While researching this on the web, I learned quite a bit. However, it was not easy to find information that was free and comprehensive. Hopefully you will have better luck in getting prepared and hopefully that will start here.
I don’t claim to be an expert, but I can tell you what happened in our case and hopefully you can glean from that what actions will be right for you. I just have a few words of caution first. Please don’t expect this to be an opportunity for a windfall because you will be disappointed. Also, at every turn try to be fair and honest, even the smallest insurance company has been through this process more times than you can count; so if you think you can commit fraud or something… then you’re on your own! (and actually I hope they catch you at it!)
Whew! Glad I got that out of the way!
So you may not get a windfall, but that doesn’t mean you can’t get MORE then what the insurance company offers, because you can and for legitimate reasons. Because, unfortunately, insurance companies are not in the business of taking care of you; they are in business to make money and the less they pay you the more they keep for their bottom line.
So, let’s hit some quick points first, this way if you are like me you can get a quick fix of what is in store. Then I’ll give you more detail and tell you our story and include other helpful information:
What is a Total Loss?
Simply put a “Total Loss” is when the repair costs of the vehicle exceeds the value of the vehicle. With newer vehicles there can be a fine line between what it is worth and what it will cost to repair. In our case the repair costs were greater than the value of the care by about $4000 dollars, not to mention the fact that in the quote from the auto body shop included a contingency that the repairs need to the frame of the vehicle could exceed what was estimated.
In my opinion there is no way that frame could ever have been properly straightened. In this scenario it was clear that the car was a total loss. In a scenario with a newer car you might have to convince your claims adjuster the car needs to be totaled rather than repaired. I can only tell you that it is indeed true that once a car has been in an accident it is never quite the same. There can be no better example of that then when the frame is bent and needs to be straightened.
Yes, precision body shops do an awesome job of straightening frames and repairing mechanical damage, and I’d venture to say that with some shops they can get it nearly perfect again. At least enough that you don’t have to worry about the integrity of the vehicle and that it is absolutely safe to drive. I’ve seen it done so I know what’s involved, but ultimately it will never be what it was. So if the decision is a close one whether to total it, I would choose to total it. The decision is yours.
The Initial Proposal and what your Claims Adjuster will provide you
In our case there was never any doubt it would be totaled. A few days after receiving the car, the auto body shop produced a detailed report of the damages and the needed repairs. This was immediately forwarded to the claims adjuster.
Again, I’ll repeat myself and say “Be Nice”, regardless of the people you work with at the insurance company most don’t have any influence over the general policies implemented by the company. They do, however, have influence over the steps that can be taken as part of the process. They may not “volunteer” those steps to you right away, but they will help you, so be nice to them and remember to take a break from negotiations when needed.
So after they get the what they call the “Estimate of Record” from the body shop, they will then determine whether it is a Total Loss. To do that they will get a report from a electronic service that will determine the value of your car. If the value of your car is less than what it will cost to repair it, it is a Total Loss.
Two common companies that provide valuation services to Insurance Companies are linked below:
CCC Information Services
Audatex North America, Inc.
You can visit these sites to get an idea of the types of service they provide. I would provide you with an example but I don’t want to violate any proprietary information from that company. So what I did was create my own home-grown example of the type of information they provide and some explanation of what you are looking for.
Click here to go to that page
In the meantime we will continue with the process…
Now, most companies will provide you with a copy of the valuation report right away, in fact I believe that’s the law in most states. If for some reason they don’t, request that they send you a copy right away. In addition, they may be able to provide you with details of the report. For Instance, in my case the report listed that they surveyed a total of 30 vehicles to come up with the averages they used. You should be able to request the actual details of these 30 vehicles to get an idea of what they are basing it on. The more information you can get the better. If you can’t get this detail, don’t worry about it at this stage, there are quite a few things that can be done without it. In some ways it’s almost irrelevant to what you have to do, I will explain that next.
To be continued... until that time don't hesitate to contact us if you have questions... email@example.com