When your car or truck is so badly damaged that it may be more expensive to make the repairs than what the vehicle is worth, an insurance company will deem the vehicle a “total loss.” This is commonly referred to as a vehicle being “totaled.” But how are you to know if the value being used by the insurance company is an accurate value? Your vehicle may be worth a lot more than the value assigned to it by an insurance adjuster, such that the value of your vehicle is greater than the cost of repairs, in which case you could make a case that your vehicle should be repaired instead of totaled.
After a car accident, one of the first things that your car accident lawyer will recommend is that you obtain an estimate for repairs for your vehicle from an automobile body shop. This estimate can then be compared against the estimate for repairs created by the insurance field adjuster that works for the insurance company. There may be mistakes in the field adjuster's estimate, or your body shop may be able to do the repairs for less and without compromising quality or workmanship.
An estimate helps you keep your car or truck in the case of a total loss. For example, an insurance field adjuster may hastily write up an estimate for repairs listing total needed repairs for your car that cost $11,000. If the replacement value of your car is only $10,000, the insurance company will deem your car a total loss and will refuse to pay for repairs. If you have a car loan with a balance of $10,000, or more, you will end up without a car, since the $10,000 replacement value would be paid to your car loan lender. If you can obtain a fair and accurate estimate to repair your car for less than $10,000, then you could make a strong case for having your car repaired and not totaled. This will give you the best chance of making sure that you have a car to drive.
The analysis is not quite as simple as in the previous example. There are other factors to consider, such as the possibility that the estimate for repairs may (and often does) increase once the vehicle is taken apart to begin the necessary repairs. Also, if your car is totaled and you receiving the replacement value, the insurance company would then sell your car for the salvage value and retain the amount received as salvage value. For these and other reasons, the industry standard is to use a 70% rule. In the example discussed above involving a $10,000 car, you would need to obtain an estimate for total repairs that cost $7,000 (70% of $10,000) in order to be relatively certain that your car or truck will be repaired.