Low angle view of the front part of a car after an accident.
What to do if your car is totaled in an accident
If you were involved in an accident and your car is totaled, you’re probably wondering what to do next.
What is a Totaled Car?
Insurance companies deem a car “totaled” when the cost to repair the damage caused by an accident exceeds the vehicle’s market value. They can also declare it totaled if the vehicle is deemed unsafe to drive (even after it’s fixed).
“Each state sets the threshold for declaring vehicles a total loss — but carriers may choose to use a lower threshold,” Kelley Blue Book explains. “In many cases, the insurance company will total a car even if the repair costs are less than the vehicle’s actual cash value — sometimes a lot less. That’s because it can be difficult to determine the full extent of the damage before repairs begin.”
So while most people assume that a totaled car is undrivable, this isn’t always the case. It’s possible that the totaled vehicle can still be fixed and driven, even after the insurance company assigns this designation.
Understanding Your Options
When your car is deemed totaled by the insurance company, you have several options.
Option 1: Let the Insurance Company Pay You. If the car is totaled and not salvageable, the insurance company will cut you a check for the actual cash value. Unfortunately, this often takes time. In the meantime, you need a vehicle to drive. According to Hancock Injury Attorneys, “There are two possible places you can look at to quickly arrange a new form of transportation: (1) Your own insurance policy may have a provision to provide you a rental car after an accident. (2) The other driver’s insurance policy may cover a rental car for you.”
Option 2: Leave the Car As-Is. Another option is to just leave your car as-is and continue to drive it. The insurance company will still give you the cash value (minus the salvage value) and you’ll just have to make sure it’s technically safe to drive by having a mechanic check it out and make repairs. You’ll also need to obtain a salvage title.
Option 3: Donate the Car. If the car can still be safely driven, but you don’t personally want to drive it, you may be able to donate it to a company that accepts vehicles. You’ll have to do your research to find charities that accept totaled vehicles, but many do.
Option 4: Sell the Car for Parts. Even though the vehicle is totaled, there may be certain parts that are still in perfectly fine condition. You can try selling the car for parts to make some extra cash off the vehicle.
Maximizing Your Car Accident Claim
If you believe the other party was at fault in your car accident, you’ll want to do everything you possibly can to maximize your car accident claim. This can provide you with additional financial resources to replace your vehicle, cover medical bills, and offset lost income (as well as pain and suffering). Here are several tips:
Get medical treatment. Step one is always to get medical treatment. This is important for a couple of reasons. First off, your health is a priority and you need to take care of yourself. Secondly, immediate and consistent medical treatment establishes proof of your injuries and will support your accident claim.
Hire an attorney. As soon as you’re in stable condition, hire a car accident attorney. They will make sure you get the settlement you need to recover and thrive.
Don’t accept a quick settlement. Car insurance companies want quick settlements. In doing so, they can typically pay out just a fraction of what a claim is actually worth. With that being said, never accept a quick settlement. Consult with your attorney on the best strategy.
Putting it All Together
If you’re in a serious car accident where your vehicle is totaled, it’s important that you act swiftly and diligently. These matters can be complicated and challenging to decipher, so always make sure to hire an attorney to guide you through the process.