Please be advised that the following topic is for informational purposes only and our firm does NOT handle property damage cases unless they are associated with a serious injury claim. If you need further assistance regarding this particular topic, you can contact your local Bar Association for a referral to an attorney who may be able to address your inquiry in more detail.
For the average person, it can be confusing to determine whether a vehicle is totaled after a car accident. Is it really a total loss? Is it repairable?
This depends on your point of view. You could have a different opinion than the insurance company assessing the damage. Your mechanic, friends, family, or even the witnesses at the scene of the accident might form their own opinions about a totaled car, too.
As the car’s owner, you may want to hurry up and have it declared totaled so you can get another car and move on with your life. Alternatively, you might prefer a non-totaled car because you’d like to fix it up cheaply and keep driving it. Or maybe the car has sentimental value and you just don’t want to lose it!
Here at Sally Morin Personal Injury Lawyers, our clients ask us about the legal aspects of a totaled car when pursuing accident compensation. In addition to other concerns, people wonder how a totaled car harms or benefits their case. Below are some things you should know if you ever find yourself in this situation.
How Damaged Vehicles are Assessed in California
From the insurance company’s point of view, considering a car totaled is a matter of math. Insurance representatives use an industry-standard calculation known as the Total Loss Formula (TLF). If the estimated cost of repairs exceeds the actual cash value (ACV) of the vehicle, they’ll consider it a total loss.
The ACV is usually based on four main factors:
- The vehicle’s age
- The mileage at the time of the crash
- Its overall condition
- Its features, like whether it’s a standard or premium edition
Generally speaking, the ACV of a vehicle ends up being lower than the owner is hoping. Passenger cars, trucks, vans, and SUVs depreciate over time, so even a few years of age can reduce a vehicle’s value dramatically.
This often comes as a shock to loving car owners who have spent hundreds or thousands of dollars fixing up and customizing their cars. The TLF and ACV don’t typically account for special modifications you’ve made to your car, except for major functional upgrades like a new engine or a full set of brand new tires.
Keep in mind that if your car has a loan or lease, the insurance company will reimburse the lender for the outstanding balance. Don’t expect that money to go into your pocket!
Can I Negotiate Over a Totaled Car?
You can try to negotiate with the insurance company over whether your car is totaled, but please understand that California state law limits their options somewhat. If the cost to repair a vehicle exceeds 75% of a vehicle’s total value, the car is automatically considered totaled under the law.
If your car is declared a total loss, the insurance company will assign it a salvage/scrap value. This is the last remaining value of salvageable parts at a junkyard.
Some cars have internal or external parts that are quite valuable. For example, a Prius’ catalytic converter or a Tesla’s battery could add considerable salvage value. Many types of auto parts have recently become more scarce and valuable due to international supply chain limitations.
Still, don’t be surprised if the scrap value of your car is only a few hundred dollars total. The average U.S. scrap car value is about $100 to $500.
How Does a Totaled Car Impact My Accident Claim?
You can pursue accident compensation regardless of whether your car is declared totaled or not. Either way, it’s a good idea to hire a car accident lawyer to remove the stress of arguing with the insurance company over the status of your car.
A lawyer allows you to rest and recover from your accident rather than worrying about your totaled car and your legal situation. Beyond just your vehicle, your lawyer will calculate numerous other damages that could add significant value to your claim: lost days of work, medical bills, your pain and suffering, and more.
When you’re wondering about your totaled car, contact the attorney team at Sally Morin Personal Injury Lawyers. We handle many areas of personal injury law, including car accidents with total vehicle loss. We believe you should be able to focus on recovering from your accident while we handle the legal details. Call 877-380-8852 today for a free case evaluation.