You’ve got MOUNTAINS of questions!
We went on an expedition to get you answers!
We have tackled all of the tough insurance claims faqs and posted them here. You can find info on diminished value, total losses, public adjusters, injury claims, demand letters and more to make an informed decision when dealing with your insurance claim after an auto accident.
Take a look around or take a shortcut and request a free claim consultation!
Advice On Insurance Claims And Auto Accidents
This article is based on my 15 years of claims adjusting experience. I have developed a simple little formula that will help you decide if you need an attorney or not.
Keep in mind, this quiz is tailored for auto accidents only, and I make no warranties or guarantees that your result is a foolproof answer. Ultimately, the only person that can decide if you need an attorney is you. With that being said, simply answer the following 15 questions and then add up your answers.
All of these questions are yes or no questions. Whatever answer you have the most of is your answer to the title of this article.
- Is your automobile newer than a 2005 model?
- Is your vehicle one of the following – a Lexus, BMW, Mercedes or Audi?
- Are you younger than 35 years old?
- Did you take an ambulance to the emergency room from the scene of the accident?
- Were there any witnesses (other than your passengers, friends or family members) that saw the accident occur?
- Was the accident someone else’s fault?
- Were there more than two vehicles involved in the accident?
- Did you or any of your passengers bleed as a result of the accident?
- Have you had 2 or less auto accidents in your lifetime?
- Have you already filed a claim and spoken with an insurance adjuster?
- Did you lose any time from work as a result of the accident?
- Do you believe that staff adjusters at an insurance company are paid to settle claims for as low of an amount as possible?
- If you suffered $5000.00 in damages to your vehicle, didn’t take an ambulance, but did incur over $2000.00 at a chiropractor’s office, do you believe your total claim is worth at least $10000.00?
- Do you agree that it is true when a vehicle sustains damages to its frame that it should be totaled?
- Do you agree that even a low speed rear-end impact can cause a low back disc herniation?
I hope you wrote your answers down! If you didn’t, go back and write them down this time! (hehe) Now, just add up the yes’s and the no’s. Whichever answer has the highest number is the answer to the question “Do I need an Attorney?”.
Good luck with your claim!
To answer “Does my total loss settlement include diminished value ? “
I think most people get this, but I get this question all the time, so I am writing this in an attempt to properly explain why a total loss settlement does not include diminished value.
- Let us define Diminished Value: It is the loss in re-sale value of a vehicle after it has been in a wreck and then repaired.
- Let us define Total Loss: This happens when the insurance company decides that they are not going to repair your vehicle.
There are a few things to realize when you are dealing with an automobile claim.
First, the insurance company is trying to get out for as cheap as possible. If you rant and rave right at the beginning of your claim about diminished value and rental and such, you will have a much higher probability that your vehicle is determined to be a total loss.
Next, don’t think that an insurance adjuster can’t change their mind. If they first tell you that your vehicle is repairable and then after they look at it a little better they decide that it is a total loss, there isn’t much you can do about it.
Third, don’t believe anybody that says there is a law about total losses. I am a licensed adjuster and have been handling claims for nearly 15 years and I am here to tell you there is no law about total losses. There is a law about when a vehicle title has to be flagged as a salvage vehicle, so maybe people are calling that law the total loss law, but be warned, the insurance company can declare your vehicle a total loss at any time prior to repairs being completed, and if they are brave, even after the repairs are done, but that gets a little sticky and will normally result in a lawsuit.
Total Loss – An Attractive Option
The total loss is attractive to insurance adjusters especially if they are dealing with a “difficult” customer. When a vehicle is totaled, in most States, the insurance company doesn’t have to pay for any more rental, so there is one big expense avoided.
Additionally, if they pay you for the fair market value of your vehicle BEFORE it got wrecked, then they are done with the claim. They paid you for your loss and you’re done. If you don’t agree with the value they quote you, it takes a bit of knowledge to get them to negotiate very much. Sure you can argue and argue and they may move up on the offer just a little to get you out of their hair, but it will not be a substantial difference.
You’ll have to hire an expert to really argue, and in my experience, people hire experts in the wrong situations.
You have to understand that the value an insurance company will pay you is based on how much you could get for your vehicle on the “private” market. You are not a dealer, you cannot get a retail price for your vehicle. You most likely don’t offer financing, can’t give a “certified” used car stamp, don’t do a 25 point inspection and do not have a huge marketing expense. The value you paid for your car, or the value of other cars sitting around on a dealer’s lot is not what the private value of your car is. Keep that in mind. If you disagree by $1500 or less, the insurance company is probably right about the value of your car, and you should give up the fight.
So How Do I Get Paid For Diminished Value or Loss Of Value After An Auto Accident?
