What Should I Do with a “Totaled” Car?
Car accidents can cause significant damage to your vehicle. In some cases, an insurance company may declare your vehicle a total loss.
When a vehicle is “totaled,” it means that the costs of the repairs exceed the current market value of your vehicle. In other words, it costs more to fix your vehicle than the vehicle is worth.
If your vehicle has been totaled, the insurance company has the right to take possession of your vehicle when it pays your claim. The insurance company may want to sell the vehicle for the salvage value to recoup some of its liability. However, you could request to keep the car, but the insurance company may pay you less than your vehicle’s full value.
Below are other common questions people have when the insurance company tells them that their vehicle was totaled in a car accident.
How Does an Insurance Company Determine How Much My Car is Worth?
Several factors are used to determine the actual cash value of a vehicle on the date of an accident. Factors that are considered include:
- The retail value of a vehicle that is the same make and model in a similar condition to your vehicle before the crash
- The mileage of the vehicle on the day of the accident
- The price you paid for the vehicle
- The value of any improvements made to the vehicle after it was purchased
- Damage sustained before the accident
- The cost to purchase a similar vehicle on the current market
An insurance company may use a variety of sources to determine the value of your vehicle. It may employ appraisers that assess the value of your vehicle. It may also research the value of similar vehicles through Kelly Blue Book or NADA.
What is My Next Step?
Suppose the insurance company offers a lower amount to settle your property damage claim than you believe your vehicle is worth. In that case, you have the right to know how the insurance company calculated the value and what resources it used.
At your cost, you may hire an independent appraiser to inspect the vehicle and calculate the value. Some car dealers or repair shops might offer free or discounted appraisals. You might need to obtain two or three appraisals as evidence that the insurance company is undervaluing your vehicle.
Other evidence that you can present includes photographs of the vehicle before the accident showing the vehicle’s condition. If you have receipts for improvements or enhancements, you can request that the insurance company add these amounts to the vehicle’s value.
You may also want to point out that your vehicle was in excellent condition, had low mileage, and other features that increase the vehicle’s value above the current market value of a similar vehicle. Utilizing all available information that would increase the value of your vehicle improves your negotiating strength.
If the insurance company refuses to negotiate a fair settlement for your property damage claim, you may want to seek legal advice from a car accident lawyer. Insurance companies that act in bad faith or treat individuals unprofessionally can be held liable for bad faith insurance practices.
Remember to Keep Paying Your Insurance Premiums
Do not stop paying your insurance premiums even though the insurance company declared your car totaled. You must have insurance covering your vehicle until you return the license plates to the Registry of Motor Vehicles.
Personal Injury Claims After a Car Accident
If you were not at fault for the cause of the car crash, you could be entitled to compensation from the at-fault driver. Personal injury claims are separate from property damage claims.
Generally, the property damage claim settles much quicker than a personal injury claim. You do not want to settle your personal injury claim until you complete medical treatment.
If you sustained a permanent impairment or disability because of the car wreck, you could receive additional compensation for the disability. You may also receive compensation for future damages related to ongoing medical treatment, personal care, and loss of income.
Even though Massachusetts is an at-fault state for car accident claims, individuals who meet the threshold can file claims against the driver who caused the crash.
Accident victims who meet one of the following criteria may be able to sue the other driver for damages not covered by no-fault car insurance or PIP coverage:
- Medical expenses of $2,000 or more
- The crash resulted in a permanent disfigurement
- Injuries include a broken bone or fracture
- Injuries include permanent loss of hearing or vision
If you are unsure whether your case entitles you to seek compensation for all damages from the driver who caused the crash, you may want to talk to a car accident lawyer now. There are deadlines for filing car accident claims. Missing the deadline could result in losing your right to sue the other driver for damages.