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Car accidents happen daily, and many people feel particularly vulnerable, destabilized, and anxious after being involved in one. It can be stressful enough when it’s your fault, especially when your car is totaled. Not at fault? Well, those can be even worse, since another person’s actions are causing you hardship.
As we’ll explore below, different states have different rules for determining and dealing with fault in accidents–some states use an at-fault system, while others use a no-fault system. This can be incredibly confusing while navigating the aftermath of an accident.
The last thing you need to worry about following a frightening collision is whether your car insurance will cover both a totaled car and any damages or injuries from the crash. So, if you’ve been wondering what happens if someone totals your car, this five-step guide will help explain the process in car totaled, not at fault situations, and how best to protect yourself and maximize any compensation.
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1. Determine If You’re In An At-Fault Or No-Fault State
Car accident law is complicated, because some states use fault as a factor to determine whether drivers should be fully, partly, or not at all compensated for sustained injuries. In most states, one party is usually considered “at fault” for the collision and thus required to cover the cost of the other driver’s injuries and damages.
Some states use a “no-fault” system, where each driver’s medical bills are covered by each individual’s “personal injury protection” (PIP) coverage instead of the at-fault driver’s insurance. There are currently 12 no-fault states:
- New Jersey
- New York
- North Dakota
Of these 12, three are “choice no-fault” states (Kentucky, New Jersey, and Pennsylvania), meaning drivers are provided the option of either carrying no-fault insurance or participating in the more-common liability system.
2. Prepare For The Insurance Adjuster
An insurance adjuster will assess the specifics of the accident and determine damages. This can be an intimidating process, but in these “car totaled, not at fault” situations, your primary objective is telling the truth and remaining calm.
There is no reason to get into excessive detail with the adjusters. If they ask about any injuries, you may want to wait before disclosing too much information, as some injuries won’t appear until later on.
3. Tips To Determine If Your Car Is Totaled
Being totaled following a collision means your car is a total loss. The insurance adjuster will determine the value of your car. They will consider the car’s “actual cash value,” which they’ll calculate based on factors like your car’s make and model, age, condition, any enhancements, and mileage. Then they’ll examine the “salvage value” to determine if parts of the car, like the tires or engine, are still usable and have resale potential.
Next, the adjuster will determine an estimate for the repair cost of your vehicle. If the repair cost combined with the salvage value is higher than the actual cash value, the car will most likely be considered totaled.
If your car is totaled and you’re not at fault, you’ll want to ensure that your adjuster’s estimation is fair by conducting research to determine your car’s value before the accident.
4. File Your Insurance Claim
If your car was totaled but you’re not at fault, your first step should be contacting your insurance company immediately following the accident. Your insurer may even require this in their policy. After you initiate contact, your insurer will go through your coverage details to help you pursue the damages to which you’re entitled.
In a no-fault state, your PIP policy will be the one paying out your damages, so you should let them know right away.
In an at-fault state, you may be filing a third-party claim against the other driver’s insurance. Your insurer can help walk you through this process. Before parting ways, ensure you obtain the other driver’s:
- Full name
- Contact information
- Insurance company, and policy information
5. Negotiate A Higher Settlement Offer
At times, insurance companies have been known to try and settle for the lowest monetary sum possible. You are not obligated to accept the first offer if you feel it is inadequate. You can try to negotiate for a higher settlement in a car totaled, not at fault accident.
If your claim seems low, ask the insurance adjuster to walk you through the offer and how they arrived at the sum. While negotiating, you may want to focus on the emotional aspects of the incident, including the fact that you were not at fault. Ultimately, you may be able to secure a higher sum.
What To Do If You Need Expert Legal Assistance
If you feel you aren’t being treated fairly by the insurance company for the car totaled, not at fault accident, you have the option of hiring an attorney to help you navigate the situation. An experienced attorney can assist you both in dealing with insurance adjusters, and getting you the compensation you’re owed.
Legal Disclaimer: This article contains general legal information but does not constitute professional legal advice for your particular situation and should not be interpreted as creating an attorney-client relationship. If you have legal questions, you should seek the advice of an attorney licensed in your jurisdiction.