Farm, the other driver’s insurance company, accepted our claim and offered us the full diminished value that Autoloss.com determined with no haggling.
I think the thorough 28-page report was the reason the insurance company accepted our demands so quickly and offered us the full amount. It presented well-documented research and a persuasive argument as to why I should be owed money for the loss of value for my car. One of the more impressive elements to the report was quotes from numerous Toyota dealerships saying how they would not even touch vehicles with frame damage.Each diminished value case will have its own set of circumstances, so you can’t expect each to work out the same. But in my case, it couldn't have gone any smoother. Whether or not you've heard of diminished value before my story, you now know that you are not only rightfully owed more than just repairs on your damaged vehicle, but the "invisible loss" of the reduced resale value. Armed with that knowledge, you may just be avoiding a costly mistake.