The only time there is diminished value is if your vehicle is being repaired. If you are dealing with somebody else’s insurance company on the repair of your vehicle, and you don’t have a clunker, then you should research diminished value.
If you are dealing with your own insurance company, you could still qualify to get diminished value, but I would suggest you get an expert to give you some advice on whether or not you can successfully recover diminished value against your own carrier (see our article about first party diminished value claims). A lot of policies simply exclude that type of coverage. It is a matter of contract law vs. tort law, and I don’t know how to put it in any simpler terms.
In conclusion, a total loss never has diminished value.
It is a loss, therefore there is no more property available to have a value to diminish, get it? If you car is repairable, then yes, it will most likely suffer some diminished value, but whether you can collect it is based on contract law and tort law and varies according to the State where the accident occurred.
I hope this helps clear it up for you!
Advice On Car Insurance Injury Claims
Let me first start by saying if you have been injured in an auto accident, you should seek proper medical attention without regard to your insurance claim.
The failure to do this is where many people fall to the wayside.
Think about it. If you didn’t seek medical care, what was the problem, how can you document your injury? Insurance adjusters are normally trained on the best arguments for the type of scenario where no treatment was sought, and you will likely be rejected if you attempt to file an injury claim. There is simply no excuse for not seeking medical treatment for an injury.
What? You were hurt but you don’t have insurance or any money to spare and couldn’t get treated?
The adjuster’s answer to this is simple: If you didn’t go to the hospital, then your injury wasn’t very bad and you incurred no cost, therefore there is not even a pain and suffering aspect.
Have you heard of the “Emergency Medical Treatment and Active Labor Act”? Almost all adjusters have. Briefly, this is a law that was enacted by Congress in 1986. It is a Federal law. What it means is that if you have any type of emergency or if you are a woman and in active labor, then almost all hospitals and ambulance services must provide you treatment, no matter if you are an illegal alien, or if you have no insurance or money at all.
The most you could expect if you didn’t seek treatment would be what adjusters call a “nuisance value” settlement, no more than $500, and only if you seem to be sincere and the adjuster is nice.
You think that’s not fair?
If you are hurt, then you should get paid, right? Even if you didn’t go to the hospital you can still be hurt, right? The answer is…..sort of. If you have what they call a “soft tissue” injury, then it may not warrant emergency care. The problem is that treatment for soft tissue injuries is debatable. Chiropractors will tell you that you need to undergo some treatments, exercises or adjustments to speed up the healing and alleviate the soreness or pain. Liability claims are paid based on a complete injury evaluation which means you have to be finished with your treatment before you can get a settlement.
If you don’t go to the hospital because you don’t have insurance or think you can’t afford it, you have made a bad mistake and there is nothing for the adjuster to evaluate.
The deciding question (in the back of their mind) for a jury and for an insurance adjuster is “Regarding treatment for your injury, would you have taken the same action if you knew there was no insurance available?” If the answer to this question is yes and the evidence supports that answer, then you most likely have an injury claim that is worth pursuing. Now, to determine the value of your injury claim you will have to account for many factors.
To answer the question posed by the article title, you should add up all your medicals, research the venue, and evaluate all the factors that are provided in my popular ebook.
This article is the first paragraph in my full e-book that explains everything you need to know!
What’s My Total Loss Worth ? Figuring Total Loss Car Value For Your Insurance Claim
How Much Will The Insurance Company Pay You For Your Total Loss? What Is The Real Value?
So the insurance adjuster has told you that your vehicle is a total loss, huh? How much are they going to pay you? As a licensed insurance adjuster and the owner of a company that certifies vehicle values, I should be able to shed some light on this subject for you. Let’s get right to it. The actual cash value of your vehicle is generally defined as the value a private purchaser would pay for a similar vehicle, if the purchaser is under no pressure to purchase, and the seller is under no pressure to sell. Even adjusters get confused about this subject. A retail vehicle price is different than a private vehicle price because of the factors incorporated into it. The retail price will always be greater than the actual cash value. Dealers have to advertise, make a profit, pay sales people, inspect vehicles for safety concerns, and they have to maintain a staff that can assist purchasers with obtaining credit and filling out paperwork. All of these costs are incorporated into a vehicle’s sales price when it is sitting on a dealers lot. Your vehicle is not a retail vehicle, and will not command the same price as a vehicle that is sitting on a dealer’s lot ready to sell. The law normally does not require the insurance company to pay you for the retail value of your vehicle (if you’re not sure, call us and we will tell you where to find your State’s information for free).
