1. If you have Collision coverage under your own insurance, use it and repair the vehicle under that coverage. Have your insurance deal with the headache of dealing with the federal government. This allows you to get your repairs done quickly as opposed to snail speed of the federal government.
IMPORTANT: Tell your insurance to hold off on their subrogation claim against USPS until you're done with your claims. You see, you have claims beyond the repair cost such as the deductible you will pay to your own insurance company, loss of use/rental expense, diminished value, medical, loss of wages, etc. You need to be made whole. And you will make a claim directly with USPS for these losses using Form SF-95. And until that claim is resolved, your insurance will have to wait before trying to recover the money they spent on repairs - a process called subrogation. It's best to tell them in writing as well so they can't deny this later.
2. If you don't have Collision coverage, it's actually better to promptly repair the vehicle on your own dime and only then make a direct claim with USPS. Why? Because it's extremely difficult to amend your claim amount with USPS and before the repairs are done there is no way to know for sure what the amount will end up being. It can end up many thousands over the initial estimate but then it's too late because you already made your claim with USPS and that's it - the amount is final.
3. Make a claim for all relevant losses with USPS. If you repaired with your own insurance then don't forget to include your deductible in the losses you're claiming. Don't forget all the other claims like diminished value. With federal agencies you generally only get one shot at the claim and can't change the amount later. You can make the claim by using the following form.
Claim for Damage, Injury, or Death
4. Negotiate with USPS. If they are unwilling to offer you a fair settlement, then your only remaining option is to sue the federal government in federal court. Very expensive and most of the time not worth it. Unfortunately, you cannot sue the federal government in your local Small Claims court which would be a very effective option, if available.
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Simon Galperin is a senior auto appraiser at Tiger DV and an expert on diminished value. He consults attorneys, insurance companies and individual car owners on the subject of automotive diminished value.