After The Car Crash – When Your Vehicle is Totalled?

When you are injured in an automobile collision the last thing you need is to be cheated on your property damage and loss of use. Here are some hints on protecting your pocket book.


When I first wrote this post I knew of two cases in which consumers were deliberately cheated on their loss of use. I have now heard of many indicating this is a wide spread practice not limited to a single company.

In all cases State Farm is the guilty party. In each the injured party was told that State Farm was responsible only for rental of a sub-compact car rather than the full sized vehicle that was damaged.

That representation is false. “Loss of use” means loss of use of your vehicle, not something different. You can’t up grade to a luxury model unless you pay the value difference but they cannot force you to downgrade unless they agree to pay you the value difference. Demand a car of equal quality and complain to the Office of the Insurance Commissioner if they refuse.


Undervaluation of total loss cars is a chronic problem. Most companies use services that don’t actually value your vehicle. Instead they use adjusted values for a bunch of vehicles somewhat like yours to arrive at a mystical average. If you drive a beater this can actually work in your favor. If you take good care of your car or own a rare vehicle you will get a raw deal.

We request copies of everything the insurance company uses to value the damaged vehicles. I then begin making calls to the sellers and dealers listed to make sure the comparison vehicles really are comparable.

In most instances a review of the valuation disclosed significant “errors”. Comparison vehicles are often misrepresented as to year and options. Options on the loss vehicle are then ignored. Further scrutiny of the valuations often reveals more serious deficiencies.

Telephone calls to the dealers who had allegedly quoted “take prices” produced interesting results. In one case the person quoted had no authority to set a price, he could only convey offers. In another I learned that the vehicle had been sold for more than the alleged “take price”.

We also review the comparison cars and look for “outliers”. These are cars that sold for way below what similar cars sold for. I recently called the listed seller on one of these vehicles and discovered the sale was a desperation sale as the owner was dying of cancer, could not use the car, and badly needed some money. That is anything but the type of bona fide sales transaction that is supposed to be used.