If you have paid off your car, it is natural to want to repair and keep using your vehicle after its been involved in a car accident; after all, it is very nice to not have a car payment. Or maybe your car was passed down to you by a family member or loved one, or perhaps you just really like your car. Even when an accident is severe and the vehicle heavily damaged, shopping for a new car is a pain, and often ends up draining your wallet, so trying to avoid having to get a new car after you’ve been hit by somebody else may be a priority. You’ve told the insurance company that you want your car repaired, but they are saying that they have to fix your car. Is this correct, or is the insurance company just trying to scare you?

Truth regarding your car accident can be difficult to find without talking to a personal injury attorney.  If you live in the Carolinas and find yourself in a situation like the one described above, calling a lawyer that specializes in car accidents is a great call. However, if you have not had time to talk to an attorney yet, then this guide will be quite helpful.

Let’s start by looking into the insurance company’s claim that they do not have to repair your vehicle. Is this accurate? Unfortunately the answer is yes…in certain situations. If your vehicle is deemed a “total loss,” then the insurance company is not required to repair your vehicle. So what is a “total loss” exactly?

We find our answer in Title 11 of the North Carolina Administrative Codes. 11 NCAC 04 .0418 (5) states that:

“When a motor vehicle is damaged in an amount which, inclusive of original and supplemental claims, equals or exceeds 75 percent of the pre-accident actual cash value, as such value is determined in accordance with this Rule, an insurance carrier shall “total loss” the automobile by paying the claimant the pre-accident value, and in return, receiving possession of the legal title of the salvage of said automobile.”

There are several items to unpack here. First we have the “75%” rule. If the cost of repairing your vehicle equals or exceeds 75% of the vehicle’s pre-accident fair market value, then the insurance company shall (i.e. must) total your vehicle. This means that neither the insurance company nor the claimant have a choice in whether or not the car is totaled – if the repairs are going to cost 75% or more of the car’s value, then the vehicle is totaled.

An example of where this can become tricky is when the vehicle at first appears repairable. Let’s say you are driving an older vehicle, perhaps something worth $4,000.00. Repairing a vehicle is expensive, so it does not take that much to hit $3,000.00 in repairs. The vehicle may be driving just fine, but if both bumpers need to be replaced then this older vehicle will probably be totaled, despite the fact that it is working just fine.

Now what if the repairs on the vehicle have already begun, and all of a sudden the insurance company is telling you the car is totaled? How is that fair? Unfortunately, the NCAC states that the vehicle is totaled if the 75% limit is reached by the initial estimate or at any time during the repair process.

 Just because a vehicle is totaled doesn’t mean the insurance company is off the hook completely. Instead of repairing the vehicle, the insurance company must pay you the pre-accident value of your vehicle. This is where having an attorney that specializes in car accidents really pays off. If you think you are being offered less than you car’s value, an experienced personal injury lawyer can go to bat for you and make sure your rights are being protected. However, not all attorneys handle total loss claims. If you are running into trouble with the insurance company, or just want to make sure you are getting treated fairly, call the Law Offices of Brian deBrun at 704-405-5505. With over 50 years of combined experience, Brian deBrun and his associates have what it takes to maximize the value of your total loss claim.