What Should I Do if My Car Is Totaled?

two cars crashed

In some cases, a vehicle becomes so damaged in a crash that the cost of repairing it exceeds the vehicle’s actual cash value. When this occurs, car insurance companies say the car is a “total loss” or declare the vehicle “totaled.”

Here’s what you need to know if the auto insurance company declares your vehicle a total loss after a Montgomery car accident.

Can You Keep Your Car If It’s Totaled?

If your car is declared totaled but still seems drivable, you may be wondering whether you can keep the car. In most cases, you shouldn’t drive a totaled car after an accident, even if it looks safe. However, if the damage was entirely cosmetic, it may be okay to drive after a thorough inspection by a qualified mechanic.

If you want to keep your vehicle after the insurance company decides it is a total loss, you can take the following steps to push back:

  • Take the vehicle for an independent appraisal. A second opinion from a different mechanic could result in lower repair costs for your vehicle.
  • Negotiate with the insurance company by providing photos and documentation showing that your vehicle is worth more than they are offering.
  • Contact a knowledgeable car accident lawyer who can back up your claim.

Is It Worth Keeping a Totaled Car?

Regardless of any emotional attachment you may have to your car, it’s important to consider whether keeping it is the best financial decision. Even if you’re happy with how much the insurance company offers for your totaled vehicle, you need to compare that amount with any outstanding loans you still have for the car.

For example, if the insurance company offers you $10,000 for a totaled vehicle but you still owe your lender $15,000, you’ll have to pay your lender $5,000 out of pocket after accepting the insurance money. However, if you purchased comprehensive or collision coverage, your policy may pay for the difference. A car accident attorney can help you review your options and decide what’s best for your finances.

What Happens When Your Car Is Totaled and You’re Not At Fault?

Even if the other driver was clearly at fault for the accident that totaled your car, demanding the compensation you deserve is not always so simple. The other party’s insurance company should determine the fair market value of your car, but sometimes they don’t consider all the factors that could maximize its value. The insurer may also owe you for additional costs, such as the expense of having your vehicle towed, that they don’t include in their offer.

Some insurers may also try to pin fault on you to avoid making a payout. This is because Alabama courts follow a doctrine of pure contributory negligence, which bars you from recovering money in a lawsuit if you are even one percent at fault.

If the other driver has just a shred of evidence that you may be to blame for the wreck, you may be out of luck. That’s why it’s so important to work with a knowledgeable attorney who can identify valuable supporting evidence and establish a strong foundation for your case.

How Does the Insurance Company Determine the Value of a Totaled Car?

Auto insurance companies may use different methods to come up with the value of your totaled vehicle. They generally determine the worth of the car’s make, model, and year in today’s market. They should also consider other factors, such as mileage, wear and tear, and upgrades.

If you disagree with the insurance company’s calculations, you can use the following types of evidence to dispute their decision:

  • Details from the insurance company’s research report, which should show whether the vehicles they researched had the same features and specifications as your car
  • Research from Blue Books and online vehicle ads which you can use to calculate a rough estimate of the potential value of cars like yours
  • Evidence that your vehicle has been carefully maintained, such as photos of the vehicle and history of mechanic records

You can work with a car accident lawyer to compile your findings and potentially demand a higher payout from the insurance company.

Talk to a Personal Injury Attorney in Montgomery, AL Today


The personal injury attorneys of Stokes Stemle, LLC can help you seek fair compensation for a totaled vehicle and other losses after a Montgomery car crash. Contact us today to learn more about your legal options in a free initial consultation.