Cars are heavy objects that need to be treated with extreme caution, as is especially evident when your car gets totaled in an accident. Read on to gain four critical tips you can employ to negotiate with the insurance company when your car is a total loss.

How Cars Get Totaled

A car doesn’t need to be literally destroyed to be considered totaled. A lot of things cause car accidents, and your car can get totaled even when you’re not around.

The main causes of cars becoming a total loss are:

Any accident involving a bus, truck, or other heavy vehicles, such as an SUV;
When the car is flipped in an accident;
When an accident causes numerous airbags to be deployed;
Being broadsided by another vehicle;
Getting run off the road, especially off a hill or into a ditch;
Any incident involving the above items or other circumstances that end with the total costs of repair exceeding the value of the car.

The last item on this list is the most significant when it comes to determining the financial level of loss that you and your insurance company would consider a total loss. Here, the value of the car is not the price you paid for the car, but the value of the car at the moment prior to the accident. 

You can assess your car’s current value with the Kelly Blue Book guide, which you can read here, and enter your car’s make, model, year, and mileage to determine the current value. And if you went through a private reg, you must make sure you take enough time to evaluate your car appropriately.

What do After an Accident

It is critical in the moments after an accident to collect the insurance and contact information of the other driver or drivers who were directly involved in the accident. 

Any accident that involves a totaled car is likely going to bring the police to the scene. You should also call 911 if you, your passengers, or the occupants of the other vehicle(s) involved are seriously injured. Definitely call the police if the other driver is giving you a hard time, threatening you, or flees the scene of the accident (which is a serious crime).

Get the contact information of the police on the scene and follow up with them in the next few days to get a copy of the police report. While you’re at it, identify any witnesses on the scene and take down their contact information as well. You will need their witness accounts in case legal action results. 

Read more here to answer the question of what should I do in the days following my first car accident?

Tips for Negotiating when Your Car is a Total Loss

Tip #1

Before contacting your insurance company, calculate the value of your totaled vehicle prior to the accident. You can do this with the Kelly Blue Book guide mentioned above, but it's also good to have multiple sources of information to confirm the value. If you have a regular and trusted mechanic, get their opinion as well. 

Tip #2

When making your claim to the insurance company, ask for a higher amount than you actually seek. See Tip #3 on why this matters. 

Tip #3

When the insurance company offers you a settlement following your claim, it is very likely that it will be less than the value of your car before the accident. Why? Unfortunately, claims adjusters' main priority is to save their company money. This means going for the lowest possible amount. 

Under no circumstances should you accept the initial insurance offer. Even if it does roughly match the value of the car, you should always follow up with a counteroffer that goes higher.

Tip #4

If you are not satisfied with the second offer you receive, this is the moment you should seriously consider hiring or at least consulting an attorney. Legal counsel may recommend that at this point you have a reasonable chance of succeeding in court if you pursue a lawsuit. Alternatively, having your attorney represent you in the second round of negotiations with the insurance company will also likely yield a better offer.