| Read Time: 8 minutes | Car Accident
When is a Car Considered “Totaled”

Another term for totaled is “total loss.” In many states, a statute spells out when a vehicle is considered a total loss after an accident.

This matters, because an insured will not have to go get their vehicle repaired when it is a total loss. Instead, they usually get a check from the insurance company for the vehicle’s value. Georgia is different.

Car accidents caused by a blown-out tire are often destructive and expensive. The reasons for these types of accidents are often due to a driver’s negligence, inexperience, or a situation on the road that the driver was unable to avoid.

We do not have a statute on the books that identifies when a vehicle is a “total loss.” Nevertheless, our laws do spell out an insurer’s obligations once they find that the vehicle has been totaled. Please reach out to one of our Conyers, Georgia auto accident attorneys if you have questions.

Get started with a free consultation by calling (770) 988-5252 or sending us an online message today.

Car Accidents Caused by Blown Tires

The American highway system is a wonderful web of routes that everyone with a vehicle can use. One of the biggest uses of the motorway system is to transport goods around the country. The job of moving the goods fall to the behemoths of the road: the eighteen-wheelers. It is rare to find yourself on the interstate or highway and not to see one of these colossal vehicles.

Due to their size, eighteen-wheelers are quite dangerous, and driving beside them can be intimidating. One of the greatest dangers these trucks possess is something most people do not even consider. A tire blowout could happen at any time, and the results are catastrophic for the surrounding traffic. A tire blowing out is different from a flat tire.

A flat tire is merely the loss of air pressure inside the tire. A tire blowout is the explosive release of compressed air. When the air compressed inside the tire explodes, the tire surrounding the air is obliterated and thrown off the wheel of the truck. Losing a single tire can cause a massive truck to lose control and stability, making it one of the scariest hazards on the road. Any driver or pedestrian near the truck when its tire blows out is immediately in danger from several different threats.

Three Common Tire Explosion Threats

  • The torn remains of the tire often fly off the wheel at incredible speeds. Being in the path of one of these tires can do significant damage to another vehicle and may cause casualties if it hits pedestrians.
  • An eighteen-wheeler truck loses a considerable amount of stability when it is transformed into a seventeen-wheeler truck. The loss of balance could cause the truck to lose control and crash, or turn on its side. Regardless of the form the resulting crash takes, a massive chunk of metal is out of control.
  • It is common for large trucks to carry dangerous materials in them. The hazardous materials could fall onto the road if they flip or crash.

When Are Vehicles Considered Totaled In Georgia?

We often hear the word “totaled” thrown around when discussing car accidents. But what does it mean? Generally speaking, totaled means that your car is beyond repair or that the cost to repair your car is more than the car is worth.

Because Georgia does not have a statute defining total loss, it is up to the insurance company to determine when the vehicle is totaled.

Each insurance company takes a different approach, but two of the most common are:

  • Some might identify the vehicle as totaled if the cost of the repairs is more than what the vehicle is worth. For example, a vehicle might only be worth $4,000 but the cost of repairs could be $4,500 or more.
  • Others might decide a vehicle is totaled if the cost of repairs exceeds some percentage of the car’s worth, such as 70%. If the car was worth $10,000 before the accident, then the car is considered totaled if repairs would cost $7,000 or more. Other insurers might use different percentages.

If you have questions, you should contact the relevant insurer for more information. Remember, after a crash, you typically make a claim with the at-fault driver’s insurer for a property damage claim, unless you are using your own collision coverage.

What Must an Insurer Do When a Vehicle is Totaled?

Georgia Rule 120-2-52-.06 determines what insurers must do if a vehicle is a total loss.

The insurer has two options:

Pay a Cash Equivalent

The rules state that the insurer must pay the “actual cost” minus a deductible, so the insured could purchase a “comparable” vehicle from the same manufacturer. A comparable vehicle means the same make, model, and mileage.

Replace the Insured Vehicle

The vehicle must be comparable, such as the same make and model, year, body style, mileage, and options. The insured is entitled to inspect the vehicle within 50 miles of their residence.

The key under either approach is making sure that an insurer is properly valuing your vehicle so that you receive a fair totaled car insurance payout. If you had a 2015 BMW, then a 2012 Chevy is not a comparable vehicle for purposes of determining its value. Neither is a 2006 BMW. An online totaled car value calculator can help answer the question, How much will insurance pay for my totaled car?

What Happens if You Still Owe Money on the Car?

Do you have a totaled car you still owe money on?

Still owing money does not affect how an insurer arrives at the actual value of your vehicle. Your vehicle might be worth $12,000, even though you still have $4,000 left to pay on the loan. The vehicle is still worth $12,000. However, you will need to use any settlement proceeds to pay off the amount that you owe on your car.

The loan balance does not disappear simply because the vehicle is now a total loss. If an insurer agrees to pay $12,000 for your totaled vehicle, then you will only receive $8,000 once you pay off the remaining $4,000 balance on the loan.

If Airbags Deploy, is the Car Totaled?

It all depends. Deployed airbags don’t automatically render the car a total loss. However, it can significantly increase the repair costs. Such a hefty total repair cost could push your vehicle closer to a total loss, especially if you have an older vehicle.

Can You Keep Your Totaled Vehicle?

