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What Should I Do if My Car Is Totaled?

Posted on May 25, 2022

Some car accidents are so serious that they damage a vehicle beyond the point of repair – or to an extent where the repairs would cost more than the total value of the vehicle. This is known as a “total loss” to an insurance company, or a totaled car. If your car gets totaled in an auto accident in Birmingham, you have a few options for what to do next as the owner of the vehicle.

File a Third-Party Insurance Claim

Alabama is an at-fault car insurance state. This means when a driver causes a car accident, his or her car insurance company is responsible for paying for the other driver’s property damage and medical bills. All drivers in Alabama are required to carry at least $25,000 in bodily injury liability insurance per person, $50,000 per accident and $25,000 to cover property repairs.

If the other driver is at fault for the crash that totaled your car, you will file a third-party claim with his or her car insurance provider. The mandatory $25,000 in property damage liability coverage will pay to replace your car if the insurance company deems it a total loss. If this isn’t enough to pay the total pre-crash value of your vehicle, your own insurer may offer supplemental coverage.

Call Your Own Car Insurance Company

If your car is totaled in a crash involving a hit-and-run driver, an uninsured or underinsured driver, or you are at fault for the accident, you will call your own insurance company to file a claim instead. First-party insurance coverage such as collision and comprehensive insurance is not mandatory in Alabama. If you purchased more than the minimum required amounts of insurance, however, your carrier may offer coverage for your totaled car.

While your car is being assessed by a mechanic – or while you’re waiting to replace a car that has already been deemed a total loss – you may be able to use insurance coverage to pay for a rental car. This coverage will come from either the other driver’s insurer or your own provider, if you have rental car insurance. Call your insurance company to ask about your types and limits of coverage after your car has been totaled.

Decide Whether to Keep, Sell or Donate the Car

When a car is pronounced a total loss, you have the right to choose whether or not you want to keep it as the owner. It’s up to you if you want to keep the car and pay to fix it (if you have a sentimental attachment to the vehicle), sell the car for scrap metal to a salvage yard, or donate it to a charity and use it as a tax deduction. If you leased the car, an insurance claim will pay the leasing company for the remainder of your lease agreement.

Understand the Value of Your Totaled Car

Before you accept an insurance settlement, understand the value of your totaled car. Most auto insurance companies determine the total pre-crash value of a vehicle based on the current market price, the make and model of the car, the year of the vehicle, its mileage, its wear and tear, and any upgrades or modifications you made. If you don’t agree with the value given by the insurer, you can request details from the insurance company’s research report. You may be able to negotiate the value of your claim based on evidence that it’s worth more, such as your upgrades or proof that your car was carefully maintained.

File a Lawsuit

If the other driver’s insurance company fails to offer a reasonable settlement for the value of your totaled vehicle, you can file a lawsuit against the driver instead. A lawsuit could pay for your pain and suffering, lost wages, punitive damages, and other losses in addition to medical bills and property damage. Consult with a car accident lawyer in Birmingham about the possibility of a lawsuit if you recently totaled your vehicle in a crash.