How to Fight the Insurance Company Over a Totaled Car

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You’re in a car accident. There is significant damage to the vehicle. There’s an insurance claim to make, and it’s important to get a payment that you deserve.

Maybe you are just starting your insurance claim. Maybe you’ve already gotten a settlement offer from the insurance company. Whatever your situation, you need to know how to get justice.

The car accident lawyers of the Haun Mena legal team explains what you need to know about totaled cars and how to fight the insurance company over a totaled car.

Understanding Totaled Cars in Texas

When is a car considered a total loss in Texas?

In Texas, a car is considered a total loss when repair costs exceed the value of the car before it was damaged. Parts and labor are included in repair costs, but sales tax and repainting costs are not included.

Is There a Certain Percentage Where a Car Is Considered a Total Loss in Texas?

In Texas, each insurance company may decide when to consider a car totaled for settling an insurance claim. That makes the percentage where a car is considered a total loss in Texas 100%.

The insurance company may consider the car totaled at a lower percentage, but it is not automatically totaled by law unless it costs more to repair the car than its actual cash value before the damage.

What Is the Law Defining the Total Loss of a Car in Texas?

The law defining the total loss of a car in Texas is Transportation Code § 501.091(15). It defines salvage vehicles which are total loss vehicles.

What Is the Significance of a Car Being Declared a Total Loss in Texas?

When a car is officially declared a total loss in Texas, it is designated a salvage vehicle. A salvage vehicle cannot be operated on a road until it has been repaired and inspected.

A car is considered a total loss/salvage vehicle in Texas when:

  • It has been destroyed or damaged so much that it costs more to fix it than it is worth
  • An insurance company takes ownership of the car in a claim settlement
  • The car owner wants to declare the car a salvage vehicle
  • Fire damages the vehicle
  • The insurance company declares it a total loss, but the owner keeps the car anyways
  • Local law enforcement considers it salvaged, like an unclaimed, abandoned vehicle
  • It has been stolen, resulting in an insurance payout
  • It comes from another state with a salvage title or something similar

Source: Texas Department of Motor Vehicles, Salvage Vehicles

Handling an Insurance Claim for a Totaled Vehicle

If the insurance company thinks it would cost more than it’s worth to repair the car, they may declare the car totaled. That means they don’t want to repair it. Instead, they want to pay you for what they say is the actual cash value of the car.

Even though the law in Texas is that a car isn’t totaled until the repair costs completely exceed the vehicle value, many insurance companies use a lower amount for this determination. Many insurance companies use between 50-70% of the repair costs as the standard for when a vehicle isn’t worth repairing.

What Can You Do If the Insurance Company Declares Your Car Totaled?

If the insurance company declares your car totaled, you may:

  • Accept the amount that they are offering; the insurance company keeps the vehicle
  • Negotiate a higher value of the vehicle
  • Keep the vehicle and repair it yourself; the salvage value will be deducted from the insurance payment
  • File a lawsuit to recover the value of the vehicle

What is the value of a vehicle when it is totaled?

The value of a vehicle when it is totaled is its fair market value at the time it is damaged. It is not the initial cost to purchase the vehicle, the replacement cost or even the trade-in value. Fair market value factors in depreciation. It is the current, fair market cash value immediately before damage.

Note: Be sure to read your insurance policy carefully, because some companies offer new car replacement insurance. If you have it, you may receive more than the current fair market value.

Can you negotiate for a higher amount from the insurance company if they declare your vehicle totaled?

If you disagree with the insurance company valuation of your vehicle, you may negotiate a higher amount. You may present information supporting a higher value of the vehicle and work towards an agreement to resolve your insurance claim.

Strategies for Negotiating the Value of a Totaled Vehicle

Negotiating the value of a totaled vehicle requires strategy. After all, the insurance company maximizes their profits by paying as little as possible. Strategies for negotiating may include:

  • Presenting information from Kelly Blue Book, a vehicle valuation and research company
  • Getting an appraisal from an independent party
  • Discussing prices for similar vehicles for sale locally
  • Noting any special features, packages or accessories that are unique to the vehicle
  • Using emotion; insurance adjusters may be swayed by how the loss has impacted your life
  • Understanding the value and the basis for it so that you know your goal amount and how to interpret settlement offers

Attorney Help for Injuries and Claims Involving a Totaled Vehicle

Fighting an insurance company over a totaled car can be challenging. It’s especially difficult when you have sustained injuries from your car wreck. Your insurance is hoping you won’t hire a lawyer, and they’re hoping to resolve your case with a low payment. At Haun Mena, our attorneys have experience helping people negotiate their totaled vehicles and compensation for their injuries with the insurance companies.

When you pay your premium, they should fairly pay your claim. Our team can ensure your vehicle is valued fairly. Then, we explain the options and things to consider. We can represent you and your interests whether it is negotiating on your behalf or taking your case to court.

Insurance companies can be intimidating. It’s hard to know how to approach the fight. Ultimately, you need justice. Let our experienced attorneys evaluate your case and explain your options.

Contact us today for your free case review.

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