Many insurance companies use a third party vendor to provide reports that reflect a vehicle’s market value. The most prominent ones are CCC (Valuescope), and ADP Autosource. These reports generally do not depict actual sales data, rather they depict asking prices (one can ask whatever they want, but the sale price is what is important). Additionally, the vehicle specifications reflected in these reports totally rely on human input. If the adjuster / report requestor doesn’t enter correct information, or if they enter nothing at all, then default values are generated, and the final report value will not be reflective of the actual vehicle that is being evaluated. Watch these reports for inaccuracies. If everything is entered correctly, the best argument against a report from CCC or ADP is to review the “comparable” vehicles and point out where and why the comparable vehicles aren’t actually comparable.
The national publications that can be used include NADA, Edmunds, and Kelley Blue Book. There are more, but these are the main publications that are generally used. If you run the same vehicle with each one, you will come up with different figures. My suggestion is to average the three and use that value because then your value is supported by all three publications.
The real data one can use consists of online vehicle auction sites or actual sales receipts from individuals. AutoTrader.com, and Cars.com will allow you to search for comparable vehicles in your area. The easiest way to use these sources is to do an advanced search and make sure you average only the really comparable ones. It can get complicated, but it’s normally worth the effort. Once you have researched the value of your vehicle using national publications and real data, and picked apart any market evaluation done by a computer, then you should be ready to negotiate by using the average price you have calculated using the data you have. Be willing to accept a little less than you have calculated, but be professional and persistent in your negotiation.
Always negotiate in writing.
Send a demand letter to the insurance adjuster asking for a specific amount (the amount you calculated), and give them a time limit to respond to you. After you have sent the demand, follow up by telephone every couple of days. If the insurance adjuster or carrier refuses to negotiate, then you must either work your way up the chain of command, or begin doing your research for filing a small claims suit in your State. Proper negotiation and a willingness to accept a little less than you consider to be fair will keep you from spending extra money filing suit and arguing your case in front of a judge or jury. If you can get to within $800 of the average price calculated using publications and real data, I would suggest you settle and move on with your life! Good luck with your total loss negotiation. You can do it! Sometimes it’s just in the petty details!
Insurance Help And Claims Advice: Total Loss Claim Values
What Can You Do?
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.
What Are Your Options When Dealing With Total Loss Of Your Vehicle?
There are some options to help you advocate for the best 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 certified 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 normally dictates that the cost of a third party appraiser has to born by both the insurance company and the policyholder.
In addition to normally having a deductible apply, the “split the cost” requirement ensures that minor disputes such as differences of less than $500 are not worth pursuing. I mean if you have a $500 deductible and then you will have to also pay $200 of a third party appraisal fee, then you’d have to have a difference in opinion of at least $700 to just break even, you know?
Sometimes, the insurance company will agree to bear the cost and just take your part out of your settlement so you don’t actually have to come up with the money, you just lose it in the settlement. If you employ this technique, insist upon shopping around for an agreeable appraiser that is as cheap as possible, but still qualified and professional.
Ask about the experience of the appraiser, and whether or not they have an adjuster’s license. Insurance companies will inquire about this, so you should, too. There are quality services available for as little at $150, you just have to hunt around a little.
If you still can’t come to an agreement on the value of your vehicle and you are sure you are being messed with, then the other option you have is to seek out a public adjuster who specializes in low dollar representation and then get that adjuster to handle the claim for you. Some public adjusters will charge a nominal flat fee to represent you on a total loss property damage claim and waive the normal 10% contingency agreement.
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 a third party.
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. Again, check the credentials of any service provider. 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 report has an official “certification” section.
Sometimes It Pays To Have A Professional
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.
In my own experience, the difference in the initial offer amount and the amount offered after getting an independent professional involved is almost always more than the cost of employing the professional in the first place, and it will give you a feeling of self achievement because you didn’t have to give any of your money to an attorney (who likely won’t take a total loss case anyway).
So you’re looking for secrets to help settle a total loss ? Well, look no further!
Do It Yourself – Finding The Total Loss Value Of A Vehicle
Insider Secrets To Help You Through Your Car Insurance Claim
As the owner of a claim service company and a licensed adjuster who has settled thousands of total loss claims, I will reveal the tricks to getting an insurance company to take you seriously.
Let me dispel some common misconceptions that apply in almost every State.
Myth #1: Your vehicle is not a retail vehicle.
Myth #2: Frame damage has nothing to do with whether your vehicle is considered a total loss or not.
Myth #3: You cannot force the insurance company to total your vehicle, nor can you force them not to total it.
Myth #4: Any vehicle can be repaired; it is simply a matter of cost.
Myth #5: The salvage value of your vehicle is very important.
Myth #6: Insurance adjusters do not have the authority to change company policy, but claims managers, litigation adjusters, claims presidents, and vice presidents of claims departments usually do.
Myth #7: Staff insurance adjusters are normally not experts on determining vehicle value and may not even have an adjuster’s license (ask them for their license number).
What dealers would ask for your vehicle is not what your vehicle is worth. Your vehicle is a private vehicle, and the value of your vehicle will be reflective of this fact.
