Devastating car accidents happen every day in New York, and the injuries they cause can change lives forever. Even when physical and psychological injuries are minor, the damage to a vehicle can be extensive. If your car was totaled in an accident caused by another driver’s negligence or recklessness, figuring out how to handle your vehicle repair or replacement can be confusing and overwhelming. Continue reading if you’re wondering how to get more for your total loss vehicle settlement.

What is a Total Loss Vehicle?

Your car may be considered a total loss after an accident if the cost to repair it exceeds the value of the vehicle. In these circumstances, it is not reasonable to try to repair the damage. The insurance company may then declare it a total loss.

An insurance company will consider the following factors in their decision to declare a total loss vehicle:

  • The safety of the vehicle

  • The potential quality of the repairs

  • The repair costs

  • The value of the vehicle

In most situations, the cost of repairs will be divided by the cash value to get a total loss ratio. The industry standard is 70-80%, but the salvage value may also play a part if the ratio is between 70 and 100%. Depending on the specific procedure of the individual insurance company, additional factors may also be used in the calculations. These factors include the condition of the vehicle before the accident, the odometer reading, and any additional damage that was not caused by the most recent collision.

Who Pays for the Damages?

Not every state is the same, but in New York, the at-fault party’s insurance company is responsible for paying the cost of the damage. If fault is unclear or both you and the other driver are denying fault, the insurance companies will perform an investigation to determine liability. You may need to file with your insurance company if the other driver did not have insurance or was underinsured. New York requires drivers to carry uninsured motorist coverage. However, underinsured motorist coverage is optional, so you may need to reach out to your provider or read through your policy to determine if you have coverage.

Should You Settle?

Minor damage to a vehicle can often be handled even if an insurance settlement does not cover the total amount. The implications of accepting a low-ball offer are less severe when your car has repairable damage. What happens if your car is totaled and the insurance company isn’t offering a fair settlement amount? This is a common occurrence.

Keep in mind that insurance companies are for-profit businesses. Their goals are to save money and make money to increase their shareholders’ income. Offering higher settlement amounts does not help them achieve these goals.

Speaking to anyone from the insurance company about your accident must be done carefully. Despite how friendly the adjuster or representative may seem, they are not on your side. It is advisable to work with a car accident attorney during the negotiation and settlement process to ensure the company doesn’t take advantage of you.

Further, when an insurer offers a settlement amount, it is likely based on the replacement value or fair market value of your vehicle. Many cars are worth more than the amount offered by an insurance company. The decision to settle is ultimately up to you, but it will be most beneficial for your full recovery after an accident if you consider all the factors before agreeing to anything.

Negotiating a Totaled Car Insurance Payout

If you believe your car is worth more than the insurance company is offering, it will likely take some effort to get a higher offer. The insurer will not offer more based on your belief alone. You can take the below steps to improve your chances of a higher settlement offer.

Obtain an Independent Valuation

Based on your car’s year, make, model, and condition, you can use third-party services to get a valuation. Using an objective third party ensures that the insurer’s bias does not interfere with the value calculation. After-market features or non-standard equipment can also add value to your car.

Gather Documentation

If you have access to accident reports and maintenance records, these can help you prove to the insurance company that your car is worth more than they are offering.

Preparing for Settlement Negotiations

Your attorney can effectively negotiate a fair settlement amount on your behalf, but if you have chosen not to work with a lawyer, here are a few things you should keep in mind as you prepare for negotiations.

Know the Policy

Car insurance policies are extensive, and it is unlikely that anyone is familiar with the terms of theirs. Take some time before negotiations to review your insurance policy and any information you’ve received from the other party’s insurance company. Look for coverage limits and exclusions, along with any other relevant terms and conditions.

Bring Your Evidence

Print any emails or letters you’ve exchanged with the insurance company. Also, consider bringing copies of documents that support your position that your car is worth more than they have offered. Photos, maintenance records, and after-market modification paperwork may also prove useful.

Manage Your Expectations

Settlement negotiations are a long and drawn-out process. You should not expect your case to be resolved within a few hours. Be patient and continue to document everything along the way.

Insurance Settlement Negotiations are Easier with an Experienced Car Accident Lawyer

Going through this process alone is often confusing, but your car accident attorney will know how to negotiate total loss payout with the insurance company. If you decide to hire an attorney to advocate for you, contact Seitelman Law Offices, P.C., to schedule your free consultation.