If your car was damaged to the point of being undriveable, it was most likely towed to the nearest tow yard. An insurance adjuster will inspect the car there and estimate the cost of repairs. If the cost to repair your vehicle exceeds its market value (how much the car was worth before the accident, based on similar local sales), then it will be deemed a “total loss”.
If your car hasn’t been “totaled”, you will be offered the cost of repairs (up to the policy limit) based on an estimate given by a body shop that is chosen by the insurance company. Whether or not your insurance covers the cost of towing your car to the shop depends on your policy.
If your car has been totaled, you will have two options:
- You can accept a payment of fair market value and sign power of attorney over to the insurance company. After that, you won’t have access to the car again, except to collect any personal items from within.
- You can keep your car, which will then be considered “salvaged”. You will be offered the fair market value minus the salvage value, and you can put that money toward repairing the car.
The salvage value is considerably less than the market value, and having a salvage certificate will lower the resale value of your car. Taking your insurance deductible into consideration, it’s entirely possible that you will end up paying at least partially out of pocket if you want to keep a totaled car.
Haggling with insurance companies is the last thing you feel like doing after a car accident, but reading the following tips before you pick up the phone may help make the process a little less aggravating. As a personal injury lawyer, I’ve been working with insurance adjusters and other representatives for years, and hope to make your experience easier to bear.
Don’t Call a Car Insurance Company Just Yet
Even if the other driver was clearly at fault, their insurance company will do everything they can to pay you as little as possible.
The way that they do this is by getting you to discuss the details of the accident to prove that you’re partially at fault. Rather than paying you fairly and quickly, the discussion becomes a question of liability, and you may have to wait for police and witness reports to be filed before you get a payment.
After the accident, you may still be feeling confused or scared, and may accidentally agree to statements made by the insurance adjuster that aren’t in your best interest.
I typically recommend that you don’t talk to an insurance company until you’ve spoken to a personal injury lawyer.
Consider Using Your Own Car Accident Policy
If you have collision coverage, it’s often a good idea to file your claim with your own insurance company, even if the car accident wasn’t your fault. For one thing, they will pay you the fair value of repairs — regardless of who was at fault — without wasting time. Because liability isn’t an issue, you won’t have to “prove” anything.
If you do use your own insurance, you’ll be giving up the right to file a claim against the driver’s insurance at a later date. In other words, you can’t “double dip”. You should also be aware that you’ll have to pay your deductible.
However, if you’ve been injured in an accident and think you might have a personal injury case, paying that deductible is much more cost-effective than potentially sabotaging your own case by talking to the other driver’s insurance representative.
Car Accidents Can be Traumatic
Coping with the aftermath of a car accident that wasn’t your fault can be difficult, especially if you’ve been injured. If you’re at all uncertain about what to do or what to ask the insurance company after an accident, give our offices a call. We’ll listen to your story and give you a free case evaluation by an experienced personal injury lawyer. You won’t pay a dime unless we get you a settlement!