If your car has been totaled and the accident that wrecked your vehicle wasn’t your fault, you’re probably feeling overwhelmed. You may – very understandably – be frustrated that you can’t use your car, worried about what you’re going to do next, and confused about your options. Thankfully, there are things you can do to improve your chances of receiving a substantial insurance settlement. You may even be able to sue the driver who totaled your car.
If you’ve been Googling “Car totaled – not at fault” in the hours, days, or weeks since your accident, you’ve come to the right place. This guide will tell you what you need to know about the next steps.
What Should You Do While You’re Still At The Scene Of The Accident?
If you’re still at the scene of your accident and able to do so, you should move yourself to a safe location that’s off the road and away from traffic. While in a safe position, be sure to exchange contact and insurance information with all of the drivers involved and also request a police report. This document will hopefully help you to prove that the collision wasn’t your fault. Take photos and videos of the accident scene and get the contact information of any witnesses who saw the crash. Being proactive now can improve your ability to recover your losses later.
What Happens If Someone Totals Your Car?
Do you know whether your car is totaled for sure? A car is formally “totaled” after a car insurance company calculates its market value when compared to how much it would cost to repair it. If repair costs exceed the value of the car, it’s considered totaled. Depending on your state’s salvage title laws, some insurance companies may even classify a car as totaled if its repair costs are substantial but don’t exceed the market value of the vehicle.
You’ll need to file an insurance claim to be sure that your car is totaled. If the driver who wrecked your vehicle was insured, you would file a claim with that driver’s insurance company. If the other driver was uninsured or underinsured, you may need to file a claim with your own insurer.
If you don’t have uninsured motorist coverage and the driver who hit you was uninsured, your recovery options through the insurance process are limited. Contact your insurance company to clarify your rights and options and consider speaking with an attorney about alternative routes to recover your losses.
What Will The Insurance Company Do With Your Claim?
Once your claim is received, an insurance adjuster will compare the value of your car to the amount it would cost to repair it. You can get a good idea of market value by searching Kelley Blue Book. Keep in mind that if you’ve made repairs or improvements to your vehicle, the Kelley Blue Book value may not reflect the total market value of your vehicle. You’ll want to alert the insurance company to recent repairs or significant improvements when filing a claim.
If your car repair value doesn’t exceed the value of the car, the adjuster will determine whether the repair cost to value ratio in your case meets salvage thresholds set by the insurer and state law. A salvage threshold is the percentage of repair costs to a car’s value that renders it “totaled.” Examples of state salvage thresholds include:
Insurance companies are permitted to set a higher percentage salvage threshold than state law, but they aren’t allowed to set lower thresholds.
If you’re entitled to an insurance payout – by your insurance company or the insurer of the vehicle that struck yours – you’ll be issued a check as part of a settlement agreement.
Who Gets The Insurance Check When A Car Is Totaled?
Insurance companies decide who receives the check when a car’s totaled. Not at-fault drivers who were struck by insured motorists should receive a check from the at-fault motorist’s insurer if the car was paid off at the time of the crash.
If an outstanding auto loan was still being paid off at the time of the crash, the check may be directed to the creditor that financed the vehicle. The check could also be made out to you and your lender, so you may need to discuss how the proceeds of the settlement will be split. If you have comprehensive insurance coverage, the value of your settlement check should reflect the pre-crash value of your car.
If you accept an insurance settlement payment, the insurer that cuts the check will likely take possession of the vehicle. If you want to keep your totaled car, you should speak with an attorney before committing to a plan of action.
If Your Car Is Totaled And You’re Not At Fault, Do You Need A Lawyer?
If the other driver refuses to admit fault, you may need to file a collision claim with your insurer. This will allow the insurance companies involved to determine who was responsible for the wreck. If your car’s value at the time of the crash was significant, you have a lot to lose if the claims process doesn’t go your way.
Speaking with an attorney can help to ensure that you’re in the best possible position to achieve a fair estimate of the damage, a fair valuation of your car, and a favorable outcome to the insurance settlement process. You’ll also want to speak with an attorney if you were injured in your crash because you may be entitled to significant personal injury damages.
Can You Sue The Driver Who Totaled Your Car?
What happens if someone totals your car and you’re injured as a result? Not at-fault drivers can sue those who caused them harm. For your personal injury lawsuit to be successful, you’ll generally need to prove three things:
- The at-fault driver owed you a duty of care under the law.
- The at-fault driver breached their duty of care by engaging in negligent, reckless, or intentionally harmful conduct.
- Your injuries were caused directly by the at-fault driver’s conduct.
There are a number of factors to consider when filing a lawsuit, from filing deadlines to evidentiary requirements. If you’re considering a lawsuit, it’s imperative to speak with an attorney who can review your case and provide you with options and likely outcomes.
Car Totaled? Not At Fault? Get A Free Evaluation Of Your Case
If you were injured in your crash or the driver that hit you is disputing fault, it’s time to speak with an expert. Consider scheduling a free case evaluation in your area today to protect your rights and clarify your legal options.
Legal Disclaimer: This article contains general legal information but does not constitute professional legal advice for your particular situation and should not be interpreted as creating an attorney-client relationship. If you have legal questions, you should seek the advice of an attorney licensed in your jurisdiction.