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My Car Is a Total Loss. Can I Fight the Insurance Company?

Mohammadi & Humayun, LLC Sept. 26, 2023

Severe Damaged Car After AccidentBeing involved in an automobile accident is always a distressing experience. Even if you were not injured, the crash could still lead to major inconvenience and expense. If the accident was so severe the insurance company says the cost of repair is deemed more than the cost of the vehicle itself, your car may be declared a “total loss.”  

If you do not agree with the insurer’s valuation of your vehicle or the settlement amount offered by the company, you need to understand how to fight the insurance company so you can obtain the compensation you deserve. Our attorneys at Mohammadi & Humayun, LLC can help you challenge the insurer’s total loss decision and assist you in getting the fairest insurance payout possible.  

Our firm is based in Rockville, Maryland, but serves residents of Howard County, Fredrick County, Montgomery County, and Prince George’s County.  

Understanding Total Loss

Many people think their vehicle is not a “total loss” unless it cannot be driven. However, insurance companies have a different definition and use various methods to determine whether or not a car is totaled.  

In the eyes of your insurer, your car is a “total loss” when the cost to repair the vehicle exceeds its actual cash value or ACV. A vehicle’s ACV is determined by looking at its market value at the time of the accident. Much to your surprise and disappointment, you may not realize how quickly a vehicle’s market value can go down in a matter of years. Some estimate that a vehicle can lose up to 20% of its value in the first year.  

The total loss threshold varies from one state to another. In Maryland, a car is declared a total loss when the cost of repairs plus the resale value is at least 75% of the vehicle’s ACV.  

The Insurance Company’s Evaluation

A lot goes into the insurance company’s evaluation of a vehicle’s actual cash value before declaring it a total loss. The factors considered by the insurer include but may not be limited to: 

  • The severity of the damage. One of the most obvious considerations after a car accident is the severity of the damage sustained by the vehicle, which can range from mild and moderate to severe damage and total loss. 

  • The age of the vehicle. The age of the vehicle is also an important factor when considering the vehicle’s ACV, as certain replacement parts may be more difficult to find for older models.  

  • The brand and model. The brand and model of the vehicle can significantly affect its value.  

  • Mileage. Insurance companies take the vehicle’s mileage into account. As a rule of thumb, a vehicle loses on average around 20% of its current value for every 20,000 miles driven. However, there may be exceptions to this rule.  

  • Recoverable costs. Insurers also consider the vehicle’s salvage value after the accident, which means determining how much money the company could collect by either disposing of the vehicle or selling it at an auto auction.  

These and other factors can be taken into consideration before declaring a vehicle a “total loss.” However, just because the insurance company thinks your vehicle is a total loss does not mean you have to agree with this assessment.  

Challenging the Total Loss Decision

If you disagree with the insurance company’s valuation of your car, you may be able to challenge the insurer’s decision by taking the following steps: 

  1. Determine how much your vehicle is actually worth. If you do not think your vehicle is a total loss or you simply do agree with the settlement amount offered by the insurance company, you should conduct an independent appraisal of your vehicle. The assessment of your vehicle’s ACV should take into account various factors such as the severity of the damage, the age of the vehicle, mileage, and many more.  

  1. Negotiate with the insurance company. Once you have strong evidence to challenge the insurance company’s assessment, you can initiate negotiations with the insurer to change its mind on the total loss declaration or increase the settlement offer. The more evidence you have to show that the insurance company’s assessment is unreasonable, the higher the chance of success.  

  1. Hire an attorney. Having a skilled attorney in your corner allows you to negotiate with the insurance company from a position of knowledge and strength. Your attorney can help you navigate the complex claims process and ensure that your rights are respected and you receive fair compensation for your damages and losses.  

Do Not Settle for Less Than You Deserve

When you need help fighting the insurance company for the money you are owed, contact our law firm. At Mohammadi & Humayun, LLC, we have seen time and time again how insurance companies take advantage of underrepresented and unsuspecting claimants to pay them less than what they are entitled to. We are familiar with the tactics insurers use to devalue claims and avoid paying what they owe. 

If you have been in a car accident and your vehicle has been declared a total loss, our attorneys can help you fight for the settlement amount you think you should have. We do not want you to accept the insurer’s lowball settlement offer and leave money on the table. Contact our office today to request a case evaluation and discuss your legal options.