Steps on resolving a total loss claim for your vehicle

Your vehicle is totaled. Now what?
Vehicles are deemed “total losses” for different reasons -

1. Most states have a total loss threshold where it states a vehicle is totaled if the cost of the damages amount to a certain percentage of the vehicles value. (Economic loss)

2. A repair shop may determine that your vehicle is a structural loss whereby the damage estimate does not exceed your states total loss threshold but the repair shop does not feel it is in the best interest to repair your vehicle because of the amount of structural damages.

Whether your vehicle is towed to a shop when the insurance company comes to inspect the damages or whether it is at your home, there are a couple things you should keep in mind before letting the insurance company pick up your totaled vehicle.

One tip: Don’t take the insurance company’s word on what your vehicle is worth. Actual values vary greatly within different states, so determining the cash value of your vehicle should involve research on your part. We recommend utilizing sites like autotrader.com and NADA.com to search for your vehicle’s value. You can do that by finding three different comparables of your vehicle, as close to the same year, make and model as you can get, and taking the average of their prices. That will help you get an idea of your vehicle’s worth, pre-accident.

Coming up with an agreed price with the insurance company is the same as coming up with an agreed price with a stranger who wants to buy your car. Once you’ve done your research, you can begin negotiations to settle with the insurance company. Stay firm and polite during this process, and remember you are owed for the value of your vehicle before the accident. It is important you do not allow them to pick up your vehicle before you settle on a price! That is the equivalent of selling your vehicle to a stranger without collecting payment first. Insurers have been known to pick up vehicles and later make deductions from your settlement for different reasons. Once an agreed price has been reached and the payment has been placed in your hand, then you should immediately release the vehicle to the insurer. If your vehicle is at a repair shop, insurers will sometimes try to bully you into releasing the vehicle prior to paying you to reduce storage fees so keep this in mind when reaching your settlement with an insurer. We recommend negotiating rental vehicle terms and/or over-nighting your payment if this is an issue for the insurer. Don’t forget to get all of your personal belongings out of your vehicle before letting it go!

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