How to Get the Most Money from Insurance for Your Totaled Car

If your car was declared a total loss after a car accident, chances are you are unsatisfied with the insurance company’s offer. Insurance companies have been undervaluing cars for so long that everyone has just come to accept that you are unlikely to get the true value of your car after it is totaled. Even car accident attorneys just accept this and many tell their clients to accept whatever the insurance company offers. Sometimes promising that they will “make it up” on the personal injury claim.


Did You Know?

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Steps to Argue for More Money on Your Total Loss Claim

Most insurance companies use a third-party valuation program to determine the value of your vehicle. CCCOne, Mitchell, and Audatex are the most common programs. If you believe the insurance company underestimated the value of your vehicle, try these steps:

  1. Ask for the Valuation Report
  2. Research the Comparables on the Valuation Report
  3. Dispute Any Condition Adjustments on the Comparables
  4. Send Your Own Comparables to the Adjuster
  5. Consider Hiring an Appraiser
  1. Ask for the valuation report
    It will be very hard to negotiate your total loss claim if you do not see the basis for the insurance company’s settlement offer. If you ask for the report, the insurance company will send it to you.
  2. Research the Comparables on the valuation report
    Look up all the listings of comparable vehicles on the valuation Report. Are those vehicles available and are the details accurate? The listings should have where they came from. Also, check to see if you can find an accident history on the listings. The retailer may disclose that on the listing but it is unlikely that the valuation report took that into account for comparables in your report.
  3. Look out for arbitrary adjustments on the valuation report
    If the insurance company used, CCCOne, there is likely a condition adjustment on each comparable. Generally, the adjustments are made at the bottom of each comparable. The condition adjustment is always negative and brings the total offer down. Ask how these adjustments were determined? Did the adjuster inspect each comparable? (The answer is no). You can see that the condition adjustment is arbitrary. Usually the adjustment is the same for each comparable. See below for an example.
    CCCOne Report showing condition adjustment
    If Progressive did the total loss valuation, they likely used Mitchell for the valuation report. This report may not use a condition adjustment on each comparable but look out of projected sold adjustments. This adjustment is also used to drive down your total loss offer.
  4. Send comparable motor vehicles in your area to the adjuster
    Find your own comparable vehicles and send them to the adjuster. A good place to start are websites like Kelley Blue Book, Autotrader.com, Cars.com, and Carfax.com.
  5. Consider Hiring an Appraiser
    Hiring an independent appraiser may also be helpful. An appraiser can serve as an expert on your car’s value. Many appraisers will assist you in the negotiations as well.

Considering an Independent Appraiser?

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Different laws apply to a total loss claim against an at-fault party or a total loss claim against your own insurance company

How you go about getting more for your total loss depends on whether you are making the claim against an at-fault party or your own insurance company. Different laws apply to these two types of claims. If you make the claim against your own insurance company, there is a Florida Statute that applies. This law requires the insurance company to follow specific methods in calculating the actual cash value. Also, the terms of your insurance policy matter.

If your insurance company used CCCOne to determine the value of your total loss, read our article Disputing a CCCOne Total Loss Report.

Totaled Vehicle

Florida Tort Law Applies to Third-Party Total Loss Claims

Under Florida law, an at-fault party owes you for property damage that it causes from a car accident. The law allows you to recover the repair cost or the value of the vehicle before the crash. How do you determine the value of the vehicle?

Actual Cash Value

The amount it would cost you to buy the same vehicle in the open market.

The value should take into account the year, make, model, trim level, mileage, and condition. The value also should include replacement transaction fees such as tax, title, and registration.


Practical Issues You May Face on a Third-Party Total Loss Claim

The at-fault party’s insurance company doesn’t owe you anything. The at-fault party is the one that owes you the value of your vehicle if it is totaled in an accident. The insurance company’s legal obligation is to protect the at-fault party.

There is little you can do to combat the frustrations such as low offers or not calling you back. The remedy you have is to file a lawsuit against the at-fault driver. Unfortunately, this can take months to resolve, possibly years.

Consider Filing Your Total Loss Claim with Your Insurance Company

If you have collision coverage, you may be able to file your total loss claim with your own insurance company after an accident. This may be a good option if you are hitting a wall with the at-fault party’s insurance company.

It can seem unfair to file the claim on your own policy when another party is at-fault. However, if liability is clear, your insurance company will likely subrogate against the at-fault party. This means they will attempt to recover the amount they pay you plus your deductible from the at-fault party and its insurance company.

Our personal injury lawyers help clients with their total loss claim.

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