What does it mean that my vehicle is a total loss?
When someone is in a motor vehicle accident, and it is not their fault, we typically will contact the insurance company for the at-fault driver and schedule a repair estimate. Typically, the insurance company will have its appraisers coordinate a repair inspection. We usually will try to arrange that inspection so that it is convenient for our client. In most cases, the location will be the home of our clients. The inspector will then take photographs of the damage to the car, and prepare a detailed repair estimate.
In certain situations, the vehicle will be deemed a total loss. This occurs when the value of the vehicle in the condition it was in before the accident is less than the cost of repair. For example, if the vehicle cost $10,000 to repair, but was only valued at $5000 before the accident, the insurance company will offer the lesser amount. At that time, if the client wants to accept the total loss offer, we have to arrange to turn over the title to the vehicle to the insurance company and in return they will tender the check. The client, however, could choose to take the total loss check and make their own arrangements to repair the car. While this seldom occurs, it is an option.
The value of the car is based on a number of factors including the miles on the vehicle before the accident; the overall condition of the vehicle before the accident; and any special equipment on the vehicle. Our law firm has access to many resources to check on various opinions with respect to the value of the vehicle. Unlike some personal injury law firms, that do not get involved in the handling of property damage claims, we regularly negotiate with the insurance company in order to get a fair offer on the total loss figure. We do not charge any legal fee to handle this aspect of personal injury cases for our clients. Rather, our legal fee is based on the recovery on behalf of the client for their bodily injury claims. It should also be noted that, while the negotiation is taking place on the vehicle repair, if the vehicle is a total loss, we will try to arrange for our clients to be put in a rental car so that they have access to transportation. Ultimately, however, we will seek reimbursement for the rental car from the insurance company for the at-fault driver.