If your vehicle has special equipment or custom parts that were damaged in an accident, you have a right to have the custom parts repaired or replaced so that your car or truck is returned to its pre-accident condition. Insurance companies will often try to tell you that they don’t need to pay for custom parts and only need to repair your vehicle to stock condition. This is incorrect. Under California law, the person who caused the accident is responsible for restoring your vehicle to the condition it was in before the accident. If your car or truck is totaled (will not be repaired), you are entitled to be paid the value of the custom parts in addition to the value of your vehicle, provided that you can prove the custom parts were there and you can competently establish their value. A personal injury attorney specializing in accident cases should be able to do this for you as it is a relatively straightforward process.
In the event that your vehicle will not be repaired and is declared a total loss, commonly referred to as “totaled,” then you are entitled to be paid the value of the special equipment. In such a case, it will be helpful if you have receipts showing how much you paid for the custom parts. This is the most simple way to establish value. However, not everyone keeps receipts for special equipment as they are not expecting to be involved in an accident. If you do not have receipts, then you and your attorney will have to use alternative means to both establish existence of the custom parts and prove their value through presentation of competent evidence.
Existence and Value
Competently establishing existence and value of special equipment requires two steps that you should begin doing immediately after an accident. First, take pictures of the parts currently on your car or truck to prove that they are actually installed on it. If your car or truck is in a tow yard, go to the tow yard right away and take pictures or inform your personal injury attorney that there are custom parts on your vehicle so your attorney can make sure that photographs are taken. The important thing is to take the pictures now, while you still have access to the vehicle and know its location. Once your totaled vehicle it is taken to a junkyard, which eventually will occur if it is totaled, you may never be able to find it. Even if you did find it, the custom parts will likely have been removed and sold off.
Second, you need to search on the internet and find the exact same parts (that are installed on your car or truck) for sale by reputable retail dealers. Once you find the parts and the prices, print out the information so you have hard copies that will be submitted as evidence in support of your legal case for reimbursement. You can also go to a retail dealer to obtain pricing documentation. You and your accident lawyer can then match up the pictures of the parts actually on your vehicle with pricing information you found online or at a dealership, thereby establish the value of your special equipment and successfully being able to prove it through competent evidence in a court of law.