As a Texas resident, you rely on your vehicle for transportation to work, school, and essential errands. When your car is in an accident and declared totaled by an insurance company, it can be an extremely stressful situation. However, you may be surprised to learn that in some cases a vehicle can still be drivable after an accident even if an insurance company considers it totaled. Talk with a Texas personal injury lawyer today.
What Does It Mean When Your Car Is Totaled in Texas?
When an insurance company declares your vehicle a "total loss" in Texas, it means the cost to repair the damage exceeds the actual cash value of the car. However, this does not necessarily mean the vehicle is completely undrivable or unrepairable.
What constitutes a "total loss" in Texas?
For a vehicle to be considered totaled in Texas, the cost of repairs must exceed 100% of the vehicle's actual cash value (ACV) according to the Kelley Blue Book or NADA Guides. The ACV is determined based on the vehicle's year, make, model, trim level, mileage, condition, and options. If the estimated cost to repair the physical damage to the vehicle exceeds this amount, the insurance company will deem it a total loss.
A vehicle that has been in a major collision, flood, or fire can often still be repaired to a drivable and safe condition, though not to a like-new state. However, once an insurer pays out the full value of the vehicle to you, they then take possession and ownership of the totaled vehicle. At this point, you have a few options:
•Accept the insurance payout: Take the payment from your insurer and use it toward a replacement vehicle. Your totaled vehicle will then belong to the insurance company.
•Retain the salvage: You can opt to keep your totaled vehicle and receive a reduced claim payment. You can then repair and rebuild the vehicle, or sell it to a salvage yard. However, there are certain regulations around retaining and operating a salvaged vehicle in Texas.
•Negotiate a higher payout: If you believe your vehicle was undervalued, you can provide evidence to your insurance company to try and negotiate a higher settlement payment before accepting. Doing research on your vehicle's make, model, year and condition can help support your case.
•Consult with a lawyer: For a more complex total loss situation, it may benefit you to consult with a personal injury attorney in Texas to review your legal options for pursuing a fair insurance claim settlement.
Can You Still Drive a Car After It's Been Totaled in Texas?
While a totaled vehicle means the insurance company has deemed repairing the car too costly, the vehicle itself may still be operable in Texas. However, there are a few factors to consider before driving a totaled car.
Legal and Safety Concerns
Legally, a totaled vehicle's title is often marked as 'salvage' or 'non-repairable'. You must not drive a vehicle with a salvage title on public roads. Doing so can result in legal penalties. From a safety perspective, the structural integrity and performance of a totaled vehicle is compromised, putting you and others at risk if driven.
Even if a totaled vehicle seems drivable, additional problems are likely to surface soon requiring expensive repairs. It may appear operable now but break down unexpectedly later. The costs to properly repair a totaled vehicle often far exceed its actual cash value.
Your auto insurance policy will not cover a totaled vehicle once the settlement amount has been paid. You would be 100% liable for any subsequent damages or issues. Driving without insurance is illegal in Texas and puts you in a precarious financial position in the event of an accident.
The cash settlement offered by the insurance company for a totaled vehicle accounts for its diminished value due to the accident. Continuing to drive the vehicle after accepting the settlement means you do not truly receive fair compensation for the loss in value. The vehicle is worth significantly less and more prone to problems, but you have already been paid as if it had no value.
In summary, while a totaled car may seem drivable, the legal, financial and safety risks far outweigh any benefits of continuing to operate the vehicle. The wisest course of action is to accept your insurance settlement and replace your vehicle.
Steps to Take if Your Car Is Totaled but Still Drivable in Texas
If your vehicle has been declared a total loss after an accident in Texas but is still operable, there are a few steps you should take.
Contact your insurance provider immediately
Notify your auto insurance provider about the accident and that your vehicle has been deemed totaled. They will walk you through the claims process to determine the actual cash value of your vehicle. This is the amount they will provide you for the total loss.
Request a valuation review
If you disagree with the insurance company's valuation of your totaled vehicle, you have the right to request a review of their offer. Provide documentation supporting a higher value, such as recent sales of comparable vehicles in your area. The insurance company may increase their offer if you make a reasonable case.
Decide whether to retain or surrender the vehicle
You have the option to retain the totaled vehicle and receive the actual cash value minus the salvage value, or surrender the vehicle to the insurance company. If retaining the vehicle, you must get a salvage title and likely perform repairs to get it roadworthy again. Surrendering the vehicle means releasing ownership and receiving the full actual cash value. Evaluate which choice is right based on the condition of your vehicle and your needs.
Handle vehicle registration and title
For a surrendered vehicle, notify your local DMV to cancel the registration and title. For a retained vehicle, you must apply for a salvage title with the DMV. A salvage title indicates the vehicle has been deemed a total loss, though you can repair it to drive again.
Consider buying back the salvage
If your insurance company is keeping the totaled vehicle, you may have the option to buy back the salvage from them to repair or use for parts. This allows you to potentially get more value than the insurance payout alone. Discuss this option with your insurance provider to determine if it makes financial sense in your situation.
In summary, act promptly by contacting your insurance company for a valuation and payout for your totaled vehicle in Texas. You must then decide whether to keep or surrender the vehicle, handle the necessary title and registration paperwork, and explore the possibility of buying back the salvage. Following these steps will help you navigate this difficult situation.
Should I Hire a Texas Car Accident Lawyer if My Car Is Totaled?
Should I Hire a Texas Car Accident Lawyer if My Car Is Totaled?
If your vehicle has been deemed a total loss after an accident in Texas, hiring an experienced car accident lawyer is advisable. A lawyer can help you recover the fair market value of your vehicle so you can replace it.
