What Should You Do If You Think Your Car Is Totaled

Studies have shown that one in seven car accidents ends with a totaled vehicle. After a serious accident, you’ll likely be concerned about the safety and condition of your car. There may be extensive damage to your vehicle – but there are many considerations that determine if it’s actually totaled or can be repaired. You’ll want to ensure that you get back on the road as quickly as possible and that you’re able to keep costs under control. Here’s what you need to know after an accident if your car has sustained serious damage.

Start following the paper trail immediately

Immediately following an accident, there are many different kinds of paperwork that you will need to track down. Start by locating a copy of your vehicle title. If your car is determined to be a total loss, you’ll need to sign the title over to the insurance company. You should also find a copy of your car insurance policy. Determine your current coverage, whether your policy covers a rental car, and if you have any deductible. Keep everything together in a single file and respond to any requests immediately to help prevent unnecessary delays.

File your claim promptly

Promptly filing your claim after your accident will ensure that you’re back on the road as quickly as possible. Once a claim is filed, you’ll learn what resolution you can expect. Start by calling your insurance broker and car insurance company. Typically, you’ll be ask to share details of the accident, the name and contact information of anyone else involved, and police or witness information. All of these details will be taken into account when evaluating your accident. From there, the insurance company will arrange an inspection or work with an auto body shop to get a quote on how extensive the damage is.

Bring the car to an auto body shop

Have your car towed to an auto body shop. Ask your insurance broker or insurance agent if they have preferred vendors. If you’ve worked with a repair shop you liked in the past, you may be able to have the car brought there. When the car arrives, specialists at the auto body shop will evaluate the damage and prepare a quote on the cost of repairs. Armed with this information, your insurance company will determine if they should pay to fix the car or mark it as a total loss.

What a totaled car means to an insurance company

Different states and different insurance providers have individual definitions of totaled. Companies usually compare the cost of repairs against the value of the car. When the costs of repairs near the threshold of the car’s value or exceed it, it’s likely to be deemed totaled. Older cars are often marked as totaled, because their values are lower. As a result, less damage is required for the insurance company to write off the vehicle. But again, each scenario is different so it’s important that you consult an auto body specialist and your insurance provider.

How payouts work

If your car is totaled, your insurance company will pay you the value of the car. If your car is currently financed, the value of that loan will be paid to the bank and then any difference paid to you. The amount that’s paid is based on the car’s make and model, plus any major improvements that you made and can backup with receipts. For example, if you recently installed four new tires on the car you may be able to recoup some of their cost.

Having a serious car accident is a difficult situation. But losing a vehicle that you’ve loved for a long time and rely on for things like getting to work and transporting your family can be devastating. Luckily, a qualified auto body shop in your area may be able to help with the repairs. If the damage is too extensive, your insurance company will walk you through the process for a totaled car and get you back on the road to a new vehicle soon.