If your car is totaled and you’re not at fault, you should file a claim with the at-fault driver’s insurance company and report the accident to your own insurer as well. The other driver’s property damage liability coverage will reimburse you for your car’s actual cash value up to their policy limits. Actual cash value, or ACV, is the amount the car was worth immediately before the accident.
Claim Options if Your Car Is Totaled but You're Not At-Fault
In the event that the other driver does not have insurance, you can file a claim with your uninsured motorist or collision coverage, if you have it. You can also file a collision claim if the other driver refuses to admit fault. In this case, the insurance companies will eventually determine who is responsible. Then, your insurer will recoup the cost of your collision claim and deductible in a process called subrogation.
How Insurance Companies Determine if Your Car Is Totaled
Insurance companies decide if a car is totaled by comparing the cost of repairs to the car’s value. Exact formulas vary by state and insurance company. However, it’s worth noting that repairs are often more extensive than they appear, and even a small accident can sometimes total a vehicle.
When you are not at fault in an accident, the other driver’s car insurance typically pays for your expenses. If it takes a while to determine fault, you can file a collision claim with your insurer, which will then try to recover the cost of the claim and your deductible from the at-fault driver’s insurer. In most states, you should file injury claims directly with the at-fault driver’s insurer, though no-fault states require you to use your own insurance to pay for medical bills.… read full answer
If the at-fault driver does not have insurance, you can file a claim with your own uninsured motorist (UM) insurance, if you have it. Depending on your policy, you might also have underinsured motorist coverage (UIM), which applies if the other driver’s liability limits aren’t high enough to pay for all the damage.
When your car is a total loss, it means the car cannot be repaired safely or that repairs would be too expensive compared to the vehicle’s value. If your car is declared a total loss due to a covered scenario, the insurance company will pay you the car’s actual cash value and will usually sell the vehicle as scrap.… read full answer
Once you file a claim, the insurance company will determine whether the car is a total loss. Depending on your state’s laws, your car may be totaled if the cost of repairs exceeds a certain percentage of the car’s value, such as 75%. If your state does not have a specific total loss threshold, your vehicle will be considered a total loss if the cost of repairs plus the salvage value is greater than the car’s actual cash value (ACV).
You can fight an insurance company over a totaled car’s value by sending the insurer a counteroffer along with evidence justifying your car’s value. If the insurance company does not raise its offer, you can contact your state’s insurance regulator, seek arbitration, or file a lawsuit.
After receiving a settlement offer from the insurance company:
Gather evidence, including an independent appraisal, the car’s sticker details, prices for comparable vehicles, photos of the car before the accident, and receipts for any features you added.
Send this evidence and a counteroffer to the insurance company.
If the insurance company does not negotiate to your satisfaction, contact your state’s insurance regulator to request help.
Ask your insurance company for third-party arbitration if necessary.
File a lawsuit as a last resort.
Limitations When Fighting an Insurance Company Over a Totaled Car
It’s important to remember that insurance companies are only required to pay a car’s actual cash value (ACV), not the cost of a replacement car or the original price you paid for the vehicle.
Car insurance companies and state laws determine when a car is declared a total loss, so it is unlikely that you will be able to keep your insurer from totaling the car if they deem it necessary. But you can negotiate with your insurance company if you think the amount they propose the car is worth is less than the car's ACV.
It’s in the insurance company’s interest to prevent a dispute from escalating, so sending a counteroffer directly is the best place to start. Otherwise, the cost of filing a lawsuit is usually not worth the potential rewards, but it depends on your situation.
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