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The Law Offices of William K. Goldfarb is a full service personal injury firm. We handle all aspects of personal injury claims, including property damage. In fact, most of the property damage that our office handles is done free of charge as a courtesy to our clients that come to us seeking assistance with their personal injury claim.

Over the years we have noticed that a vast majority of our clients are unaware of their rights when it comes to property damage. In an effort to help educate people about their rights, our firm has endeavored to start a series of blog posts related to the topic of property damage, entitled “Property Damage…Who Knew?”

You can argue the value of your vehicle with comparables.

Last month we discussed your right, as an injured driver to choose the auto body repair shop your vehicle will be repaired at. This month, we are going to discuss what happens if your vehicle is totaled.

The common term, “totaled” comes from a term of art used in the insurance industry referred to as a “total loss.” A total loss is when your vehicle has been damaged beyond the point of safe repair or when the total costs of the repairs exceeds 70-80% of the total value of your vehicle.

It is important to note that each insurance company has a different threshold for the amount of damages that constitutes a total loss, which is why the range varies from approximately 70-80% of the vehicles total value. In addition to the percentage of the repair bill compared to the value of the vehicle, the are several other factors which insurance companies consider when declaring a vehicle a total loss, such as; the tow bill, storage bill, rental bill, loss of use, tax/ tag/ title fees, and loss of personal property.

Often times an insurance adjuster for the at-fault driver will inform you as an injured person that your vehicle has been declared a total loss, this means that the insurance company has totaled your vehicle. In most cases, the adjuster will make you an offer on your vehicle that he or she says is fair and insists that you accept the offer immediately.  Remember, the insurance adjuster is NOT your friend, in fact they are just the opposite, they work for the people who injured you and are trying to pay you as little as possible for your damaged vehicle.

You do not have to accept the insurance adjuster’s offer. You have the right to argue the value of your vehicle based on what are known in the insurance industry as “comparables.” A comparable vehicle is a vehicle that is similar to your damaged vehicle in every way including location.

If you choose to argue the value of your vehicle based on comparables, your comparable vehicles should be the same make, model, year, mileage, and condition as your own damaged vehicle before the collision.

Use comparative vehicles as a tool to argue with the insurance adjuster to make sure you are getting a fair market value for your vehicle and not just one that the insurance adjuster feels is fair. Once you and the insurance adjuster have agreed on the fair market value for your vehicle, be sure to additionally ask for loss of use (if you did not have a rental vehicle), tax/ tag/ title fees and loss of personal property (if any).

What is an independent appraiser?

Should you not be able to come to an agreement on a fair market price for your vehicle using comparables, there is always one more option you have at your disposal as an injured party. That option is an independent appraiser.

An independent appraiser is an expert in the value and evaluation of personal property such as vehicles. If you decide that you want to employ an independent appraiser, you will have to bear the cost of his or her services, which can range from $100-200 an hour for a report. There is no guarantee that your independent appraisal will be for more than the adjuster’s offer, but often times if the adjuster is being unreasonable, an independent appraiser and the report they generate is the only way to ensure that you are getting a fair price for your vehicle.

Much like comparable vehicles, the report of an independent appraiser can be used to argue your position on your vehicle’s value with the insurance adjuster. One of the perks of employing an independent appraiser is that they are considered experts on the value of your vehicle by our court system. This means that should your property damage have to be settled as part of your personal injury litigation (Court Case), the independent appraiser’s report can be used as evidence as to the value of your vehicle.

Next month we will discuss what happens should you wish to keep your totaled vehicle.

If you have been injured in a collision as a result of the carelessness of another, and need more information about your rights as an injured person, please do not hesitate to contact The Law Offices William K. Goldfarb and speak with a qualified legal representative today.

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