Has Your Car Been Totaled?

Almost everyone in Southern California is eventually involved in a car accident. If a negligent or reckless driver injures you in an accident, and you can prove it, you can be compensated for your losses with a personal injury claim and the help of a Pasadena car accident lawyer.

A serious traffic collision can happen to almost anyone. The California Highway Patrol tells us that more than 216,000 traffic accidents occurred on this state’s streets and highways in 2022. Those accidents resulted in over 3,800 fatalities and more than 165,000 injuries.

If a vehicle is totaled, what happens? How is a “total loss” defined? What if an auto insurance company deems your vehicle a total loss, but you decide to keep your vehicle? And what steps should you take if you’ve been seriously injured by another driver’s recklessness or negligence?

What Constitutes a Total Loss?

A car is a total loss when it costs more to repair than it’s worth, or if it cannot be fixed at all. For instance, if a car is worth $10,000 but repairs would cost $11,000, the insurance company will declare the car a total loss since the repairs will cost more than the vehicle’s actual cash value.

A car’s actual cash value is what the car was worth immediately before it was totaled. After a traffic collision in California, your auto insurance company will designate a claims adjuster to examine your vehicle and estimate the vehicle’s repair cost and actual cash value.

If the estimate for a vehicle’s repair exceeds 75 or 80 percent of its cash value, most insurance companies consider the vehicle totaled. Each company has different rules, and each vehicle is different, but in general, if the repairs exceed 80 percent of the vehicle’s worth, it’s a total loss.

When a car is totaled in California, an auto insurance company will usually pay the owner the car’s actual cash value. The insurance company then takes the car’s possession, has the title processed, and becomes the car’s legal owner.

What if Your Car is Worth More?

You may dispute the insurance company’s estimate of your car’s actual cash value – and negotiate for a more generous offer – by sending the insurance company a counteroffer along with evidence that the car’s actual cash value is higher than the insurance company’s estimate.

The evidence you will need may include before-and-after photographs of the car, receipts for upgrades and repairs, and estimates from body shops, appraisers, and mechanics. You must have compelling evidence when you negotiate a total loss claim with an auto insurance company.

Most people in California’s auto insurance industry are professionals who handle claims honestly and promptly. If the insurance company doesn’t offer a more generous settlement after reviewing your evidence, you may be dealing with insurance bad faith, and you’ll need an attorney’s help.

Can You Keep Your Car After It Has Been Totaled?

In California, if you choose, you can keep your totaled automobile and arrange for the repairs yourself. The insurance company will subtract the vehicle’s salvage value – what the insurance company would have made by selling the car to a junkyard – from what the company pays you.

If you choose to keep your totaled vehicle, you must inform the California Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) within ten days of settling the insurance claim. The DMV will provide a salvage title.

Before you can return a totaled car to the road, you must conduct repairs and provide receipts to the DMV, and the vehicle must pass an inspection.

What is Insurance Bad Faith?

What can you do if the insurance company does not offer you a reasonable amount for your totaled vehicle in a reasonable period of time? If you believe the insurance company is operating unprofessionally – in “bad faith” – seek help from a Pasadena traffic accident attorney at once.

If you’re getting “the brush-off” from an auto insurance company, or if you are getting nothing but delays, excuses, and disrespect, you can take legal action. Asking an attorney to advocate on your behalf may be all that it takes to prompt a reasonable offer from the insurance company.

If a letter from your attorney does not induce the company to make a reasonable offer for your totaled vehicle, your attorney may advise you to bring a civil lawsuit against the company for insurance bad faith.

What Should You Do at an Accident Scene?

When a traffic accident happens, no Pasadena traffic accident attorney will be there to offer advice, so you must take measures to protect yourself. Take these steps immediately:

Summon medical help for yourself or anyone who is injured. Even if you don’t feel injured, have a medical exam within 24 hours if possible. That exam will find any latent injury and create the medical documents you’ll need if you file a personal injury claim.

Contact the local police. If you bring a personal injury claim, you will need a printed copy of the police accident report. You must also exchange personal contact details and insurance contact information with the other driver or drivers involved in the crash.

Take photos of the scene and the damage to your car and the other vehicle or vehicles. Ask for names and the contact details of any eyewitnesses. Photographs and witness statements can be persuasive evidence in support of a personal injury claim.

If you sustain any injury more serious than minor cuts and bruises, don’t even speak to a claims adjuster, and don’t sign any insurance documents. Instead, refer the insurance company to your Pasadena car accident lawyer.

Injured by Negligence? Dealing With Bad Faith? Call Thon Beck Vanni Callahan & Powell

For over forty years, the award-winning attorneys at Thon Beck Vanni Callahan & Powell have been fighting on behalf of the injured victims of negligence and the victims of insurance bad faith in Southern California. We have recovered millions of dollars for our clients.

Your first consultation with Thon Beck Vanni Callahan & Powell is free, with no obligation, and you’ll pay no lawyer’s fee to Thon Beck Vanni Callahan & Powell until and unless one of our attorneys negotiates a private settlement or obtains a favorable courtroom verdict on your behalf.

If an auto insurance company is operating in bad faith, or if you’ve been seriously injured by a reckless or negligent driver in Southern California, promptly call the Pasadena law offices of Thon Beck Vanni Callahan & Powell at 626-208-9906, and let us help.