When your car or motorcycle is so severely damaged in an accident that it would cost more to repair it than to pay you to purchase another one, it will be declared a total loss, which is commonly referred to as totaled. Once your vehicle is determined to be totaled, the issue becomes valuation: what is your vehicle worth? Your car or motorcycle needs to be properly valued so that you are paid a fair and equitable sum for your destroyed property. This typically happens at the very outset of your personal injury case since your vehicle’s value can be determined immediately. This is in contrast to assessment of your personal injury case which requires for some time to pass to see how your injury develops and you well you heal.
Process for Valuation of Totaled Car or Motorcycle Accident
If your vehicle has been destroyed in an accident, chances are that you have a strong opinion as to its valuation. You may have taken excellent care of your vehicle, regularly doing all recommended maintenance, being careful when you go over bumps, avoiding potholes, parking it in a garage, warming it up on cold days, and otherwise taking care to ensure that it provides you with many years of reliable transportation. The insurance companies or third-party vendors they use to value your car or motorcycle won’t have a gauge by which to measure the extraordinary care that you taken to maintain your vehicle. They will reach a value by looking to comparable vehicles for sale in your community, without regard to all the years of attention you have given to protecting your vehicle. There may not be a vehicle like yours selling for the same price that has been pampered the way you looked after your car or bike. But if your lawyer understands the process, he or she can maximize the payment you receive.
Determination of Total Loss
The process for valuation of a totaled car or motorcycle begins with assessing the damages. The car or bike is taken to a shop. The shop writes up an estimate. The insurance company then compares the estimate to the value of the car or bike and calculates whether it would cost them less to repair your vehicle or to declare your vehicle a total loss and pay you to buy a new one. If it is deemed a total loss, also known as totaled, then the file is assigned to a valuation department.
Valuation of a Car
Valuation of a car is relatively straightforward. The file is assigned to a total loss adjuster, who determines the value by looking at comparable vehicles for sale in your area. Most insurance companies use a third-party valuation company who is in the business of doing vehicle valuations. These companies typically employ the same process. They find at least three comparable vehicles being sold at dealer lots and the prices, up or down, to account for the mileage and condition of your vehicle. If you have any customization or aftermarket partes on your vehicle, it is imperative that you inform your car accident lawyer so he or she can provide appropriate documentation to the person in charge of valuation so that they can properly compensate you.
Valuation of a Motorcycle
Valuation of a motorcycle is more complex. With motorcycles, there may not be three comparable bikes in your area that can be used for valuation. There are far fewer motorcycles for sale than cars. Unless you have a very common bike, chances are there won’t be many comparable bikes and actually there may not be any. For this reasons, most insurance companies hire third party appraisers who specialize in valuation of motorcycles. These appraisers may use comparable bikes from outside your area, or they may use similar bikes that are not the exact same model year as yours, or they may use a different model bike of the same year and adjust value. The important thing is that you and your motorcycle accident lawyer communicate with the appraiser and make sure you are getting the fair value payment for your bike.
Also, motorcycles frequently have thousands of dollars of customizations and accessories which truly make your bike unique. The value of aftermarket parks may be as much as half of the value of your bike. The point is that they can have a huge impact on value and your motorcycle lawyer needs to prepare a detailed list of accessories with supporting documentation to ensure you receive fair compensation and are able to buy the same motorcycle with the same customizations that you had on your bike that was totaled.
Taxes, Title, and License Fees
Once the value of your vehicle is reached, including aftermarket parts, an experienced lawyer will ensure that be sure to request payment of taxes, title, and license fees that you will have to pay when buying your new bike. You are entitled to this payment in order to be made whole.