What happens after your car gets totaled

What does "totaled" mean?

If you've been in an auto accident and your car is totaled (also called total loss), it means your car isn't repairable, or it costs more to repair than what it's worth.

What the insurer owes you for your totaled car

The insurer owes you the actual cash value (retail market value) of your totaled car. If you and the insurer can't agree on the method to come up with the retail market value, the insurer must follow the total loss rules outlined in state regulations (leg.wa.gov). These rules allow the insurer to choose one or more of the following methods to determine the value of your car:

  1. Offer to replace your car with an available and comparable car (leg.wa.gov) in your local area.
  2. Offer you a cash settlement based on the actual cash value of comparable cars in your local area.
  3. If you and the insurer agree, the insurer may use other appraisal methods, such as independent auto-value guides (Kelley Blue Book, NADA, etc.).

If your insurer can't find comparable cars in the area where you normally park your car, it may expand the search in 25-mile increments until it finds two or more comparable cars. With your permission, it may extend the search beyond 150 miles.

The insurer must add to the actual cash value any applicable taxes, license fees and other fees required to transfer ownership.

To find out if the amount the insurer offers you is a reasonable estimate of the retail market value, ask the insurer for a “total loss valuation report.” This report shows the comparable auto data the insurer used to calculate your vehicle’s value. Insurers aren’t required to provide it without being asked, so be sure you request a copy.

When you and the insurer disagree on your car's value

You and your insurer

If you and your insurer can't agree on your car's value you have the right to hire an appraiser via the appraisal provision in your auto policy. This provision allows you and the company to each hire appraisers.

You and the other person's insurer

  • If the other person's at fault and you can't agree with his or her insurer on the value of your car, and you have your own collision coverage, you can use it to file a claim with your own insurer. Your insurer will then pay you for the loss of your totaled car.
  • Your insurer is then free to pursue the at-fault driver for reimbursement, including any deductible you paid.
  • If you don't have collision coverage, you have the right to seek legal advice.

What happens if you keep your totaled car

If you have questions about what happens next with your totaled car, contact the:

Washington state Department of Licensing (www.dol.wa.gov)
Title and Registration Services
Customer Service Unit

See also

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