Can an insurance company give me a property damage estimate from a photo?

Liberty Mutual has been advertising a new service: if you text a photograph of your damaged vehicle to this insurance company, they will give you a “Quick and Easy Mobile Estimate.” You can see the full commercial on their website.

According to the insurance company, texting in a photograph will save customers time that they would otherwise have to spend going to a mechanic. The problem: car mechanics are experts in their field, and even they can’t diagnose problems after an accident using only a photograph.

A few photos won't diagnose frame damage, cracks in the block, and many other types of damage which may not be visually apparent without a full examination. Basing the property damage payout to the customer on a few photos will probably benefit the insurance company financially, since photographs of exterior damage will likely result in underestimating the true cost of repairs.

This is just one of the many ways that insurance companies try to push their customers towards a “benefit” that will actually save the company money by reducing payouts. And a low property damage estimate can come back to haunt you if you’re also trying to recover compensation for injuries; because the insurance company’s medical experts will try to argue that a collision resulting in minimal damage to your car must not have involved enough force to injure you, getting an accurate estimate of property damage is vital to making your injury claim.

What you should do instead

Don’t let your insurance company tell you what to do after an accident. Look out for your own best interests, not a massive company’s bottom line.

Take your car to a mechanic

Even if the damage looks minimal from the outside, your vehicle may have structural problems as a result of the high forces involved in the collision. Take your car to a mechanic you trust, and make sure you save any information you’re given about repairs.

Educate yourself about car crashes and the law

Davis Law Group offers free books about what to do after an accident. We also offer a free mobile app that comes with our full Washington Accident Book library, an interactive list of information you need to collect after a crash, instance access to our team of legal case investigators, and a text and video compilation of frequently asked questions.

Speak with an attorney if you’re injured

In many cases, car crash victims who only have to deal with a few thousand dollars’ worth of property damage can handle their claims on their own. But when injuries get involved, medical bills and time off work can add up quickly. Insurance companies have extra incentive to fight these high-value cases, even when they know that injured victims deserve compensation.

If you’re dealing with mounting medical bills, lost wages, and other expenses from an accident involving injuries, it’s time to get an experienced personal injury lawyer involved.