This is What You Need to Do When Involved in a Total Loss Car Accident

Whether it’s a disastrous accident or a collision with a deer, a total loss auto accident can be devastating.

A car is only declared a “total loss” when the cost of repairs exceeds the value of the car itself. While a minor claim is a simple process of repair, a total loss accident will be a lot more complicated.

So if you’re submitting a vehicle damage claim and you hear from your insurer that the car is a total loss, what do you do?

Knowing exactly what to do after a total loss car accident can help you speed up the claims process, get your insurance money, and head back on the road with as little stress as possible.

Let’s take a look at some of the steps you should take if this happens to you.

  1. Report the Claim to Your Insurance Company

If you’ve suffered a total loss auto accident, there’s no time to lose. A total loss claim can take over a month to completely finalize and close.

While the time it takes to complete the process is up to the insurance company, the faster you file your claim, the sooner they can start working on it.

  1. Have the Vehicle Towed

If you think your vehicle is likely to be totaled, it’s time to have it towed.

Try your best to get it towed to your insurance company’s preferred body shop. If you pick a shop that your insurance company works with directly, you can speed up the claims processed. It’s also less likely that they’ll charge you a storage fee.

  1. Find Your Car Title

You’ll need your car title to get through the process. Make sure you know exactly where your title is as soon as you find out that your car is considered a total loss.

If you can’t find your title, file for a lost title at the DMV as soon as you can. The title will have to be signed over to the insurance company—having it on hand will help keep that process running smoothly and quickly.

  1. Determine the Value of the Car

While the insurance company will determine the market value of your car themselves, it’s still important that you back this up with your own research. This will give you an idea of whether or not the insurance estimation is accurate or not.

Here are some steps you can take to figure out your car’s value:

  • Check Kelly Blue Book for figures on your vehicle

  • Take a look at similar vehicle listings in your area (auto websites, newspapers, dealerships, etc.)

  • Collect receipts of recent improvements to the interior, exterior, and more

  • Get a professional to evaluate the value of the vehicle

  1. File All of Your Paperwork

It takes a lot of paperwork to get through a total loss car accident. Not only do you need the car title, but if you have a loan on the vehicle, you’ll need a power of attorney document that will transfer ownership of the car to the insurance company.

Throughout this process, communication is key. Take the paperwork one step at a time and keep in constant contact with your claims adjuster—ask any questions you have as they come up.

Final Step: Do You Agree With the Insurer’s Evaluation?

The last and most important step is to decide if you agree with the insurer’s evaluation or not.

If the insurance company decides that your car is a total loss, they will only pay you the fair market value of your car, as of the day of the accident. They’re only required to pay damages up to the market value, even if you owe more on your car loan.

This could leave you still paying off money on a car you don’t own anymore. Plus, not all insurance companies will get it right—they might be undervaluing your vehicle.

If Yes

If you do agree with the insurer’s evaluation, then most of the work is out of your hands. Remove your license plates and any personal items, leave the key with the claims adjuster, and fill out any paperwork.

The faster you go through this process, the sooner you’ll get your check.

If No

If you don’t agree with the insurer’s evaluation of your totaled car, it’s time to start negotiating.

In order to challenge their decision, you’ll need to have a reasonable basis for disagreeing with their figures. This means you’ll need hard evidence that the car is worth more—whether it’s proof of updates you’ve made to the car, the car’s condition when totaled, or the typical value of that particular brand and age.

For this, you’ll need two things: evidence of the car’s actual value and evidence of the car’s condition right before the accident.

This is a great chance to pull in the research you’ve already done from various sources on the value of your car.

To prove your car’s condition, use reasonably current photographs of the car, as well as proof of any improvements you’ve made to the car.

The most important evidence you can bring into the negotiation is the opinion of a qualified professional. Getting a professional evaluation will provide you with credible testimony.

Taking Legal Action

Once you’ve collected all your evidence, you’ll need to actually enter the negotiation. You can submit documentation directly to your insurance company, but you’ll have more success hiring an outside lawyer to fight on your behalf.

Hiring legal assistance is a great way to get a qualified professional to back you up and handle these negotiations on your behalf. Using the evidence you provide, a lawyer can compile a case to get you more compensation for your damaged vehicle.

Take a look at this link to learn more about getting legal help for your total loss case:

What To Do After a Total Loss Car Accident

As soon as you find yourself in a total loss accident, follow these steps to get the whole process resolved—and get the compensation you deserve.

Handling a total loss car accident with your insurance might be long and difficult, but keep your head up. Just remember: If you can survive a serious accident that totaled your car, you can survive the claims process.

Looking for more news, tips, and tricks to stay up to date on the auto industry? Check out our articles to learn more.

About RJ Frometa

Head Honcho, Editor in Chief and writer here on VENTS. I don't like walking on the beach, but I love playing the guitar and geeking out about music. I am also a movie maniac and 6 hours sleeper.

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