How to Handle a Car Accident: Fair Compensation for a Totaled Car


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When you are in an accident where your car is a total or complete loss, you may be wondering how to handle a car accident in regards to the insurance company’s compensation for your car.  The insurance company is supposed to provide “replacement value” for your car, which is the value that your car had right before the accident.  However, it will usually take negotiations with your insurance provider to get the maximum amount of compensation for your totaled car.

How a Total Loss Is Determined

A vehicle is considered a total loss if the damages amount to at least 75% of the vehicle’s retail value.  The retail value is set by a current industry standard and is determined by the following factors:

  • The condition of the vehicle prior to the accident.
  • The amount of miles the vehicle has.
  • Any damage to the vehicle done prior to the accident that could have led to its total loss.

That third condition could lead to an older car with many miles being considered a total loss if it sustained minor damage, while a newer car with fewer miles and having the same minor damage wouldn’t be considered a total loss

Doing Your Own Research to Determine Fair Market Value

You should do your own research to determine the fair market value of your car just before the accident.  There are several resources for you to utilize:

  • The information provided in the Kelley Blue Book.
  • Noting the price that is listed in ads for cars that match your vehicle.
  • Calling all dealerships in your area and determining the trade-in value of your vehicle. 

Negotiations to Receive the Maximum Amount of Compensation

You do not have to accept the initial offer of your insurance company.  Often, that amount is considerably lower than it should be, as the insurance company is trying to save as much cost as possible.  This is why it’s important for you to know the fair market value of your vehicle before the accident – you can then reject the insurance company’s offer and negotiate with the company in order to arrive at a much fairer settlement.

Obtaining Legal Help

Being in an accident that totals your car can be a trying and frustrating time, especially when your insurance company isn’t providing fair compensation for the loss of your vehicle.  An established and experienced personal injury attorney will evaluate your case and the insurance company’s settlement offer and will provide legal advice on getting the most compensation you deserve either through negotiations or a trial in court.

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