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What happens if your vehicle is a total loss after a wreck?

On Behalf of | Jan 11, 2021 | Car Accidents |

Car crashes at any speed can cause severe injuries to the occupants of the vehicles and catastrophic damage to the vehicles themselves. Many people become so fixated on physical injuries after a car crash that they don’t immediately consider the financial impact of the damage to their vehicle.

In low speed or less severe crashes sometimes known as fender-benders, the damage to the vehicle may be primarily cosmetic. You can elect to repair the damage or may choose to drive the vehicle despite its unsightly bumper or dented door.

Still, many drivers will learn either at the scene of the crash or after an insurance adjuster arrives that their vehicle is a total loss. Some people refer to this as the vehicle getting totaled.

You can’t drive a vehicle after the insurance totals it

The first thing you must understand is that it is not legal to drive a vehicle declared a total loss. These vehicles pose a public safety threat because they do not operate appropriately. Totaled vehicles might leak gas or have defective systems.

In some cases, a minor crash could total a vehicle if it affects the frame of the vehicle, damages the radiator or bends an axle. You will have to purchase a replacement vehicle and may require a rental vehicle until you find an appropriate replacement. Those expenses could mean tens of thousands of dollars in costs.

 Insurance companies will determine the value of the vehicle

Everything from the age, make and model of your vehicle to your investment in maintenance prior to the crash will influence how much the insurance company will give you for its replacement value. The coverage available could be less than the value of your vehicle.

The policy for the driver who caused the crash will be the one that pays out for your vehicle. If the other driver’s insurance company attempts to offer you a lowball payment, you may have to counter that claim or ask for the documentation that validates the price they offered you.

In some cases, intense negotiations may be necessary. Other times, such as cases of bad coverage, you may have no choice but to take legal action against the other driver after a crash totals your car.