What if I want to total my vehicle but the insurance company refuses to total?

Frankly, I’m surprised that I don’t get asked the title question more often, but I know why I don’t.  Simply put, it is the dogmatic way insurance adjusters explain the total loss or repair process to accident victims.

From the onset of dealing with most adjusters, the tone is set by the adjuster that what they say is how it is.  Most simply TELL people how it is.  The art of negotiation is lost and with it, common sense.  This isn’t their fault; their supervisor told them how it was when they started and as they trained.  But don’t blame the supervisor because his manager told him how it was when he started.  But don’t blame the manager. . . you see where I am going with this?  It is a mindset drilled into adjusters that THEY are the ones that decide if a vehicle is totaled or not.  They are sadly mistaken.

So, listen, it is YOUR vehicle.  YOURS.  Not theirs.  YOU decide what to do with it, not them.  Remind them of this if you disagree with them.  Ask them whose name is on the title.  After you have cleared up the issue of ownership and ultimate control over the destiny of your vehicle, then you have to implement a plan to bring the destiny to reality.

insurance company refuses to total

Scenario #1: The insurance company refuses to total your car, but you don’t want it repaired.

What do you do?

Simple.  Call our office and we help you find out what a buyer will pay you for your wrecked and unrepaired vehicle.  If you know your own buyer, call them.  You’ll need photos and damage estimates to show the buyers (get these from the insurance company).  Once you know what the wrecked car is worth, you will have enough data to make the decision to either start looking for your new vehicle, or start dealing with the repair of your vehicle.

So to recap, if you don’t want to fix your vehicle, simply check your options out by calling us and finding out how much your wrecked car is worth.  We will review the case for free and make sure you have the data you need to make the decision that is in YOUR best interest, and not the best interest of the bank account of the insurance company.  If it’s better to repair, we’ll tell you the truth and help you with that, too.  We’ll make sure you know about the diminished market value and make sure you don’t overlook any other recovery you are entitled to.

Scenario #2: The insurance company and you both agree it is totaled, but you can’t agree about how much it is worth.

So in this scenario, the answer depends on whether you are dealing with your own insurance company (a contract dispute), or the other person’s (at fault driver’s) insurance company.  I’ll start with dealing with your own company. . . . . If you disagree with your own insurance company about the amount of your claim, then your only real option (outside of just great negotiation) is to invoke the appraisal clause of  your policy.  It’s funny how many people don’t know about the appraisal clause, even insurance adjusters and appraisers are many times in the dark.  The appraisal clause is an option that comes with a lot of ambiguity.  If you really want to fight using the appraisal clause, make sure the appraiser you choose knows his/her s*&!.  Insist upon talking directly to your appraiser and drill them good.  Make sure you are comfortable with them because if they know what they are doing, you will simply have to trust them to settle your claim for you, and you will be in the dark during the negotiation process (by requirement).  If you want more information about the appraisal clause process, call us.

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Now, if you are dealing with the at-fault party’s insurance company (a negligence claim), the process is governed by tort law.  This means, you would have to provide enough evidence to convince a court to pay you the amount you seek in a civil suit against the at fault party.  The insurance company will almost never agree with you about what a court would award you.  They like to TELL you how it is.

The fact of the matter is that if you want to prove the value of a motor vehicle in a court of law, you need a qualified expert appraiser and a formal appraisal prepared by them using known appraisal standards that can be duplicated, and that are generally accepted within the appraisal industry (not the insurance industry).  The cost of getting an appraisal from an expert varies (I charge $250), and when dealing with another person’s insurance company, there is no guarantee that getting an appraisal will change their mind about the value of your car.  In most cases, you have to be willing and able to get an appraisal, and sue the at fault person.  If you can do this, then many times, your case will settle in a mediation.

There is no ability to invoke any clause with somebody else’s insurance company because you don’t have any written agreement with their insurance company, you only have the right to recover damages from the person that caused them, and luckily they have insurance for that.  Remember you are dealing with a pending lawsuit when you are talking to an at fault party’s insurance company, and this will help you to understand the rules.  The rules are the law, not the insurance company’s internal claims handling policies.

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