When a car is totaled in a car accident, it means that the car is a total loss for the insurance company. For them, it is not repairable or is not worth repairing. They determine if a vehicle is a total loss with certain formulas. For example, they might have a 75 percent cutoff point for repairs. So, if your vehicle was worth $25,000 when the crash happened and the cost to repair it exceeds $18,750, they will not authorize the repairs and write it off as a total loss.
Whether or not the car is still salvageable, you have the option of filing an insurance claim, paying for the losses out-of-pocket or suing another party if they are liable for the loss. If you file a claim, what happens next will depend on the state that you live in. In no-fault states like New Jersey, auto insurance holders have to file claims with their own providers. There is one important caveat, though, New Jersey no-fault claims apply to injuries caused by motor vehicle accidents but not vehicle damage claims. A claim for a total loss can be made against a liable driver, and there are no limitations.
These kinds of claims against other drives normally fall under their insurance policy’s property damage liability coverage. Depending on the situation, you may have an option to sue the other driver as well. Cases like these involve damages to cover the cost of renting and replacing a vehicle and any debt owed to your car’s financing company. When serious injuries are involved, this opens up the chance of compensation for medical bills, lost wages, and pain and suffering. States do have statues of limitations for filing lawsuits, so it is vital to be aware of these as well.
What are My Options if My Car is Totaled?
When a car is totaled, the likelihood of injury increases. Therefore, the most important step to do after any kind of auto accident is to attend to your injuries. Once injuries are taken care of, you will need to get a police report, exchange information with the other driver, gather evidence, and contact your insurance company.
Ask them for an approved body shop, and arrange to have the vehicle towed there. Using one of their providers will make things easier in the long run. They will be in touch with the insurance company and will advise them on the vehicle’s condition and the cost for repairs. The insurance provider may also arrange to have a claims adjuster inspect your car, and it is always a good idea to get a second opinion from a trusted mechanic.
In the meantime, you may also need to rent a car because it is not wise to drive a totaled car. Insurance companies often pay for rentals but only for a certain amount of time. Some repairs take weeks if not months, and insurance companies may balk at having to pay for a rental for that long. You might end up having to rely on friends, public transportation, or rideshare services.
Be sure to save all of your receipts, and start thinking about buying a new car. If you have gap insurance on your policy, this will help to pay any balance that is still owed on your leased or financed car. The insurance company will also need to see the car’s original sales receipt and title. You can request a copy of the title from the Department of Motor Vehicles if you cannot find it. Lenders and lessors can also provide this information.
While it may be possible to drive a totaled vehicle, this should not be done unless it is completely checked over by a licensed mechanic. You may have to invest a lot of money for the repairs though, and it may or may not be worth it if the insurance company is not paying. There are also auto dealers that will accept totaled vehicles as trade-ins, depending on the extent of the damage.
You might be able to get some money by selling the car to a salvage yard. They may be willing to pay cash, and some will even come to haul the vehicle away. Some of the parts could also be worth something; you may be able to use them later or sell them individually.
You may find that donating the vehicle is the best choice. Many charities will accept totaled cars as donations, and they may also be able to pick it up. Besides being able to help a charitable cause, you may also be able to get a tax deduction for your donation as long as you get a receipt.
Who Decides if My Car is Totaled?
Insurers base these decisions on a car’s age, mileage, condition, and resale value and will also compare this information to selling prices of similar vehicles that are in the same area. They are only liable for a vehicle’s actual value if it is a total loss and are not required to purchase you a new vehicle. If you feel that your vehicle is worth more than what your insurance company claims, check its fair market value on a reputable website.
Do not accept an offer from your auto insurance company right away, as this could limit your options if you change your mind or new evidence is presented. If you still owe money on your car and accept a cash payment from the insurance company, it will most likely be made out to you and your lender. You will need to pay the loan off, and any leftover money is yours.
You might be able to negotiate with the insurance company, but keep in mind that their number is based on the car’s actual value, not the cost of replacing it with a new vehicle. If you choose to sue the auto insurance provider, you may not get any more than the actual value of the car right before the accident occurred. The better option might be to sue the other driver or the insurance company.
If you disagree with the insurance company’s figures about your totaled car and wish to challenge their decision, you will need some evidence to back you up. A recent photo of the vehicle taken as close as possible to the date of accident may be helpful. Hiring an outside appraiser may also be warranted. Sometimes, these appraisers qualify to provide expert testimony in court.
Mount Laurel Car Accident Lawyers at the Law Office of David S. Rochman Work With Clients Who Have Totaled Cars
If your car was totaled in a car accident and you need legal help, our experienced Mount Laurel car accident lawyers at the Law Office of David S. Rochman can provide sound advice. Call us today at 856-751-2345 or complete our online form for a free consultation. We are located in Mount Laurel, New Jersey, and we serve clients throughout the surrounding areas.