When you are in an accident and your vehicle suffers significant damage, there is a chance that the insurance company may determine it is a total loss. This is sometimes called “totaling the car.” This can be extremely frustrating for you, especially if you are also dealing with injuries, time lost at work, and other expenses.
The key to making the best of a total loss vehicle is determining the value and negotiating a fair settlement to replace your car. You can work with a car accident lawyer who will handle this process for you.
What Is a Total Loss Vehicle?
If the insurance company determines that your automobile accident caused too much damage and they are going to total your vehicle, you may not be clear on what this means. When this occurs depends on the state’s statutes. In general, insurers consider a car a total loss when the repair costs come too close to the vehicle’s value.
For example, in Louisiana, La. R.S. 32:702 defines a total loss vehicle as “a motor vehicle which has sustained damages equivalent to75 percent or more of the market value as determined by the most current National Automobile Dealers Association (NADA) Handbook.”
What this means is that the insurance company does not have a choice. When the damage to a vehicle exceeds 75 percent of that vehicle’s value, it must be declared a total loss.
How does the Louisiana Law Differ from Most?
Note that the statute requires that the insurance company use the latest NADA handbook to value your vehicle in a total loss claim. This is very specific, and not all states have laws this detailed.
Some insurance companies may use other sources to value a total loss, but the courts have found this to violate the law and have penalized insurers for undervaluing the vehicle. Furthermore, the insurance company has a limited time to settle your total loss claim in Louisiana.
When the insurer makes an offer, you should check the NADA Handbook to determine the vehicle’s value. This service is free and will ensure you receive your vehicle’s full value in your total loss compensation.
For a free legal consultation, call 800-537-8185
Other States Have Different Laws Defining Total Loss Vehicles
Other states have similar rules to Louisiana, although they differ somewhat—most do not offer a specific method of determining the vehicle’s value. For example:
- Alabama law considers a car totaled when repairs are more than 75 percent of the car’s value.
- Arkansas law totals a vehicle at 70 percent.
Mississippi uses a total loss formula (TLF) to determine when a vehicle is deemed totaled. This formula considers several factors:
- The cost of the necessary repairs
- The scrap value of the car
- The actual cash value (ACV) of the car
In each of these situations, you will want to determine the value of your vehicle before accepting an offer. The insurance company may try to pay you less than your vehicle is worth.
Other Ways to Prove the Value of Your Vehicle
While Louisiana law relies on the NADA handbook alone, there are other ways to put a price on your vehicle. First, you will need to know crucial information about the car, such as:
- The make, model, and year
- If there are upgrades to the vehicle
- How many miles are on the car
- The physical condition of the car before the collision
A good starting point is using NADA or Kelley Blue Book to get a general idea of the possible value. This could allow you to see that the insurer aligns with the value or give you a price to counter-offer. Alternatively, you can identify similar vehicles in ads or online listings at nearby car lots.
If your case goes to trial, your attorney may call in a certified mechanic or another expert witness to help value your vehicle.
How an Attorney Can Help With Your Total Loss Claim
Consulting with a car accident lawyer may be a good idea, especially if you are also hurt. Getting the money you deserve based on the facts of your case is not always easy. Insurers do not fight for justice for crash victims; they fight to protect their own bottom line.
A personal injury law firm will represent you based on contingency fees, meaning you do not have to pay them upfront. They get paid from the financial recovery they secure in your case.
Talk to an Attorney From Morris Bart, LLC for Free about Your Crash
The personal injury attorneys at the Morris Bart law firm can help you understand your rights and options following a crash. If your collision occurred in Louisiana, Alabama, Arkansas, or Mississippi, we are here to help. We handle injury claims or can offer advice on fairly calculating your vehicle’s value.
Call (800) 537-8185 for your complimentary consultation with our team.
to find a Morris Bart office near you.