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Experiencing a car accident is stressful enough, but finding out that your vehicle has been declared a total loss can add another layer of anxiety. If you’re uncertain about your next steps, this guide is here to help. Below, we’ll address common questions and outline the actions you should take.

Understanding What ‘Totaled’ Means

When an insurance company deems your car “totaled,” it means that the cost to repair the vehicle is either close to or exceeds the car’s actual cash value (ACV). In some cases, insurers might choose to total the car even if the repair costs are slightly lower than the vehicle’s value. It’s essential to understand the criteria your insurance company uses to make this decision. You have the right to ask for the source they used to determine your car’s value.

How Insurance Companies Determine Total Loss

Insurance companies often consider a car totaled when the damage is more than a certain percentage of the car’s market value. While this percentage can vary by state, it’s generally around 75%. Factors influencing the car’s value include:

  • Age and mileage
  • Overall condition
  • Resale value
  • Prices of similar vehicles in your area

Can You Contest the Valuation?

If you feel that the insurance company has undervalued your car, you can negotiate. Here’s how:

  • Gather quotes from local used car dealers.
  • Check online listings and local ads for similar vehicles.
  • Provide documentation of any special features or custom parts on your car.

Can You Keep and Repair Your Totaled Car?

Yes, you can choose to keep your totaled car, but it comes with obligations and potential drawbacks. Notify your insurance company as soon as possible if you want to retain the vehicle. The insurance payout will be reduced by the car’s salvage value—the amount the insurer expected to get by selling it to a salvage yard.

Getting a Salvage Title

After repairs, a car that was previously issued a salvage title needs a new title from the Texas Department of Motor Vehicles. Keep in mind that a vehicle with a history of a salvage title might be more challenging to sell or insure in the future.

Filing a Lawsuit: Is It an Option?

In cases where another driver’s negligence or reckless driving caused your accident, you might wonder if you can sue to recover damages. This is indeed an option, and you could potentially recover various damages including:

  • Lost wages
  • Medical expenses
  • Pain and suffering
  • Emotional trauma

Steps to Take After Your Car Is Totaled

  1. File an Insurance Claim Immediately
    • Contact both your insurer and the at-fault driver’s insurance company.
    • Tow your car to a repair shop approved by your insurer to expedite the claim process.
  2. Determine Your Car’s Market Value
    • Use resources like Kelley Blue Book and local dealer quotes to ascertain your vehicle’s true worth.
  3. Check Your Car Loan Agreement
    • Your insurance will first pay off any remaining loan on the vehicle. If the settlement is less than what you owe, you will need to cover the difference.
  4. Contact a Car Accident Attorney
    • If the accident was not your fault, consider seeking legal advice to explore your options for suing the responsible party.

When Another Driver Is to Blame

According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), most car accidents are due to driver error or negligence. Factors could include:

  • Driving Under the Influence
  • Speeding
  • Distracted Driving
  • Ignoring Traffic Signals

If you believe another driver’s actions led to your totaled car and any associated injuries, you shouldn’t bear the financial burden alone. Legal recourse is available, and a competent car accident attorney can guide you through the process.

Potential Damages in a Lawsuit

If you were injured in the accident, you might qualify for compensation beyond the value of your car. These damages could include:

  • Replacement or repair of other property
  • Healthcare expenses
  • Cost of a rental car
  • Lost earnings
  • Reduced life enjoyment


Having your car totaled can be an overwhelming experience, but knowing your rights and options can alleviate some of the stress. Whether you’re negotiating with your insurance company or considering legal action against the at-fault driver, being well-informed is crucial. For personalized advice and legal assistance, don’t hesitate to contact the experienced attorneys at Joe I. Zaid & Associates.

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