Personal Injury Lawyers
Attorney Van O'Steen

Car's Fair Market Value Key to Crash Claim

Van O'Steen

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If your car is damaged in an accident, the value of your claim generally is determined by the cost of repairing it to its pre-accident condition.

Depending on the circumstances of the accident, you may present this claim to your own insurance company or to a company that insures another vehicle involved in the accident with you.

If the cost of repairing your car approaches its market value before the accident, the insurance company may want to "total" your car. In this case, your claim will not be based on the cost of repairing it.

If your automobile is totaled, you are entitled to the difference between the vehicle's value before the accident and its value, if any, after the accident.

The value before the accident is usually determined by reference to directories such as the Kelley Blue Book, newspaper ads offering similar cars for sale, and statements from car dealers or other services that appraise automobiles. You also are entitled to some reimbursement for taxes and registration fees.

If your car is totaled, the insurance company may require that the car and the title be turned over to the company. You would receive the fair market value of the car.

Alternatively, the company could establish a "salvage value" for the car. You may then be able to receive the fair market value of the car less the salvage value.

In that case, you would be able to keep the car. The car then will generally bear a "salvaged vehicle" title to give notice to any new purchaser that the vehicle was previously totaled.

If you disagree with the figure the insurance company uses regarding the fair market value of your automobile, you can negotiate with the adjuster using information from the sources mentioned previously. Unfortunately, most insurance companies use a particular service to estimate value, and adjusters may not be willing to give you more than that service indicates the automobile is worth.

If the company offers you substantially less than what you feel your car is worth, you can either file a civil lawsuit against the person who caused the accident or file a claim against your own insurance company, if that is where you made your claim.

You would be wise to discuss your problem with an attorney before filing a lawsuit.