Totaling a vehicle is a stressful situation since you have no way of getting around. When a car is totaled, it is considered a “total loss” by the insurance company. Totaled vehicles generally have suffered serious damage, so they are often inoperable.
At Ladah Law Firm, our team often fields calls about totaled vehicles. An owner’s ability to get repairs or buy a new vehicle is often up in the air, depending on how the insurance companies calculate the value of the car and the cost of necessary repairs.
If an insurer claims your car is totaled, you might need legal help to ensure you get fair value. You also need to think through some options, such as whether you want to keep your vehicle. Our auto wreck lawyers in Vegas answer some of the more common questions our clients have about the claims process involving totaled vehicles.
Nevada actually has a statute in place that identifies what qualifies as a “total loss”: NRS 487.790. Basically, this law states that your car is deemed totaled when the estimated cost of repairs exceeds 65% of the vehicle’s value.
For example, your car might have been worth $10,000 before the accident. If the cost of repairs exceeds $6,500, then the car is totaled. Other states might use different calculations, but this is the one adopted by Nevada’s legislature.
There is a lot of confusion about determining the value of a wrecked car. Put simply, it is the value of your vehicle immediately before it was involved in an accident. Here’s what it’s not: It’s not what you paid for the car, or how much you owe on the loan. It also isn’t the cost of a replacement vehicle or what the car was worth a year ago. Instead, it’s the value—rust and all—of the car right before the accident.
There are some ways to arrive at this number. An insurance adjuster will want information about the repair history and any prior accidents you were in. They also will want to look at the car to see what kind of rust or damage existed independent of the damage caused by the wreck.
Estimating repairs is the easier calculation. Insurance adjusters work with body shops and can get a solid estimate for how much parts and labor would cost.
This is an important question, because Nevada only requires that drivers carry liability coverage. This type of insurance only kicks in when you are at fault for damaging someone’s property, and it pays to fix the other driver’s car, not your own.
However, you might have comprehensive or collision insurance which could cover the loss. Most people have this coverage when they have a car loan. Your policy might limit the amount that you can receive, even if your car is totaled, so that is something to keep in mind.
You can bring a claim against the driver who caused the wreck. Nevada requires that all people registering a vehicle carry at least $20,000 in property damage liability coverage. This insurance comes into play when the insured is responsible for an accident.
Furthermore, Nevada tort law makes the at-fault driver responsible for paying compensation for any losses they cause. This means you can sue a driver personally who lacks insurance or whose insurance policy has a low limit.
To make a claim for property damage, you need to first report the accident to the insurance company. If you have full coverage, contact your own insurer. Share the name of the driver who hit you and their insurance company.
The insurance companies will reach an agreement between themselves on liability for the crash, and an insurance adjuster will look at the vehicle to assess the full extent of damage. The adjuster will try to determine the vehicle’s condition immediately before the wreck and how much it was worth. The adjuster will also estimate the cost of repairs.
If the vehicle is totaled, the insurer will cut a check but not pay to repair the vehicle. If it is not totaled, they will probably point you in the direction of a body shop in their network to perform repairs.
Some insurers might shortchange you by claiming that your car wasn’t worth much before the collision. This will lower the amount that they need to pay you. We recommend using online search tools, like Kelley BlueBook, which will provide a valuation based on your subjective belief of the condition of your car. Of course, the number is only a starting point.
You are not required to accept the insurer’s offer, which means you have a chance to negotiate. However, you must have valid reasons for disagreeing with the insurer’s assessment of value. Simply saying you are unhappy probably won’t cut it.
It’s possible to negotiate with the insurer to let you keep the car. Of course, a totaled vehicle does retain some value, and your insurer might have wanted to sell it for scraps. So, you will receive less than you would if you did not keep the car.
Carefully consider why you want to keep such a damaged vehicle. Some people hesitate to let it go because it has sentimental value or because it was a hard-to-find antique. You also might have connections with a body shop, which will repair your vehicle at an exceptionally low cost.
To drive the car, you’ll need to apply for a salvage title. Nevada will also require that the car pass an inspection before you can take it out on the road. For most people, the hassle of getting a salvage title outweighs simply accepting a check from the insurer and signing over the wrecked vehicle.
Yes. You can challenge the insurer’s appraisal in court. Getting shortchanges is a frustrating experience, especially when it wasn’t even your fault. Of course, you will probably need your own appraiser to testify on your behalf. A judge or jury needs expert information to determine the real value of your vehicle. You can’t simply introduce BlueBook information as evidence.
If you win in court, you might receive more money for repairs. However, you should think carefully before taking this step. Often, you can negotiate a more favorable settlement that dispenses with the expense and hassle of heading to court.
An experienced attorney can look at your case to determine if you’ve received a fair offer from the insurance company. If you have a specific request, like keeping the vehicle, your attorney can help you handle the negotiations.
If the insurance company isn’t giving you a fair value, your attorney can help gather the information you need and approach the insurance company on your behalf to negotiate a better offer. If you need to go to court, your attorney has a network of professional appraisers standing by to make sure that you have the evidence to establish the vehicle’s true value.
A lawyer can also help if you were physically injured in the wreck. You can receive compensation for medical care, lost wages, and pain and suffering.
Our Las Vegas car accident lawyers are standing by to answer your questions. Call us to schedule a time to meet 702-252-0055.