Under Title XXIII, Chapter 319.30 of the Florida Statutes (Motor Vehicles), your auto insurer must replace your total-loss vehicle (also known as "totaled") with a like model of equal quality if the vehicle is inoperable or stolen. The law does not define a total-loss vehicle but stipulates that a title must be changed to a "total loss" title in certain circumstances.
Determining a Total Loss
The definition of a total-loss vehicle varies by insurer and is not dictated by Florida law. The policy holder may choose to repair a totaled vehicle with no penalty from the insurer. This may be a good option if the claim amount is not enough to purchase a new vehicle, or if the vehicle has sentimental value to the owner. However, if the cost of repairing the vehicle exceeds 100 percent of the price to buy a like model of similar quality, the vehicle's title must be modified.
Total Loss Titles
If you decide to repair your vehicle but the cost of repair exceeds 100 percent of the insurer's price to replace the vehicle, you are required by law to notify the Florida Department Highway Safety & Motor Vehicles (FLHSMV) within 72 hours of the repair agreement with your insurer. The FLHSMV will change, or rebrand, your original vehicle title by adding the words "Total Loss Vehicle" to the title, which will remain a part of your vehicle's title history.
If you decide to replace your total-loss vehicle, Florida law states that your insurer must follow certain guidelines to estimate the replacement amount and that the amount must also cover sales tax. Your replacement (or repair) claim check must be based on the price of two like-model cars for sale in your area (in the last 90 days), as well as the blue book value and the estimated retail price from a minimum of two car dealers in your area.
At-Fault Driver's Insurance Option
If your vehicle was totaled due to the fault of another driver, Florida law states that you have the option to go through the at-fault driver's auto insurance for your total-loss repair or replacement check. In this scenario, its best to get a quote from both insurance companies, since one insurer may place a higher value your vehicle than the other. Avoid telling each insurer the other's quote, as this may influence the amount they offer.