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Whenever you attempt to recover money for damage done to your vehicle, it is important to show the judge several estimates for the cost of repairs. Three is usually a good number. If you have already had the work done, bring your canceled check or receipt from the repair shop along with the other estimates. Be sure to get your estimates from reputable shops. If, for some reason, you get an estimate from someone you later think isn't competent, simply ignore it and get another. You have no legal responsibility to get your car fixed by anyone suggested to you by the person who caused the damage. Indeed, common sense often dictates that you don't. Unfortunately, you can't recover money from the other party to cover the time you put in to get estimates, take your car to the repair shop, or appear in court.

In addition to damage to your car, you can also recover money for the fair market value of anything in your car that was destroyed. You must be prepared to establish both the fact of the damage and the dollar amount of the loss. (See Chapter 4 for a discussion of how to do this.) You can also recover money for the cost of alternate transportation while your car is disabled. However, a judge will usually only allow car rental fees for the minimum period of time it reasonably should have taken to get your car fixed. Thus, if it normally would take two days to get a fender fixed, you would only be entitled to reimbursement for renting a car for that time, not the days it took for an overworked body shop to get around to it.

Defendants should be on their guard against plaintiffs who try to pad their repair bill. Sometimes, plaintiffs will try to fix existing damage to their car as part of getting legitimate accident work done. If you think the plaintiff is asking for too much money, try to develop evidence to support your belief. For example, if you can present evidence that the plaintiff's car was already damaged at the time of your accident, but that the plaintiff is suing you for 100% of all repair costs, the judge should award less–maybe a lot less–than the amount he or she is demanding. Also, remember that the plaintiff is only entitled to get repairs worth up to the total value of the car before the accident. If the car was worth only $1,500 and the repairs would cost $2,500, the plaintiff is only entitled to $1,500. (See Chapter 4.)

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