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"35 MPH And No Air Bags"

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My wife was involved in an accident where the air bags did not go off.  The van is a 2002 Dodge Grand Caravan Sport.  She hit a truck that pulled out in front.  She was going 35 mph most of the damage was done to the right side of the bumper.  The hit was hard enough to cause the frame to bend a little in the middle on top by where the hood shuts. Is this something I should look into more?  Thanks, J

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Hi J…
Since I'm no attorney I can point you to areas that can help you without giving legal advice.

I only keep current recalls on the website, so you first check if there are any recalls for your specific vehicle at this location:

http://www-odi.nhtsa.dot.gov/cars/problems/recalls/recallsearch.cfm
Select the type...
the other tabs will be grey until you do.
Press submit and enter the year.
It will walk you down the list until your vehicle recalls appear.
I saw 6 that you might want to know about. This is a free search.
They may not be related to your accident, but you can still have them repaired at this time free of charge from a Dodge dealership. 

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Air bags deploy when a sensor detects an impact. 
If the sensor was faulty or just not programmed to go off at that specific impact, then the air bags won't deploy.
If you're wife was injured, then this investigation is worth your time, since there might be a class action suit against the company already.

If the frame is bent on a 2002, then you will want to determine if the vehicle should be totaled or not.  Bent frames, from my experience, are difficult to repair completely and cause resale values to plummet.  I understand that new technology says the frame becomes completely straightened, but I know nobody who would buy a car that had a straightened bent frame.

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When I had my accident, I wanted my car repaired by the local dealership.
They said they used a 3rd party, national, body shop to repair these types of damages. The 3rd party shop has a discount policy with the dealership which at first seemed like it was to my benefit.
The problem with that is that a car would be totaled with 75% or more damage according to their policy.
The discount lowered the estimated repairs to just less than 75% damage, so they chose to fix the car instead of total it. They did a good repair job, but missed some items that upped the costs another $1000. As the year went on I noticed two other items they missed. I was over the 75%. Today my car has a couple minor problems, but issues are showing up that simply shouldn't this early on a new car.

If you are concerned about repairs vs. totaling a car, then talk with your repair company.
They get more money from the repairs than by totaling so you can easily see their motivations.
If you think you won't get a fair deal, then contact a lawyer at this step.

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If you do have the car repaired, then create a DIMINISHED VALUE CLAIM.
http://www.car-accident-advice.com/diminished-value.html
I have a little information on that page. 
The purpose of insurance is to make you whole. After repairs, a damaged car rarely obtains the same resale value, so it has diminished value. An estimate is made to determine this loss and the insurance company may write a check to cover the balance. 
My company, Allstate, clearly states that it will not accept dealership estimates. That's not entirely legal and is being challenged in the courts. Insurance companies are challenging diminished value claims, because it will cost them much money.
There are companies you can find in your yellow pages that offer court-accepted diminished value assessments. Costs range from $200-$400. 

If your wife had injuries, then I recommend you speak with a lawyer.
On the website I mention how I use legal plans to settle my own claim and keep the entire settlement.
It's worth obtaining, because a car accident attorney you obtain through  legal plans will also offer you an hourly discount. These are top rated attorneys who also maintain quality standards with customer service. It's worth the few dollars per month it costs to get to speak with a car accident attorney specialist any business day of the week and not have to pay an hourly fee. They also take no part of your settlement.

Legal plans - family legal plans

The last thing I recommend is this book:
http://www.car-accident-advice.com/accident-car-compensation.html

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I do get a little pocket change if you buy it through Amazon. Honestly, it's not much, but the information is worthwhile for you. It will tell you how to organize your claim, what information to get and how to speak with an agent.
You can settle your accident on your own. This book and Prepaid legal helped me do it. I had expert information in the book and legal advice from an attorney anytime I needed it.

You don't have to sign off anything immediately no matter how much the adjusters want you to do this.  They are not your friends no matter how nice they are on the phone, which they always are in the beginning.
However, they are not your enemies either. They simply have a job to do, that for them is mechanical. For you it is emotional.
A few years from now it will be over for you forever. You will either feel satisfied at the outcome or not. Know the Statute-of-limitations in your area. 

Two other things to watch for now is for the police report and how the insurance company lists you.  I was clearly not at fault in a 3 car accident. The police officer even noted who was at fault at the scene.
Yet, my insurance company listed me as at fault which sky-rocketed my insurance costs when I looked for new coverage recently.

This might seem small now, but as time goes on, this nuisance could turn into a 9x increase in your insurance premiums that becomes trouble to repair. An independent agent told me this is a very common 'mistake' by the insurance companies.
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