How to Recover Damages If Your Car is Totaled and You are Not at Fault


If your car was totaled and the accident was not your fault, how should you handle it? What if your car is written off and you still owe money?

After a collision, there’s a lot to think about. You’ll need to check for injuries, get contact information from the other driver, and call the police. After these immediate steps, filing a claim through your insurance company is the most important thing you can do. There are many potential pitfalls and hidden complexities after a car accident. With the right information, you’ll be able to navigate the process more smoothly.

What to Do After a Collision

The way you react after a car wreck is very important. Involve the police as soon as you can and try to get the at-fault party to give you accurate information about the collision. Having a police report made after the incident is a good way to have a record of what really happened. Keep as much documentation of the events as you can, including medical reports, photos, and contact information for any willing witnesses.

Recovering Damages after a Car Accident

Do you have to pay a deductible if you are not at fault? This can go either way and depends on how long you’re willing to wait for your compensation. You may wait for the at-fault individual’s insurance agency pays for the damages (which can be slow). If you want to speed the process along, you can file through your own insurance, pay a deductible and they can cover the rest of the damages.

What Happens if Your Car is a Total Loss?

What happens when a car is written off by insurance? An insurance agency will write your vehicle off as a “total loss” (totaled) when the cost to repair the car outweighs what the car is worth. They then might decide to basically purchase the car from you. Insurance companies often sell the parts of the car to earn a profit.

Can I Keep the Car after a Total Loss?

Some companies let you keep your totaled car in exchange for getting less compensation on your insurance claim. In this case, you’d receive a Salvage Certificate of Title from state Department of Transportation in Arizona. A “salvage title” means that you can’t register the vehicle until you’ve repaired it. 

Once you’ve repaired the car, you may apply for another title. Keep in mind that you may not be able to get collision and comprehensive insurance on a previously totaled car because it can be difficult to estimate its value.

Owing on a Totaled Car

What should you do if your car is totaled and you still owe money on it? The only thing that can make a totaled car worse is a totaled car that you haven’t paid off yet. When you combine long car loans and depreciating vehicle value, it’s easy to see why you might owe more on your car than it’s worth. 

If you still owe on your car and it’s totaled, your insurance agency will only pay for the fair market value of the car before the accident. Car insurance companies never pay above the vehicle’s value when it’s totaled. They will subtract your collision deductible from the cash value of your car when they pay you for it. Since you don’t own the vehicle, the money will likely go to the bank instead of directly to you.

Gap Insurance 

If your car is totaled while you’re still paying it off, you could end up owing your lender thousands of dollars. This isn’t a good situation to be in when you’re already paying for injuries and possibly even missing work. Gap insurance is one way to prevent this issue and will pay the difference between what you still owe and the car’s actual cash value. Depending on your policy, it might even take care of your collision deductible. 

Even with gap insurance, however, you won’t receive money for a new car unless you owe less than the amount of your car loan. In this case, you’d receive the remaining money after the lender receives their full payment. If the car was already fully paid off, you’d receive all of it to put towards another vehicle.

Negotiating on a Totaled Car

Do you have to accept the insurer’s offer on a totaled vehicle? How much can you negotiate on a totaled car? When you’re in a collision, you send your insurance agency information about your claim. They’ll decide on the value of your car. They’ll also determine the value of repairs and parts for your car to figure out whether it would be worth it to fix it.

Keep in mind that property damages are not a set number, so the figure you’re originally told isn’t necessarily what you’re stuck with. Insurance companies will often start low, so they don’t have to pay as much. Once the insurance agency gives you a number, make sure you get a printout of the report they used to calculate the figure. You should also ask for a copy of the repairs statement so you can figure out if you agree with the insurance company’s determination.

If you do your research and find that you don’t agree with their figure, give them the information that you believe caused a mistake. You may receive greater compensation if you can find data that contradicts the figure the agency gave you. Hiring an attorney is a good way to ensure you document all the necessary information for your case.

Have Questions about What to Do with a Totaled Car in Arizona?

Insurance agencies will try to settle claims for as low of a figure as they can to earn a profit. Having an experienced legal professional on your side can protect you from receiving less than you should. 

Consulting an attorney is even more important if you also suffered an injury from the accident. They can help you recover compensation to lessen the burden of the related expenses and answer any questions you may have.

Call our Personal Injury team at (480) 467-4392 to discuss your case today.

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