When you hear the phrase, "My car was totaled in an accident," it may bring to mind a car that's damaged beyond repair or not drivable. But in reality, the definition of "totaled" can vary widely based on the age of the car, the worth of the car, and where and how bad the damage is. An older car involved in a fender-bender where the expensive air-bag system is deployed can be a total loss, and so can a new car that's been rolled.
So what can you do if your insurance company totals your car? First, if you are still paying a loan on your car, any compensation owed to you as the result of your accident will likely be made payable to your lender. After that, you are personally responsible for the remainder of the loan.
If your car is totaled and you have gap insurance, your additional coverage will pay the gap between what the car is worth and what you owe, relieving you of having to pay the difference.
If you have a newer car that's been totaled and you still owe on it, you may want to start a claim for depreciation, which means that you are making a claim against the other driver for the difference between what your car had been worth-likely what you paid or owe the insurance company-and what it's worth now.
If you can't come to an agreement with your insurer on the car's value, you can get an independent appraisal. If you disagree with the at-fault driver's insurance on the value of your car, you can file a claim with your own insurance using your collision insurance, or your insurance company can sue the other driver for damages plus your deductible. You can sue even if you don't have collision coverage to draw from.
You can elect to keep and repair a total car, and drive it anyway, if it can be done safely. Your insurance company will pay for the actual cash value of the vehicle minus your deductible and the salvage amount. In West Virgina, you must obtain a Salvage certificate application before selling your totaled vehicle to a junkyard, auction or individual. If you choose to keep it, you must get a reconstruction title packet from the West Virginia DMV. These packets are not available online, so you'll have to go to your local DMV office in person to get one.
At Bouchillon, Crossan & Colburn, L.C., our attorneys have more than 40 years dedicated to giving clients the attention, advice, support and empowerment they need to effectively meet their goals. We are committed to the principle that all persons shall have equal justice under the law. If you or a loved one has been injured and is seeking a qualified personal injury attorney, contact our Huntington, West Virginia office to speak with an attorney about your case, or call 304-523-8451.