Car Accident Total Loss: How to Manage Your Insurance Claim

You have just been in a car accident. Thank goodness you and your passengers were not hurt, but your vehicle is a total loss. Where do you go from here? What do you do next? Where do you begin? Let’s get started.

What Does “Total Loss” Mean?

After a car accident, there might be very costly damage to your vehicle—so much that your insurance company may decide that making repairs is simply not cost effective. Typically, this means that the repairs would cost as much or more than your car is worth. Sometimes the cost to return your car to the pre-accident condition is just too great. Most insurance companies will “total” a car if repairs exceed 80 percent of the car’s value. If this happens, your insurance company will determine your vehicle to be a total loss car insurance settlement.

Car Accident total loss insurance claim

In many cases, the structural integrity of the car is simply not safe. Perhaps the frame was bent beyond repair when the accident occurred. In other cases, state laws may determine whether the insurance company “totals” the car. In every case, the insurance company sends an adjuster to thoroughly inspect the vehicle’s condition before determining whether the car is a total loss claim.

What Happens Next?

If your car is a total loss, the insurance company will issue you a totaled car insurance payout for the value of the car. If you have a lien on the car, the check will be paid to the lienholder. Any deductible you have on the auto policy will be subtracted from the total amount.

You can make the process easier by having all the necessary paperwork readily available. The loan paperwork and the car title will be needed. You will have to fill out an odometer statement as well to attest to the actual mileage on the car before the accident.

Insurance companies pay actual cash value (ACV), meaning the market value of your car based on several factors: age of the vehicle, geographic location, mileage, and pre-accident condition. Keep in mind that if the ACV is less than your loan, you will still owe money on your loan even though your vehicle is totaled. Once the insurance pays the total loss claim, the title transfers from you to the insurance company. They then handle your car as a salvaged vehicle, per your state’s regulations and laws.

What If I Don’t Agree With My Insurance Company?

This happens more often than you might think. Insurance companies are notorious for undervaluing the ACV of your car. You can dispute their valuation, but it is a time-consuming process. The bottom line is that this collection of paperwork needs to serve as evidence that the adjuster’s valuations were inaccurate.

Collect any records you have showing your car’s value. If you purchased your car with any upgrade features, be sure to show that. Also, gather receipts from mechanics showing that you maintained your car very well. Finally, any documentation you have about repairs made will help increase the value.

You can also do research to show evidence that your car is undervalued, or that your insurance company has inflated the cost of the total repairs, therefore you think your car should not be totaled. For example, start with your car’s value in the Kelley Blue Book, an industry standard reference for vehicle value. The Blue Book provides a reference for you to calculate the value of your car based on its condition and other factors.

Once you amass this mountain of paperwork, make sure your insurance company has a copy. Although the insurance company has most likely prepared initial calculations, any evidence you can provide for a different outcome is likely the only way the insurance company will change its quote. Be sure to submit your research and your records to the insurance company in a timely manner.

Get Your Own Pricing

You can also look at online or dealership sales to denote sales prices for cars like yours with similar makes and models and in similar condition. Of course, other mechanics can always give you several quotes for repairs; don’t just rely on your insurance company’s opinion about the fate of your car.

Just keep in mind that vehicles do typically depreciate in value after being purchased new. Honestly, you may have paid too much for your vehicle, but the value you are offered for the car is not based on what you paid, but rather on your car’s resale value.

How A Lawyer Can Help?

Having a total loss situation that results from an accident can be stressful, to say the least, and haggling with your insurance company is even more stressful. Insurance companies are businesses, and as such, they are not going to easily pay out more than they think they should. This is how a totaled car attorney can help. We know this experience can be stressful and emotional, so we can handle the entire total loss process for you. Most importantly, we can take on the haggling with your insurance company so you don’t have to. We will do all the research for you and organize your records so that you get the best total loss offer possible. If you’re tired of haggling, give us a call today. We are here to help!

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