This is up to the insurance company. This is an issue when a car is totaled but still drivable. Some of them want to actually sell the car for scrap or parts. Even a totaled vehicle retains some value, and the insurance company might be banking on getting at least a little something. In exchange for cutting you a check or replacing your car, they expect to get the totaled vehicle in return.

Other insurers might let you keep the totaled vehicle. Be sure to talk with the insurance company to discuss your options. You should consider why you want to keep the car after it has been totaled. If you repair it, then you must let the State of Georgia inspect it to determine whether it is safe to drive. If not, then they won’t let you take it out on the road.

Even if you can keep the car, once a vehicle is declared a “total loss,” the state will give it a salvage title. Thus, your car is not deemed safe for driving on the roads until you have it repaired, inspected, and reinsured.

Overview of the Timeline After Your Car is Totaled in an Accident

After a serious collision, most people want to get through the claims process as quickly and smoothly as possible—so that the matter is resolved and they can move on with their life. Unfortunately, in some cases, auto accident claims get
bogged down by uncooperative defendants or aggressive insurance companies.

Here is an overview of the timeline after your vehicle was totaled in a crash: 

Notice to Defendants/Insurers

Soon after a crash, it is important to give written notice to all other implicated parties, including potential defendants and their insurance companies. During this stage of the claims process, you should gather key insurance details, such as the policy limits and a list of excluded drivers. 

Comprehensive Investigation of the Collision

If your vehicle was totaled (or nearly totaled), that means you were involved in a serious crash. These accidents always require an in-depth investigation. A lawyer will help you gather and organize all of the evidence you need to bring a claim. 

Medical Treatment for All Injuries

Auto accident injuries should be evaluated by a qualified doctor. Even if you do not think your injuries are “that bad”, you still need to get yourself examined by a skilled medical professional. Medical treatment is the biggest variable in the length of the claims process. If your vehicle was totaled but you were uninjured, the claims process will typically be quicker.  

Retrieval of Medical Records

A lawyer can help you take action to get all relevant medical records from health care providers. Once a formal request is made, your medical records should be sent within 30 days. Though, for many reasons, the process can sometimes be slower. 

Drafting of a Demand Letter

In a demand letter, an attorney will make a formal request for compensation on your behalf. A well-drafted demand letter should explain the facts of the case, the basis for liability, and the total value of the losses. Compensation should be granted for vehicle repairs/replacement and medical bills. 

Negotiation With Insurers

In most cases, a demand letter will lead to negotiations with an insurance company. The large majority of auto accident claims are settled through negotiation, outside of the courtroom. Of course, there are exceptions. If the insurance company refuses to offer fair value for your totaled vehicle and other damages, additional legal action may be required. 

File a Lawsuit (If Necessary)

Although it is not necessary in every case, car crash victims may need to file a lawsuit to get the financial relief that they deserve. Should your claim go to court, it may take significantly longer to reach a final resolution.  

Every auto accident claim is unique. If your car was totaled in a crash—especially if you suffered a significant injury—you should consult with an experienced attorney right away. Your lawyer will be able to conduct a personalized review of your case and help you take action to get justice and full financial compensation. 

Liability in Truck Accidents Caused by Blown Tires

It is the responsibility of the trucking companies to ensure that their trucks are in proper condition before they begin to drive. They must have a maintenance schedule for the vehicle so that a professional can catch a problem with the truck before it causes a catastrophe on the road. A company that does not take its maintenance responsibility seriously will put its drivers at risk, as well as their vehicles.

Failing to keep trucks in working order can be seen as negligence in court as well, so a company that fails to comply may find itself buried in lawsuits. Improper tire inflation can also cause a tire to fail explosively. Tires are made to support a specific amount of air, and deviation from that amount increases their risk of failure. Too much air in the tire can cause prime it to explode purely from its internal pressure.

An under-inflated tire leaves space for heat to enter the tire. The heat then causes the air to expand, which creates the same problem as an over-inflated tire. In both scenarios, the negligent party depends on why the tires had an improper amount of air in them. If the tires are recently serviced, the company that performed the maintenance might be liable for the damages.

If the truck has not been maintained for some time, the trucking company may be liable for failing to keep the vehicle in working order. Occasionally, a tire blow can occur even if the truck is properly maintained. Road hazards can do considerable damage to tires, and are often difficult to avoid. Cracks, potholes, and uneven pavement can all damage a tire and even blow out.

Objects in the road, like nails or glass, can also ruin tires and are harder to see than pavement imperfections. Negligence is hard to prove for accidents cause by road hazards because of the variety of road hazards. Cases involving blown-out eighteen-wheeler tires often include a large sum of money because of how destructive truck accidents can be.

Contact a Georgia Accident Lawyer Today

Typically, car accidents involving only property damage are easier to settle than those involving bodily injuries.

Nevertheless, some disputes can break out over the actual value of your car, or the insurer acts in bad faith while negotiating a settlement, which is against the law.

If you need help with your case, contact us online or call (770) 988-5252 today for a free consultation.

Author Photo

Michael Geoffroy’s law practice focuses on auto collisions, premises liability, wrongful death, and catastrophic injury. He stands up for the cause of justice throughout Georgia and on behalf of his clients every day. He is a leader in both the courtroom and the community, having been recognized numerous times for his involvement in each.