You can claim a total loss of your vehicle if it is beyond salvation and has become utterly unusable after an accident. A total loss situation can occur if the cost of fixing your vehicle is at least 70 percent of its fair market value, though states and companies vary in their calculations and others set the bar higher. Insurance companies, in general, resist claims of total loss as they would have to pay you more compensation in such cases. You can, however, negotiate with the insurance claims adjuster to receive the maximum total loss value for your vehicle.
Wait for the Vehicle Inspection
You should first wait for the insurance adjuster to inspect your vehicle. It can take about three days to inspect the vehicle and about two weeks to assess if the damage amounts to a total loss. This is because the adjuster has to do some background research to know if there was any damage to your vehicle before the accident and to determine the price your vehicle would have fetched had there been no accident.
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Ask for a Preliminary Valuation
You can ask the insurance adjuster for a preliminary valuation of your vehicle. Insurance companies employ third party companies such as the Audatex/Autosource or CCC Information Services Group Inc, to determine the fair market value of your vehicle. The adjuster collects information including vehicle make, model and year of purchase. The adjuster also inspects the condition of the car and gives it a rating that has a considerable impact on the final offer made for your vehicle.
The adjuster submits information collected to the CCC. The CCC evaluates the vehicle value, and the CCC car value gets sent to the adjuster.
Estimate Your Car's Value
You'll want to estimate the value of your vehicle. Note that the insurance company takes into account the value of your vehicle at the time of accident not from its time of purchase. One reliable source that you can use to find out your vehicle value is the Kelley Blue Book website, which includes year, mileage and your vehicle features for valuation. Use the ZIP code search of the website so that you get a local estimate.
Obtain more than one repair estimate for your vehicle to show the costs required to fix the damage. Have the Blue Book value and repair estimate in writing. Negotiate for a higher settlement using this information.
Request the Market Valuation Report
Ask the insurance company for your vehicle's CCC market valuation report. This report should give the vehicle damage estimates along with phone number and exact location listing of vehicles comparable to yours.
Drive to the exact location and compare the vehicle model, make and mileage with yours to see if they are actually similar. If they are, compare features such as the music player and convenience factors such as lack of wear and tear and up-to-date maintenance. If your vehicle was in better shape or had more features, request a change to the estimate in the CCC market valuation.
Research Comparative Vehicles
Look for vehicles similar to yours fetching a good price. You can collect evidence in the form of newspaper advertisements and present them the insurance company. Make sure that it is the local market price though.
Ensure that the location of the comparable vehicles is within 30 to 50 miles from your place. If more, you can negotiate saying the location is not in your market and therefore the fair market value does not hold.
Consider Next Steps
You can claim the right of appraisal clause in case all of the above negotiation fails. According to this clause in many policies, the insurance company would have to hire an independent appraiser to evaluate the fair market value of your vehicle. Insurance companies need to pay for such appraisals; therefore they may agree to negotiate for a higher settlement instead of this procedure.