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My Vehicle is Totaled.  What are My Options?

If you have been involved in an automobile accident in Jacksonville and your vehicle has been declared a total loss, it is important to speak with Jacksonville Property Damage Attorney to understand your options.

The Collision was Not My Fault

If you are not at fault for the collision, you may have two options regarding how to deal with the total loss of your vehicle.  If you have collision coverage, you can choose to go through your own insurance.  Your insurance company will pay for the total loss of your vehicle and turn around and ask for their money back from the at-fault driver’s insurance company.  Alternatively, you can go directly through the at-fault vehicle’s insurance carrier.

What are My Total Loss Options?

In Florida, if the repair costs exceed 80% of the Actual Cash Value of your vehicle, the insurance company will declare it a total loss.  Sometimes, this is a close call.  We have had clients receive estimates they felt were too low.  You have to be careful how hard to push for increasing the estimate because it may become cheaper for the insurance company to total the vehicle.  If the vehicle is totaled, you will lose your transportation and the equity you had in the vehicle.  Additionally, the Total Loss funds you receive from the insurance company will likely not be enough to place you in a similar vehicle.

How do I Determine if the Insurance Company’s Total Loss Value is Fair?

Free Web-Based Sites

There are various ways to double-check whether you are getting a fair deal from the insurance company by looking at different sites such as NADA, Auto-Trader, Edmunds, and Kelley Blue Book.  All these sites allow you to identify comparable vehicles using a similar make, model, year, options, and mileage to arrive at a value for your vehicle.  By using more than one service, you will be able to determine a range of values to see if the insurance company’s offer is fair.

Upgrades, Repairs, Recent Maintenance

The insurance company uses a service that searches the market of vehicles for sale and attempts to arrive at an average value of a vehicle similar to your damaged vehicle. The service makes adjustments against this average value based on the condition of your car. For example, if you have prior bumper damage, the service subtracts money from the average value. If you have low mileage compared to the average vehicle, the service will add money to the average value.

Another less obvious way to increase the value of your vehicle is by proving you have upgrades to your vehicle that the insurance company service does not capture. If you have an after-market stereo, an upgraded exhaust system, or an after-market tow hitch, you may convince the insurance company to increase the value of your vehicle. The same is true for any recent repairs or maintenance. Did you just replace the tires, replace a timing belt, or install new brakes? As Jacksonville Property Damage Lawyers, we suggest the more documentation you can provide to the insurance company to prove your upgrades and/or repairs, the more likely it is that you will be able to increase their total loss offer.

Appraisal Clause

If you still do not feel the insurance company is being fair, you can invoke the appraisal clause.  This is a clause in your automobile insurance contract.  Therefore, this is not available if you are dealing with the at-fault driver’s insurance carrier.

Under the appraisal clause, you can demand an appraisal of your vehicle when you disagree with the insurance company’s figure.  You and your insurance company select an appraiser to calculate a value.  The two appraisers select a third neutral appraiser.  Together, all three appraisers come up with a total loss value.  At Rosenberg & Calvin, P.A., we have helped many of our clients substantially increase their total loss values by advising them how to exercise their rights under the appraisal clause in their insurance contract.

What if the Total Loss Payment Will Not Cover My Loan Balance?

Florida Law requires drivers to carry a minimum of $10,000 of property damage coverage.  If you have a newer vehicle and your car loan exceeds $10,000, you have the potential to be upside down on your loan.  Alternatively, if there was another vehicle or property damaged by the at-fault driver, the $10,000 limit may not be enough to cover everyone’s losses.  That is why it is important to consider optional Guaranteed Asset Protection insurance (GAP). 

GAP covers the shortfall if your car loan is higher than the total loss payment. If you do not have GAP coverage and you are upside down on your loan versus the total loss payment, we suggest speaking with your current finance company.  Many times they will agree to roll your remaining loan balance into another loan on your replacement vehicle.

I know My Car is Totaled.  What Do I Do Next?

If it is obvious your car is totaled and the other insurance company has accepted responsibility for the collision, there are a few things you can do right away:

Remove Personal Items from the Vehicle

At Rosenberg & Calvin, P.A., we advise clients to act as if they will not see their vehicles again.  We suggest they remove items from the glove box, center console, trunk, and anywhere else they may be storing personal items.  Insurance companies haul wrecked vehicles to large lots where they have storage arrangements to reduce wrecker-yard fees.  You may not be able to access your vehicle on these lots without approval from the insurance company.

Remove your license plate

This will save a little money when you register your new vehicle.

Locate all sets of keys

The insurance company often requests you to leave all sets of keys with the vehicle.

Release the Vehicle

Once the vehicle is declared a total loss, the insurance company may want to move it to a location where they do not incur storage fees. After you have removed your personal items and license plate, give the wrecker yard or body shop permission to release the vehicle to the insurance company.

Locate Your Title

You may have an electronic title that speeds up the total loss process.  If you have a paper title, you will need it to transfer ownership to the insurance company which will allow them to sell the vehicle for salvage.  The insurance company will give you detailed instructions regarding how to sign and return your title.

Can I Keep My Totaled Vehicle?

This depends on the amount of damage to your vehicle and the insurance company you are dealing with. This can be something you negotiate as part of your total loss. There are various types of titles available depending on the extent of your vehicle damage. The process can be cumbersome and involve fees and inspections on your vehicle once the repairs are made.

If you have been involved in an accident in Jacksonville and your vehicle has been declared a total loss, we suggest contacting a Property Damage Attorney at Rosenberg & Calvin, P.A., to understand your options and receive the compensation you deserve.

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