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).