After the repairs are completed to your satisfaction, make sure not to sign any Property Damage Release document that will preclude you from making additional Property Damage claims because DV falls under Property Damage. Then it's time to obtain a diminished value appraisal. Although you are legally allowed to produce your own appraisal as long as you conducted reasonable research, a professional auto appraiser has the skills and experience that are likely to produce a better quality appraisal. Appraisals done by professional appraisers tend to carry a little more weight with insurance companies and especially, with the courts.
File a claim with the at-fault insurance, meaning the insurance of the person liable for the accident. I recommend doing so in writing by mailing or e-mailing the insurance company what's known as a Demand Letter. Communicating in writing leaves less room for error and putting a foot in your mouth. Insurance company adjusters are trained in talking down your claim and getting you to make statements that hurt your claim. That's why do what lawyers do - deal with them in writing only. In the demand letter you describe why you are owed money and provide necessary proof. In this case you would attach the Diminished Value Appraisal Report.
Once the insurance company receives your claim they are required to respond to it within a reasonable period of time. They will either grant your claim offering you the whole amount, offer you less than what you demanded or deny your claim. In practice, insurance companies rarely offer the full amount you asked for right away and they use the claim negotiation process to reduce the amount of the claim. So negotiate the claim and try to arrive to an amount you're OK with. If the company either denies your claim or fails to offer a fair amount you still have options.
Your first option is to seek assistance of your state's Insurance Commission. You will be assigned an advocate who will mediate with the company on your behalf. Sometimes that helps. If that doesn't help your final option is to file a claim in your local Small Claims court. Small Claims courts are designed for everyday people to cheaply and quickly represent themselves without the expense of hiring a lawyer. The small claims action should be against the Insured - not the insurance company. The Insured is the driver liable for the accident. Also, make sure to name both the owner of the vehicle and the driver in your suit.
You should send a copy of the filing to the insurance company. That will trigger their "duty to defend" their Insured and will put pressure on them to settle your claim rather than incur expenses of having their adjuster and/or lawyer show up in Small Claims and assist the Insured. At this point the insurance company very often settle. The whole game is often just hoping that people won't bother to go to Small Claims and will just accept the denial. Unfortunately, most people simply accept the denial and move on with their life - that way it's profitable for the insurance company to deny too many claims, even the ones they know they will be unable to defend in court.
If your claim amount is substantial and is over the maximum award in Small Claims court then it may be worth it to get a lawyer and file a suit in the regular civil court.
Successfully claiming diminished value is not rocket science - if you know what you're doing. Insurance companies often prey on drivers' lack of knowledge and willingness to take action. If you refuse to eat the loss of diminished value - you will not be ignored. Good luck!
How to choose a reputable diminished value appraiser?
How does a diminished value claim work for a car accident?
Frequently Asked Questions about Diminished Value
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.