Welcome to FindLaw's Vehicle Damage section. It contains a variety of articles and resources to help you deal with the aftermath of a motor vehicle accident. Included are numerous articles about what it means to "total" a car in the context of insurance coverage and how a salvage title works.
This section also addresses a variety of other resources relating to totaled cars. In addition, this section covers what to do when there is no vehicle damage following an accident, how to file a property damage claim, who pays for a rental car after an accident, and more.
Vehicle Damage: What May Be Recovered
While monetary compensation for damages is generally meant to make the aggrieved party "whole" again, it doesn't always work that way in reality. This is especially true when the settlement for a "totaled" vehicle is not enough to buy a replacement vehicle.
Regardless, amounts are typically determined by subtracting the value of the car after the auto accident from its value immediately before it was damaged. This reimburses the motorist for what was damaged, even if it doesn't actually replace the vehicle.
How Estimates Are Calculated
Your car insurance adjuster will total up the estimated repair costs and compare them to the current Blue Book value of your vehicle at the point right before the accident. This amount is roughly what your car would be worth if you tried to sell it.
If the repairs would cost a significant percentage of the Blue Book value, then the insurance company likely would total it and pay that amount. Some automobile insurers do their own estimates in-house, while others will base their estimates on those of independent mechanics.
If the insurance company fails to account for additional damage, the shop may contact the claims adjuster to work it out.
When a car is totaled, it is given what is called a salvage title. Insurance companies consider a "totaled" car a total loss that is not worth fixing.
Salvage titles ensure that others, such as would-be buyers, are aware that a car has a history of serious damage. Depending on state laws or the insurers' terms, a car may be totaled if the estimated repair or replacement cost is between 60 and 90 percent of its pre-accident Blue Book value. Typically, this value is 70 to 75 percent of the pre-accident Blue Book value.
Licensing and driving a vehicle with a salvage title—if it hasn't been re-designated as "rebuild" or "rebuild salvage"—is generally not allowed in most states. If you satisfactorily repair the damage in a salvaged vehicle, you can have it inspected in order to change the designation and get it licensed.
Damage to Rental Cars
As with any other car accident, determination of who was at fault will be key. If it's the other party's fault, the other party's insurance company will work out the details with the car rental company's insurer.
If the other party is not insured, you'll have to check and see if your own policy covers underinsured or uninsured motorists. If the accident is your fault, then your own insurer will pay for the damage.
Before renting a vehicle, however, it's a good idea to review the coverage offered by your own insurer. In some cases, you may want to purchase the insurance offered by the car rental company.
What To Do After an Accident
Being in a car crash can be scary and confusing, especially if the accident is particularly bad. Even if it's a minor accident, however, dealing with the aftermath can cause stress. To learn more about vehicle damage and what to do after a car accident, keep reading.
Get Medical Attention
Post-accident, the first step is to get any medical attention necessary. Even minor collisions can result in bodily injury, so seek medical attention immediately. Remember that some injuries might not show symptoms immediately but can surface later, so don't ignore even minor discomfort.
Documenting the Accident Scene
At the accident scene, gather as much information as possible. This includes taking photographs of vehicle damage, noting the license plate details of all involved vehicles, and collecting contact information from other drivers and witnesses.
If the other driver leaves the scene without providing information–a situation known as a hit-and-run–try to note down any details you remember and contact the police immediately.
Getting a Police Report
It's beneficial to have a police report, as it provides an objective record of the incident. This can be valuable when filing your insurance claim and potentially necessary if a personal injury claim arises later. It includes details about the accident, contributing factors, and, in some cases, an assessment of who was the at-fault driver.
Contacting Your Insurance Company
Contact your auto insurance company as soon as possible to report the accident and start the claims process. Provide all the necessary details, including the driver's insurance information, accident details, and your policy number.
Understanding Your Insurance Coverage
Your insurance policy coverage will play a significant role in how your vehicle damage and medical bills are addressed. Liability coverage, for instance, is mandatory in many states and covers the costs if you are the at-fault driver. In contrast, collision coverage can cover your vehicle's repair or replacement, regardless of who was at fault.
In no-fault states, each driver's insurance company covers their own medical expenses up to a certain limit, regardless of who was at fault. This is known as Personal Injury Protection (PIP). Be sure to check your insurance policy's details, including the deductible amount, which you'll need to pay out of pocket before your insurance coverage kicks in.
Managing Medical Expenses
Medical expenses can pile up after an accident, whether they're for immediate treatments or ongoing care. These expenses might be covered by your medical payments coverage or PIP, depending on your auto insurance policy. If another driver was at fault, their liability insurance should cover your medical bills up to the policy limits.
Filing Personal Injury Claims
If you've suffered significant injuries, you may decide to file a personal injury claim against the at-fault driver. This can help you recover costs that aren't covered by insurance, like pain and suffering and loss of income. An attorney can guide you through this process and help you negotiate a fair settlement offer.
Repairing or Replacing Your Vehicle
The extent of the vehicle damage will determine whether your car can be repaired or if it needs to be replaced. Your auto insurance should cover these costs, less your deductible, up to the limits of your policy. If your car is declared a total loss, your insurer will pay you the actual cash value of your car before the accident.
Need Legal Advice? Speak With a Car Accident Lawyer Today
If you need help with your car accident claim, reach out to a car accident attorney today. A car accident injury attorney can help you recover the damages you are entitled to for vehicle damage. Find your car accident lawyer today.
Disclaimer: There is a statute of limitations on car accident personal injury cases. This means you have a limited time to seek compensation for your damages. Act now to make sure your chances at compensation are filed on time.