Total loss disputes are common.

The value of your vehicle is very important to you, but it may not be as important to your insurance company or the insurance company of that guy or girl that hit your car and totaled it.

There are some options to help get a fair value on your vehicle.

The most common and accepted is to employ the services of a non-interested professional.  If the professional is truly a non-interested expert, then their opinion should be based on accepted appraisal methods and proper training and experience. The value you get from an independent appraiser should be in line with the actual value of your vehicle as it relates to the terms of the insurance claim.

First Party:  The “Appraisal” or “Umpire” Clause

If you have a first party claim (meaning you are using your own insurance), then your policy likely has an “appraisal” clause.  You can use this clause to effectively argue the value of your vehicle.

The problem with this clause is that it typically is not economical for low value disputes. You have to pay your appraiser ($400) and then if an umpire is hired, you have to pay half that cost (probably $250.00, half of $500).

In addition to normally having a deductible apply, the “split the cost” requirement of the umpire cost ensures that minor disputes such as differences of less than $500.00 are not worth pursuing.  For example, if you have a $500.00 deductible and then you also have to pay the cost for expert appraiser help, then you’d have to have a difference in opinion of at least $700-$900 to just break even, you know?

It’s important to really take cost into consideration when trying to determine whether or not invoking the appraisal clause is a worthy use of your time and money in order to get a better settlement on your total loss.

Third Party:  The “Certified” Appraisal

If you have a third party claim, the rules are based on tort law, not on a policy contract.

You’re entitled to receive what the negligent party is legally responsible for causing due to the negligent operation or use of a motor vehicle. This means that if you have a dispute with a third party carrier, you will have to bear the entire cost of an appraisal from an expert appraiser (like us :)).

In addition to the cost being solely born by the claimant (you), the report will have to be a stand-alone report since the appraiser won’t be working with you and your carrier, but with you alone.

The report will have to be self explanatory and will need to be produced in accordance with accepted standards within the insurance and appraisal industry. 

Have a lengthy conversation about your claim when you are looking to hire an expert.  Make sure you trust who you are dealing with and that they will treat you like a person and not a number.  Call them to see how easy it is to deal with them and make sure the appraisal has an official “certification” section.  Don’t be tricked by fake certification programs made up by scammy so-called appraisers who attempt to make up methodology and then market that it is the “standard”.  That is a whole other article – I will get to that one soon enough!

In reality, many times an appraisal won’t help your case on a 3rd party claim.  The adjuster doesn’t have to negotiate with you because there is no contract to adhere to.  Your only recourse is to sue the at-fault party if you don’t agree with the valuation they offer if they end up sticking their feet in the mud.  Most attorneys won’t take a total loss case due to the fact that taking any fees would just take the money you are fighting for right out of your pocket.

There are some extreme or special cases when using an appraisal is necessary and beneficial. Just recently, a vehicle owner called us and really wanted to fight the value he was offered on his vehicle and the adjuster seemed open to reviewing documents from an appraiser so we went ahead and put together an appraisal for him detailing out the vehicle value and his loss of use after thoroughly discussing the fact that they could just say no.   After some negotiation and a phone call with our expert on the line to answer questions.  The adjuster agreed to up his offer by several hundred dollars over the cost of our appraisal.  

So, what should you do to get your total loss settled?

If you think you are being ripped off on the total loss value of your vehicle, then it may be worth it to seek out some professional assistance like my company provides.  Whether you want information on how to invoke the appraisal clause or how to fight against a third party valulation, we try to lay your options out so you can make an informed decision.

In my own experience, the difference in the initial offer amount and the amount offered after getting an independent expert appraiser involved is almost always more than the cost of employing the professional in the first place.  It is all about that initial evaluation of the claim to see if it is worth it in your case and every case is different.

Want to find out what the best option on your total loss is?

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