What to Do If You Total Your Car

Car That Has Been In A Front End Collision.

Motorists usually believe – understandably but mistakenly – that if they are in an accident, their auto insurance reimbursement will prevent a financial loss for the property damage. In reality, when the accident results in a total loss, the owner can be left owing money on an inoperable vehicle. Auto owners who total their car in an accident need to do research, make some decisions, and be prepared to assert their rights.

Auto accident total loss in Louisiana

In general, a total loss occurs when the cost to repair the damage to a vehicle is so high that it is not worth repairing. Instead, the insurance company will pay the insured party the fair market value of the vehicle minus the deductible and take title to the vehicle.

Louisiana statute sets the theshold at 75% – if the cost of repair exceeds 75% of the value of the car based on the latest version of the National Automobile Dealers Association Handbook, it is deemed a total loss and the owner is paid its resale value. The state statutes also spell out that the damage calculation can include the cost to repair or replace the airbags but only if the insured owner consents to that.

What happens if you owe more on the vehicle than you receive as a total loss payout? The loan does not go away – you are stuck paying the balance for the totalled vehicle. It is important to make sure you receive the full amount due based on the NADA pricing information as required by the Louisiana statutes.

Preparing for a total loss claim

If your vehicle was totalled, be sure to do some research to find out what it was worth before the accident and after. If the insurance company’s settlement offer is significantly different, you may need to dig in your heels to obtain a reasonable number or think about calling in a property damage lawyer for help.

Also know going into the settlement process what your intentions for the vehicle are. When the vehicle is totaled, the insurance company typically takes possession of it when it pays out the claim and recovers a small amount by selling it at a salvage auction. If you would rather keep the totaled vehicle, you may be able to work that out in the settlement process, but will likely have to take a deduction from your settlement for the salvage price. You may also need to jump through a few hoops to use the vehicle, such as having it repaired and inspected, before another insurance company will be willing to issue a policy based on its status as a former total loss vehicle.

If you cannot come to an agreement with the insurance company on the settlement option, consider invoking the policy’s appraisal clause, which allows each side to submit an appraisal. In the case of dispute, the appraisal clause allow a a third-party umpire to decide damages. Consulting with a property damage lawyer will help you understand your rights, the process, and the value of your vehicle.

Total loss lawyer in Louisiana

If you have suffered a total loss accident in Lafayette, Baton Rouge, or elsewhere in Louisiana, call property damage lawyer Bart Bernard. Bart will help you fight for maximum reimbursement on a property damage claim. Call today to schedule a free consultation.

Additional Total Loss Auto Accident Resources:  

  1. Louisiana State Legislature, RS 32:702: Definitions, http://legis.la.gov/legis/Law.aspx?p=y&d=88513
  2. Louisiana State Legislature, RS 22:1293: Automobile insurance; total loss provision, http://legis.la.gov/legis/law.aspx?d=508157



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