Okay, if you understand those seven things then you are ahead of most people. I think most people believe (rightfully so) that insurance companies use computers and formulas to determine vehicle values. This practice is the main problem that consumers face.
How do you argue with a computer or formula?
I’ll tell you how – you have to call its bluff!
Each vehicle should be evaluated on its own merit, and the adjuster should be able to utilize common sense. Instead, processes, computers, and formulas keep adjusters from using logic, and when you (the victim) don’t agree with the result of the process, then the adjuster is trained to simply advise you that their offer is the final offer.
So what do you do? How do you call their bluff and get them to act human?
Do It Yourself Process For Total Loss
1. Gather every scrap of documentation on your vehicle that you can find and get it in front of you.
If you have no oil change receipts, other maintenance records, the purchase invoice, list of options, etc., then you will have a hard time proving your vehicle was taken care of and “above average” no matter how good it looks. You need to prove your vehicle doesn’t fit with the “formula”.
2. Demand a written salvage value quote from the insurance company (in writing).
If the adjuster verbally gives you a quote, write it down for comparison later.
3. Use the internet!
Go to the websites for NADA, Edmunds, Kelley Blue Book, AutoTrader, Cars.com, Craigslist, E-bay Motors, etc. Carefully document your vehicle’s value according to all of these publications. The more information you have, the harder it is for the insurance company / adjuster to argue with you.
4. Pick up the telephone and call auto salvage lots in your area.
Ask them to give you a salvage bid on your wrecked vehicle. Do this with at least three salvage dealers, even if you have to call dealers that are over 100 miles away from you. Document at least three bids on the salvage for your vehicle, and if possible, ask the salvage company if they maintain auction sales records and see if they will give you an average sale price for vehicles like yours that have been sold at auction in the last 6 months to a year.
Document all of this and determine your vehicle’s salvage value so that you can compare it with the value the insurance company gave you in step 3. Most of the time, insurance companies/adjusters simply use a percentage of the car’s value to determine salvage value (crazy and inaccurate!).
Okay, so if you have completed steps 1 through 4, you should be ready to move on. If you haven’t completed steps 1 through 4, then this is probably why you need help with your settlement; you can’t follow directions.
Just kidding! Moving on…….
5. Write a well thought out demand letter and give the insurance company a time limit for responding.
Indicate in your demand that your offer to settle will be rescinded at the end of your time limit, then follow up by telephone every two business days until your time limit expires.
6. When calling the insurance company, unless the adjuster is responding favorably, just request to speak with the vice president of claims, and then settle for a claim supervisor.
Unless you are an experienced negotiator, try to avoid getting into a detailed conversation with the claims department – simply ask them when you can expect a written response to your demand. Try and get the supervisor to provide you with a fax number or e-mail and then correspond only in writing. If they will not provide you with a fax number or e-mail address (some won’t), then try and record your conversations with the claims office, and advise them that you’re recording the conversations, not because it’s required, but because they will be more likely to be careful if they know they are being recorded. Of course, you can use snail mail, but who wants to wait on the mail? The point is to document what you are doing so you can review it later if you need to.
7. Be willing to give in a little bit on the value that you expect to receive.
If the insurance company is increasing their offer to you, then in the spirit of fair business dealings, you should reduce your demand. Always move in small increments…don’t give away the house or settle for too little (insurance adjusters are trained to move as little as possible to try and settle low, so why shouldn’t you do the same, but in an attempt to settle high?).
Be confident in your negotiation, but don’t be over-confident. Remember if you fight for every penny, you will likely spend at least a few hundred dollars fighting, you know? And it is possible that you have overlooked something that an adjuster or attorney has already found.
8. If all else fails, hire a qualified expert to write a detailed and industry accepted market value report.
Submit the report to the insurance company along with a final demand letter and a small claim petition.
That’s it! If you can follow the steps outlined in this article, you can get a fair settlement for your auto total loss. There are people like us out there that will help you to navigate through your claim for free, you just have to find them.
Sometimes it’s just in the petty details! Good luck!
Unfortunately, we can’t. In our reports, we have to certify that we are a disinterested third-party that has no stake in if your claim is paid or not. Therefore, we charge a flat fee up front and give great follow up service after our report is delivered to help you come to a conclusion on your claim!
We accept Visa, Mastercard, Discover, Paypal and can even send a Quickpay request via Chase. We also accept checks but services won’t be rendered until the check is received in our office.
YES! With the help of professional appraisers across the U.S., we are able to help clients in any state. If you hire us to help you, we use an inspector from our trusted network of professional appraisers to perform a Post Repair Inspection (if needed) and use that report to develop our report. From there, we are available via phone, email, even webcam to discuss your claim and help you move to resolution.