Devastating accidents cause more than personal injuries. They can also severely damage your vehicle, so badly that it might not be worth getting it repaired. When a car is “totaled,” your insurer will probably cut you a check so that you can buy a new set of wheels, but there are certain steps you need to take. At MG Law, we help those who have suffered personal injury or property damage in a car accident. Contact one of our Atlanta car accident lawyers for more information.
When is a Vehicle Totaled?
A vehicle is totaled when it represents a “total loss.” In Georgia, there is no set definition of when a vehicle is totaled. However, it generally means that the cost of repairing the vehicle exceeds the replacement value of your car. For example, your 2010 Chevy might only be worth $3,000. When it gets into an accident, it would take $4,500 to repair it. Here, the cost of the repairs exceeds the value of the car, so most insurers will consider it “totaled” and not shell out for the cost of repairs.
What Can an Insurer Do if Your Car is Totaled?
Georgia law does specify the insurance company’s options when the car is totaled. It can generally pay the cash equivalent of your car or replace it. Let’s look closely at these options. Cash Equivalent The first option is to pay you a sum of money that represents the actual cost of your car—minus any deductible from your insurance policy. Georgia lets insurers do this so you can take the money and buy yourself a new vehicle. For example, Megan’s car might be worth $10,000 when it gets totaled. Her deductible is $500. She should receive $9,500 from the insurance company, which she can use to buy herself a replacement vehicle. Our Covington car accident lawyers see most insurers choose this option. Replacing the Vehicle Georgia law also gives your insurer the option to buy you a replacement vehicle instead of giving you money. This might sound weird, but it’s an option under the law. Fortunately, Georgia doesn’t let the insurer just buy you any vehicle. The car they give you must be very similar to the one that was totaled. It should have similar mileage and be the same make and model. If your 2018 Audi is totaled, the insurer cannot buy you a 2009 Toyota as a replacement. Typically, it is easier for the insurer to just cut you a check rather than try to find you a comparable car. However, in some cases, the insurer might have a comparable vehicle handy.
What Happens to the Car after it Is Totaled?
Typically, your insurer takes possession of it and then decides whether to junk it, sell it for parts, or repair the vehicle itself. You take your check (or your new vehicle) and surrender the car that was totaled. If the insurer decides to repair the car, they will need to apply for salvage title to it with the state of Georgia.
Can You Keep Your Totaled Car?
You might. Of course, you should consider why you want to keep it. For some people, the car has sentimental value and they do not want to lose possession of it even though it was totaled. In other cases, you might think you can make repairs cheaply to the car and come out ahead. Not every insurer will cut you a check and then let you keep the vehicle. You also should realize that if you want to repair the car, you’ll get a salvage title to it. This means that when you sell it or trade it in, then everyone will know it had been totaled in an accident. You will also need to let the state inspect the car to make sure that it is safe before you take it for a ride out on the highway. If you want to keep the car, ask your insurer if that is an option.
Can I Keep My License Plate if I Turn Over the Car?
You can. The insurance company will take possession of your car and you can transfer the license plate to a different vehicle, so long as your new vehicle requires the same plate. If you are keeping the totaled vehicle, however, you must turn over the plate to the County Tag Office, which will cancel it.
Is the Insurer Offering Too Little for the Car?
As experienced Conyers car accident lawyers, we would not be surprised. Insurers are always looking to save money, and shortchanging a claimant is one obvious way for them to pad their bottom line. Fortunately, Georgia law spells out how the insurer should determine the actual cost of the vehicle. It must look at vehicles from the same manufacturer that have the same model and year. Comparable vehicles should also have similar mileage, style, and options. The actual cost should also include applicable license fees, taxes, and other fees—at least, the amount of fees and taxes that would be paid on the totaled vehicle. This can really add up, and you should be sure that you are receiving this amount in your settlement. How does the insurance company arrive at the cost of the vehicle? There are several methods spelled out in the law:
- Averaging the cost of two or more comparable vehicles in the local market. The insurer can look at dealer’s sales prices or even newspaper listings.
- Using quotes from licensed dealers in the local market.
- Relying on fair market values pulled from a database.
You might believe that the insurer is dramatically undervaluing your vehicle. For example, the insurer might claim there are no comparable vehicles in your local market, so they pull an unrealistic number from a database. If you believe you are being shortchanged, meet with a Rockdale County car accident lawyer to review.
Can You Negotiate with an Insurer?
Yes. You are not required to accept the settlement offered to you. However, you will need some solid evidence in support for your position. Our Newton County car accident attorneys understand what evidence can support a claim that an insurer is undervaluing your car and the cost of repairs. For assistance, speak to a car accident attorney today.