When Is a Car Considered Totaled?

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Car accidents can leave an unforgettable mark on one’s life, especially when a vehicle is deemed a total loss. Such incidents, where the repair costs exceed the car’s value or a predefined threshold, present unique challenges and implications for motorists in California. From dealing with insurance adjusters to navigating the intricate valuation process, the aftermath can be as tumultuous as the accident itself.

These scenarios, which range from minor fender-benders to catastrophic collisions, not only pose logistical nightmares but also represent significant financial setbacks. California Vehicle Code § 544 defines a total loss vehicle as one that has been wrecked, destroyed, or damaged so severely that the insurance company considers it uneconomical to repair the vehicle, and an insurer makes a total loss payment to a claimant. 

With over two decades of experience, Attorney Pajman Jassim and Attorney Parisima Jassim are dedicated to serving San Diego’s car accident victims. We ardently challenge any unfair practices by insurance companies, ensuring our clients attain just compensation and, in the process, keep our communities safer by holding negligent parties responsible. 

Understanding Total Loss Vehicles in California 

After a car accident, your insurance company must determine whether it is more cost-effective to repair your car or pay you its pre-accident worth.

In reaching this decision, insurers consider various aspects, such as:

  • Your vehicle’s pre-accident cash value is influenced by age, mileage, overall condition, special features, and more.
  • The expense of restoring the car to a functional state.
  • The salvage worth of the car, which fluctuates based on the extent of the damage. A severely damaged car might only be valuable for its scrap metal, while a less damaged one might have parts that can be salvaged and resold.

Moreover, insurance companies consider the vehicle’s reduced value post-accident, impacting its actual cash worth. There are three primary types of value depreciation a car might undergo:

  • Immediate diminished value: The gap between the car’s worth just before and just after the accident.
  • Inherent diminished value: The drop in value because a vehicle has undergone significant repairs. Even with successful repairs, vehicles with extensive work history are often viewed less favorably.
  • Repair-related diminished value: The devaluation when a car is repaired post-accident, but the restoration is not perfect. These subpar repairs can make the vehicle harder to sell, even if it runs smoothly.

The formula that insurance companies may use to determine whether a vehicle is a total loss or not is Cost of Repairs + Salvage Value ≥ Actual Cash Value, which means if the total cost of repairs in addition to the salvage value of the vehicle is greater than the vehicle’s actual cash value, it is considered a total loss. 

What Are Your Legal Options if Your Car Is Considered Totaled? 

In California, when a vehicle is deemed a total loss, the typical route is to hand it over to the insurance company and take a cash payout. However,  you may also keep your vehicle for a reduced payout from the insurer, as they will account for the car’s salvage value.

The following are various types of insurance coverage that pay for total loss vehicles: 

  • Liability insurance: The liable party’s insurance company covers damages if they are responsible for an accident
  • Comprehensive: Coverage for damages not related to a collision, such as damages from weather, vandalism, and theft.
  • Collision: An accident with a stationary object or with a vehicle when the other driver is not at fault. 
  • Uninsured or underinsured motorist coverage: Cover damages when the liable party does not have insurance or adequate insurance.

For those who choose to hold onto their totaled vehicles, it is imperative to inform the DMV within ten days after the insurance claim settlement. This comes with a minor fee for the issuance of a salvage title for the car. At Jassim Law, we help you navigate the car accident claim process and communicate with insurance adjusters on your behalf to increase your chances of a favorable outcome. 

Speak With the Total Loss Car Accident Lawyers at Jassim Law 

Before opting to get your vehicle repaired after an accident or have it declared a total loss, speak with the experienced car accident lawyers at Jassim Law. We can provide you with the best legal options and navigate the claims process on your behalf to obtain the compensation you need to get your vehicle repaired or replaced. With an extensive track record of successfully recovering millions in damages, Attorney Pajman Jassim strives to protect the safety of California neighborhoods as he pursues justice for his clients.

For a free consultation with a car accident lawyer, call today at (619) 554-0624 or fill out a contact form.