If you have been in a traffic accident caused by another driver in the state of Texas, and if your vehicle is a total loss as a result of that collision, an auto insurance company will offer you a settlement amount. How much will an insurance company pay you for your car, truck, or SUV? What can a car accident attorney do to help?
In some cases, properly and successfully negotiating a fair and acceptable settlement for a total loss may be more difficult than most people would think, particularly if you are dealing with a questionable insurance company or if you feel that the company’s offer is substantially less than the actual value of the vehicle.
How can you prove the value of a vehicle or prove that a vehicle constitutes a total loss? When the cost to repair a vehicle surpasses the vehicle’s actual value, the vehicle is considered a total loss in the state of Texas. Some states have an even lower “threshold” for considering a vehicle a total loss.
In Nevada, damage amounting to 65 percent of a vehicle’s value makes the vehicle a total loss, and in Florida, the figure is 80 percent, but in Texas, the cost of repairs must surpass 100 percent of the vehicle’s actual value to be classified as a total loss.
IS IT EASY TO PROVE A VEHICLE IS A TOTAL LOSS?
Proving a vehicle is a total loss is usually as simple as obtaining several repair estimates and comparing them against a vehicle’s Kelly Blue Book or NADA value. You will probably want to do this as quickly as possible after your vehicle has been totaled.
However, if you have sustained serious injuries in a traffic collision in south Texas, you should probably entirely avoid contacting the insurance company and instead take your case directly to a qualified Edinburg auto accident attorney.
If you’ve been injured by a negligent driver, you are entitled to complete compensation for your medical expenses, lost wages, and all related damages.
The moment a traffic accident happens, you must start considering liability and insurance coverage.
Report any traffic accident with injuries to the appropriate local law enforcement agency, and be certain that you obtain a copy of the accident report.
Have a medical examination even if you don’t think you’ve been injured, and notify your own auto insurance company immediately.
WHICH INSURANCE COMPANY PAYS?
If your vehicle is a total loss after a collision, the first question that must be answered is, “Which insurance company is responsible for reimbursing you?”
That answer depends on whether you live in a “fault” or a “no-fault” state. Only twelve states currently have mandatory no-fault laws, and Texas is not one of them.
As a “fault” state, when there is a traffic accident in Texas, someone is responsible for compensating the victims for property damages and – if there are injuries – for personal damages as well.
In Texas, the driver who causes an accident, or that driver’s auto insurance company, is responsible for all damages to others involved in the crash.
However, understand that if you intend to negotiate with another motorist’s auto insurance company for a total loss, in some cases, your claim may be treated with something almost like disdain.
When you are not a policyholder, an insurance company is less likely to make your claim a priority or to give it a fair consideration.
Someone else’s insurance company may instead offer you a quick settlement that is worth far less than the actual value of your damages.
When you turn down an initial low settlement offer for a total loss, an auto insurance company may use a number of delaying tactics or even try to “give you the brush-off.”
You might be asked time and again for more information or told – even after months have passed – that the matter is “pending” or “still under investigation.”
If an insurance company is operating in bad faith, a consumer in Texas may have grounds for taking legal action against that company. In such cases, an experienced Edinburg auto accident attorney can explain your legal options.
WHAT IF YOU DISPUTE THE INSURANCE COMPANY’S VALUATION?
Let’s say that your vehicle is a total loss after a traffic collision caused by another driver in south Texas. That driver’s insurance company offers you a settlement amount for the vehicle, but the amount offered genuinely is not sufficient.
At that point, you have three options.
You can accept the inadequate offer, negotiate with the company on your own for a better settlement, or hire an attorney to file a lawsuit on your behalf and to take your claim to court if necessary.
If, however, you continue to negotiate with the company on your own or through an attorney, you must have some evidence to support your claim that the company’s offer is too low.
This evidence could include photographs of the vehicle prior to the collision, documentation of repairs or enhancements to the vehicle, and valuation estimates from other qualified automobile appraisers.
If you are negotiating by yourself, always stick to the facts and the evidence. A little research and preparation might even increase the amount you receive.
However, if you sense that your treatment by the insurance company is unfair or unjust, get a lawyer’s help at once.
Your personal injury lawyer might advise you about property damages if your lawyer is handling a related personal injury claim on your behalf, but if your claim after a Texas traffic collision is for property damage exclusively, a personal injury attorney probably can’t help you.
The most that an insurance company will pay for any total loss is the “ACV” or actual cash value of the vehicle, which is the cost to replace your vehicle (with a similar vehicle) minus its depreciated value.
After you have filled out all of the paperwork and included any accompanying documents, the claim negotiation process in many cases consists of a couple of phone calls and a meeting with a claims adjuster. Do not allow yourself to feel intimidated or pressured.
While it is important to know what can happen and what some insurance companies will do, do not let any of the information provided here keep you from vigorously negotiating a total loss claim.
In many cases, Texans who are negotiating total losses after traffic collisions work with honest, forthright insurance professionals and are happy with their final results.
By Chris Brasure
Brasure Law Firm, PLLC was founded by Chris Brasure in 2006. His legal accomplishments are diverse and numerous. He is a fellow with the Texas Bar Foundation, was a delegate in the American Bar Association House of Delegates and holds a BA in political science and speech communication from Baylor University. He then went on to obtain his law degree from Baylor University Law School. Chris believes that education is absolutely critical to one’s success, so his firm now offers The Brasure Law Firm Scholarship to give back to the community and to help students who are seeking to pursue a higher education.