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What to Do When an Insurance Company Totals Your Car

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When Does an Insurance Total Your Car?

You may need some assistance in understanding what to do when an insurance company totals your car. In some auto accidents,  the damage to the car can be so much that it’s not really worth repairing the car anymore. That is, it may be cheaper to just have the car "totaled," or dismantled at a junk yard. The decision to do this is generally based on the type of automobile insurance policy you have, and the extent of the vehicle damage.

In most cases, the insurance company will suggest totaling the car if the repairs will cost more than a certain percentage of the car’s value before the accident. Some policies will total a car at 51% of the pre-accident value; others will set it higher. State insurance policies may also affect these rates. The insurer will then pay the car owner for a certain amount, which will allow the person to purchase a different car.

Alternatives to Letting an Insurance Company Total Your Car

In most cases, you don’t have to let the insurance total your car if you don’t want to. However, in such cases, you will have to shoulder the costs of the repairs yourself, since the insurance company will likely not cover damages that are too great. If this is an issue, you might be able to pursue legal action against the other driver in the accident.

Sometimes, you may be able to make negotiations regarding an insurance claim and see if the company will cover all or some of the repairs. The insurer may also have to reimburse you for the amount they would have received for it through a salvage yard. However, once you decide to forfeit your automobile to an insurer, it will be difficult to get it back.

What Are Some Disputes over the Totaling Process?

In some cases, legal dispute can arise over the car totaling process. These can include:

  • Misrepresentation of the car’s price and value by the insurance company.
  • Insurer’s unwillingness to reimburse the policy holder for charges that they are entitled to.
  • Issues with fraud or misrepresentation in documents.
  • Various other issues (such as issues with a replacement rental vehicle).

Thus, one way to avoid legal issues is to double check any figures and value amounts that are presented to you by an insurance company. Many car owners end up with less than they should be receiving because they had no idea what the actual value of their car was before the accident.

Do I Need a Lawyer for Help with Car Insurance Disputes?

Dealing with an insurance company can sometimes involve complex legal issues. You may wish to hire a lawyer if you need assistance with any legal claims, issues, or disputes. Your attorney can advise you of the laws in your area, and can help you obtain the legal remedy that’s appropriate for your particular issue.

Photo of page author Jose Rivera

, LegalMatch Legal Writer

Last Modified: 09-20-2013 10:23 AM PDT

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