When a vehicle is totaled, the insurance company has determined the cost to repair it exceeds a certain percentage of its actual cash value (ACV), often around 75-80%. The ACV refers to what your specific vehicle in its current condition would sell for in the local private party market prior to your accident.
To determine a fair settlement for your totaled vehicle, a lawyer will examine factors like:
- Recent sales of comparable vehicles in your local market
- Your vehicle’s make, model, year, trim level, mileage, condition and optional features
- Any recent major repairs or reconditioning to establish its pre-accident value
- The base value of your vehicle according to industry valuation guides
Rather than accepting the insurance company’s initial offer, a lawyer can negotiate to recover the vehicle’s actual ACV so you receive fair compensation. This will allow you to purchase a comparable replacement vehicle. Without legal counsel, you could end up with an amount that does not fully cover what your vehicle was worth, leaving you without the means to buy another car.
While the total loss of your vehicle is distressing, a Texas car accident lawyer can handle the legal issues so you can focus on your recovery and moving forward. Their experience in valuing and negotiating fair settlements for totaled vehicles can help ensure you are adequately compensated. This compensation, combined with additional funds for your other accident-related losses, can help get you back on the road again with minimal financial hardship.
How a Texas Car Accident Lawyer Can Help if Your Car Is Totaled
If your vehicle has been declared a total loss after an accident in Texas, a car accident lawyer can help you through the process to recover fair compensation.
Determining If Your Vehicle Qualifies as a Total Loss
In Texas, if the cost to repair your vehicle exceeds its actual cash value, the insurance company will typically declare it a "total loss." They will pay you the vehicle's actual cash value rather than repairing it. An experienced car accident lawyer knows how to determine your vehicle's fair market value to ensure you receive proper compensation.
Negotiating With the Insurance Company
The insurance company will make an initial settlement offer, but it is often much less than the vehicle's actual worth. A skilled attorney can negotiate with the adjuster to recover the maximum settlement for your totaled vehicle. They will gather evidence like recent sales of comparable vehicles in your area to build a strong case for the fair value of your car.
Recovering Other Losses
Recovering the value of your totaled vehicle is just one aspect. An attorney can also help you seek compensation for other losses like a rental car, loss of use, towing and storage fees as well as the remaining balance on your vehicle loan. They can determine what additional costs you incurred as a direct result of your vehicle being totaled and negotiate to recover the maximum amount for your total loss.
Pursuing an Insurance Bad Faith Claim
If the insurance company improperly handles your claim or delays payment unreasonably, you may have grounds for a bad faith insurance claim. Your attorney can investigate whether the insurance company violated provisions of the Texas Insurance Code or your own policy and pursue additional damages on your behalf.
In summary, an experienced car accident lawyer can guide you through the complex process following a total loss accident. They have the knowledge and skills to negotiate a fair settlement, recover all losses you have incurred and hold the insurance company accountable if they act in bad faith. Speaking with an attorney is the best way to ensure you receive the maximum compensation following a total loss of your vehicle.
Call A Texas Car Accident Lawyer At Fletcher Law
If your vehicle has been deemed a total loss after an accident in Texas, yet is still operable, it’s best to call a car accident lawyer for guidance. An experienced attorney can help determine if the insurance company’s valuation is fair and ensure you receive the maximum compensation for your vehicle.
Consult an Attorney
Speaking with a car accident lawyer is prudent in this situation. They are well-versed in Texas insurance law and can evaluate if the insurer’s total loss settlement offer fully compensates you for the fair market value of your vehicle. If they determine the offer is too low, they will negotiate with the insurer on your behalf to increase the settlement amount. This helps guarantee you are not left with an undrivable vehicle and an unfair settlement.
Demand a Re-Inspection
In some cases, the insurance company’s initial total loss determination may be incorrect or premature. Your lawyer can demand a re-inspection of the vehicle by an independent appraiser to properly assess the extent of damage and determine if repairs are possible and cost-effective. If so, they will fight to have your claim reclassified as a repairable vehicle claim so you receive compensation for repairs instead of a total loss.
Pursue a “Total Loss Rebate”
Some insurance policies in Texas include a “total loss rebate” clause which provides additional compensation if your vehicle is declared a total loss within the first few years of ownership or after low mileage. Your attorney will review your specific policy details to see if you qualify for this added benefit, and if so, will pursue the maximum rebate amount permitted under your policy.
Claim Any Available Car Replacement Programs
In Texas, insurance companies offer optional coverage like “new car replacement” or “gap insurance” to help replace a new vehicle declared a total loss. If you paid for additional coverage, your lawyer will make sure the insurer fulfills their obligation to compensate you for the full replacement value of a new vehicle of the same make, model and features.
Calling an experienced car accident attorney is the smartest action you can take if your vehicle has been totaled in Texas but is still drivable. They have the knowledge and skills to challenge unfair total loss claims, maximize your settlement, and access all benefits and coverage you deserve under the law.
As you have seen, insurance companies are not always straightforward in how they handle claims, especially when a vehicle has been deemed a total loss. Just because an insurance adjuster says your vehicle cannot be repaired does not mean it is unfit to drive. You have rights as a policyholder, including the right to challenge a total loss valuation and decision. Do not feel pressured into accepting the first offer from the insurance company.
Consult with legal counsel to review the details of your specific policy and claim. An attorney experienced in dealing with insurance disputes can determine if the total loss was fairly and accurately assessed. They can also negotiate with the insurance company on your behalf to potentially increase the settlement amount, allowing you to get into a comparable replacement vehicle. You pay insurance premiums to be protected in the event of an accident—make sure you receive fair compensation when you need to file a claim. The injury lawyers at Fletcher Law are here to help.