How to negotiate with a car insurance company after a total loss

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If you have full coverage auto insurance, your policy could pay you for the value of your vehicle if it is totaled due to a covered loss. It can be difficult to lose your vehicle due to total loss. Understanding the process and how you can get more for your total vehicle settlement will help you to set realistic expectations. Although the total loss settlement negotiation process can seem daunting, Bankrate’s team has done the research to help understand how to negotiate your vehicle’s value.

How to talk with car insurance adjusters regarding a car accident

Your case will be assigned to a claims adjuster when you file a claim under your car insurance policy. The job of an adjuster is to assess the facts and determine the coverages that apply. They also pay the correct amounts and settle the claim.

If your vehicle is determined to be a total loss — meaning that the vehicle cannot be repaired or that the cost of repairs exceeds the vehicle’s value — you may find yourself in a situation where you are offered less than what you think your vehicle is worth. These steps will help you negotiate with your insurance adjuster regarding an auto total loss case.

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Find out the value of your vehicle

The first step in total loss settlement negotiations is to determine the vehicle’s value. It will depend on many factors such as the year, make, and model of the vehicle, the modifications to the body style and how often the vehicle has been driven.

An expert witness or qualified mechanic can provide estimates. Online tools can be used to estimate the value of your vehicle if you only need an approximate figure.

Consider if the initial offer was too low

If the initial payout offer is adequate, you may not need to negotiate with your adjuster. You can accept the offer and close the claim if it is comparable to your estimation of the vehicle’s value.

Talk to your insurance adjuster about negotiating

If you feel the vehicle’s worth is not being offered, you can negotiate with your claims adjuster. You may need to demonstrate how you arrived at your payout amount if you are willing to negotiate. It is possible to get estimates from multiple body shops as well as online tools. Your case will be stronger if you have more documentation.

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An attorney can be hired

You can hire an attorney if your negotiations with the adjuster fail. Even though this would be considered an option last resort, it could help you secure the settlement you desire. You may also find it helps to ease the stress of total loss negotiations. An attorney will likely be more familiar with the process and can fight the insurance company about your car.

Get a written settlement agreement

You may wish to confirm in writing the terms of the settlement reached with the insurer after you have reached an agreement. This ensures that everyone is on the same page regarding the settlement amount. It also protects both the insurer and the insured by attesting to the fact that they have agreed to pay a specific amount.

Questions frequently asked

What does it mean if your car is totaled?

A total loss is a vehicle that cannot be repaired or replaced. A total loss can also indicate theft of a vehicle, but in that case you must have comprehensive coverage to be compensated for the loss.

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If my car is totaled, can I still keep it?

Yes. Yes. In most total loss settlements, you get paid for the vehicle’s value. The car then becomes the legal property the insurance company. In some cases, however, you may not need to officially total the vehicle. You can opt to keep the car in this instance. You may see a decrease in your total loss settlement if you keep the vehicle. You may also be required to remove comprehensive and collision coverage from your vehicle until the repairs are done. Your claim payout could be reduced if your vehicle is again damaged. This is because you have already been compensated for the entire value of your vehicle.

Do I need to hire my own claims adjuster?

You can choose to have your own independent adjuster if you are unhappy with the proposal made by the insurance adjuster. This can be costly and you may not get a better value from an independent adjuster than your insurance company.