A car accident is already a difficult situation, but it only worsens when your car is inoperable. If your motor vehicle ends up being a total loss car, you may have several complications when trying to get the compensation you need to get a replacement. However, you have options.
A Fort Lauderdale car accident lawyer can help guide you through a total loss claim and make sure you get the money you need to get back on the road safely.
What is a Total Loss?
According to Florida law, a total loss vehicle is one that would cost 80% or more of its fair market value to repair. In such a case, the car insurance company should pay you for the car’s fair market value.
How Does Collision or Comprehensive Insurance Cover a Total Loss?
Comprehensive coverage pays for repairing or replacing your vehicle if it is damaged by something other than a car accident, like running into a deer or a tree falling on your car due to a storm.
Collision coverage pays for repairing or replacing your car if it is damaged or destroyed in an accident with another vehicle, no matter who is at fault.
Both comprehensive and collision coverage will pay for your vehicle when it is considered a total loss. However, according to Florida law, they are only required to pay you fair market value for the car unless you have a clause in your insurance policy that stipulates replacement.
Gap Insurance and Total Loss Vehicles
One issue that many people face when their vehicles are deemed a total loss is that the fair market value of their car is less than the amount they owe on their car loan. That means you might still pay for a car that cannot be driven.
However, if you have gap insurance, it will cover the difference between the fair market value and the remainder of your car loan.
New Car Replacement Insurance
Getting enough money to pay off the remainder of your car loan still leaves you without a car. If you have new car replacement insurance, it will help you get a new vehicle that will take the place of the one that was totaled.
Uninsured Motorist Coverage and Total Loss
If an uninsured motorist hits you, they will not have the liability insurance necessary to cover your property damages. While you can sue them in a personal injury lawsuit, many people without car insurance do not have the funds to pay you, even if you do win. However, if you have uninsured motorist insurance, it will take care of your damages and help you get on the road again.
Your Car’s a Total Loss. Now What?
Soon after an accident, usually within 24 hours, you will need to notify your insurance company of the crash. An adjuster will review your property damage, and if they deem it a total loss, they may make you a settlement offer. This initial settlement offer is likely a “lowball” amount that will not cover everything you need. The insurance company’s goal is to pay you as little as possible – even if you work with your own insurance company.
Send the Insurance Company a Demand Letter
After you find out the fair market value of your vehicle, you can determine how much money you will need to pay it off and replace it. You can determine the fair market value with sources like the Kelley Blue Book and other similar resources. Then, your car accident lawyer can send a letter to the insurance company demanding the total amount you need to cover your damages.
Negotiate a Fair Settlement
The insurance adjuster will likely present you with their estimate of the totaled car’s fair market value. You don’t have to accept that right away. Your attorney can negotiate an amount that will cover everything you need to return you to everyday life with a vehicle.
Get Compensation to Make You Whole
Compensation after a car accident should “make you whole.” That means you should be put in the same place that you were, as if the car accident did not happen. Simply paying you the fair market value without considering the full amount of your loan or a replacement vehicle does not make you whole. You deserve enough money to put you back on the road in a similar vehicle without worrying about payments for the previous car.
Things to Remember When Negotiating with the Insurance Companies
After a crash, the most important thing to remember is that you have rights. You don’t have to accept the first settlement amount offered by the insurance companies. In fact, if there is more than one insurance company or party to be held liable, you can likely get maximum compensation from all of them. Some things to keep in mind when negotiating with insurance companies include:
- You should determine the maximum policy limits before accepting any offers.
- Use multiple resources to determine the fair market value of your vehicle.
- You can likely keep your totaled car after the crash, even if you accept a settlement.
- Look to your own insurance company and that of the at-fault driver to cover property damage.
- You can sue the at-fault driver personally and obtain a judgment to cover additional losses.
An Attorney Can Help You Successfully Negotiate a Total Loss Claim
Total loss claims are somewhat different from typical car accident cases where a simple repair is needed. You will have to dispute the value of your car and fight to get a new vehicle in order to return to everyday life. You shouldn’t shoulder the burden if you didn’t cause the crash. However, you still have options if you were partially responsible.
Contact attorney David I. Fuchs for more information about handling a total loss car accident claim.