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My Car is Totaled - Now What?

What am I going to do now that my car has been totaled in a car wreck?

The first question is - who is at fault for the accident? 

Let's assume the other party was a fault for the accident. Next, we need to know if you have collision auto insurance and if the other driver is insured. If there is insurance available on both sides, then the choice of how to proceed with your vehicle is yours. 

Bringing a claim under your collision insurance in Indiana  

It is my preference to go through my own insurance company for this claim, because my insurance company has a higher responsibility to me because they are my insurance company. Some folks are concerned about bringing a claim under their own insurance because they believe the insurance company will hold it against them. This is an old wives tale. If you are not at fault for the accident, the accident will not be held against you. 

There are a couple of benefits of going through your own insurance company. The first is that it is quicker because the insurance company does not have to investigate the accident to determine who was at fault. Why, because a collision claim is based on the insurance contract and not tort (accident law). Second, your insurance company will have a tendency to be fairer with you in adjusting the claim. In Indiana, an insurance company has a duty to act in good faith with its insured. 

There is a downside to going through your own insurance and that is you will have your deductible subtracted from the total amount of the claim. Say your vehicle is worth $10,000 and you have a $500 deductible, the insurance company will cut you a check for $9,500. In the end, you will receive the $500 from the at-fault driver's insurance, but it could take time. 

Bringing the claim against the other driver's insurance company 

If you do not have collision insurance or it's your preference to go through the other driver's insurance company that is fine.  Sometimes the process takes longer because the other insurance company has to evaluate the claim, which may require tracking down their insurance or witnesses to the accident. The other insurance company will not agree to pay for your vehicle until it is sure that it is responsible and its driver is at fault for the crash. 

How much is your totaled car worth after an Indiana accident? 

Whether you bring the claim against your insurance under the collision portion of your insurance policy or the other driver's insurance under tort (accident) law, the determination of the value is the same. Under the law, the insurance company is only responsible for the fair market or cash value of the vehicle. It is not responsible for the replacement value or what the vehicle is worth to you. 

The fair market value determination is similar to the housing market. The insurance company will look at the comparable vehicles in the market area. The things that the insurance company will look at includes:

  • Year 
  • Make 
  • Model
  • Wear and Tear 
  • Betterment - additional things that you did or enhancements to the vehicle

Sometimes you have to keep the insurance company honest and make sure that the comparable vehicles that it says are available in the market are actually available. 

What about a rental car during this timeframe? 

That's a great question. If you have rental insurance, your insurance company will call one of its rental partners and set you up for a car. On the other hand, if the other side is involved, you are going to have to wait until they make a liability determination and accept responsibility. 

Additionally, the other insurance company will try to pull the rental car as soon as possible and many times want to terminate the car, when they deliver the check for your vehicle. The length that you keep the rental car should be negotiated. 

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