My Vehicle Is A Total Loss, Now What?

Many times following a motor vehicle accident, a vehicle involved has been declared a “total loss” by the insurance company.    Now What?  To the owner, the vehicle appears to be damaged but may still be drivable.  How can it be a total loss?  The insurance company is required by North Carolina law to indemnify you for the loss, but they don’t have to pay for repairs to a vehicle when the cost of those repairs reaches or exceed 70% of the value of your vehicle (not what you owe).  In this case, they will declare the vehicle a total loss and pay you the fair market value of your vehicle.  If this happens to you, read the steps below to help you through the process.

1.  A claims adjuster will appraise the damages and the value of your vehicle;

2.  The insurance company will make you an offer to purchase your vehicle at fair market value – as if had not been damaged.  At this point you have 2 options:

a. ACCEPTANCE – If you accept the offer, you will need to sign a release, provide them with the title to the vehicle or the title holder information (if there is still money owed on the vehicle) and the insurance company will send you a check for full payment or full payment less any amount owed to a bank/lender etc.

b. REJECT – If you don’t believe the offer is fair and reasonable, then you have the right to have your own appraisal (at your own expense) and submit it to the insurance company for consideration.  If they accept your counter proposal, then they may send you a check for your appraised amount – not likely.  Many times they will split the difference OR the matter may require an “UMPIRE ADJUSTER” to be hired by the insurance company who is completely neutral to make yet another appraisal of the vehicle in which both parties agree to accept his opinion of value for the vehicle.

3.  Even if your vehicle is a total loss, it still has value.  You should also ask the claims adjuster about the “Salvage Value” for your vehicle.  You have a right to keep your vehicle, if you owned it outright.  You can ask them to hold back the amount for the salvage value and pay you the balance for your vehicle.  Keep in mind that the State of North Carolina will issue a “salvage title” for the vehicle since it had been declared a total loss.  However, you can have the damage repaired (or not) and continue to drive your car.

KEEP IN MIND…  You have a duty to contain (mitigate) the costs associated with the total loss damages.  When your vehicle is NOT drivable, you must give the insurance company permission to move/store the vehicle at a fee-free storage facility (junk yard) or you may be charged the fees after a certain amount of time. Be sure to read more about your rights after having a damaged vehicle at the NCDMV website.

If you or a loved one has been injured in a car accident, call us today at 704-333-0885 for a free consultation. With convenient locations in Charlotte, Hickory, Gastonia and Rock Hill, SC we have legal help just a short distance away.

Written by: Debra Sellers-Roth, Pre-Litigation Negotiator, Campbell & Associates, Attorneys at Law