Don’t Get Cheated out of Your Totalled Car, Three Hints.

When your car is damaged or destroyed in a motor vehicle collision that is not your fault, last thing you need is to get cheated on the replacement. The following information should help protect you from loss on your rental and your car.

Rule #1. At least half of what the other person’s insurance company tells won’t be true.


Accident victims are entitled to compensation for all losses caused by the auto accident. This includes “loss of use” of your car. This is measured by the value of the use of your vehicle, not something less. You can’t up grade to a luxury model unless you pay the value difference but the auto insurance company cannot force you to downgrade either. You are entitled to fair compensation for what you actually lose.

In each of these recent cases the insurance company’s insured negligently caused the total loss of the accident victim’s vehicle. In each case the auto accident victim was told that the auto insurer was responsible only for rental of a $25 per day sub-compact rather than the full sized vehicle that was destroyed. The car crash victim was told they had to pay to “upgrade” to the car they were entitled to! This is not true. If you encounter this type of tactic call an experienced Vancouver Washington personal injury and car crash attorney.

Total Loss Valuation

As personal injury attorneys we see a lot of tactics designed to minimize the amount a person injured in a car crash recovers. One tactic is using dealer pricing of trade in vehicles. The most common however are computerized valuations. These valuations do not actually value your car. They value a theoretical “average” car based on numerous vehicles that are allegedly for sale or have allegedly sold for specific prices.

In such a total loss valuation performed by the insurance company for the negligent driver I found the same significant “errors” had been used to downgrade the amount paid for the injured driver’s car. Comparison vehicles were misidentified as to year and options. Options the loss vehicle had were ignored. Further scrutiny of the valuation showed more serious deficiencies.

We requested copies of everything the negligent driver’s insurance company used to value the damaged vehicles. I then began making calls to the automobile dealers listed to make sure the comparison vehicles really are comparable. What I found made me question the entire total loss valuation process.

Hint: Demand the valuation documents, all of them.

You will get a report many pages long. There will be anywhere from a half dozen to a dozen or more “comparable” cars. The most obvious question is “Why do you need to “compare” 15 vehicles when you have 3 or 4 that are almost EXACTLY the same as my car?” The reason is that using a lot of “comparable sales” drags the average value down. This is particularly true because the computer program “devalues” the cars being used as “comparable” then devalues your car on the basis of the devalued cars. If you have an average or below average car, the system might be OK but if you have a newer car or one with low miles, your car will be under valued.

Hint: Do your own research into the value of your car, two very similar cars are a better measure of value than 15 mismatches.

On the valuation you will see the source of valuations reported. 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 the second case I learned that the vehicle had already been sold for more than the alleged “take price”. Check, auto trader and other sales sources.

Hint: Research the autos used to produce the valuation.

Review the “comparable” cars and look for “outliers”. These are cars that sold for way below what similar cars sold for. To drag the price down these “fire sale” cars are left in the appraisal. The alleged sale price is not adjusted up to reflect desperation sales or other factors. Only cars sold in a bona fide transaction should be counted. The definition is: ” an arms length transaction between a willing buyer who does not have to buy and a willing seller who does not have to sell.” Outliers have no business in the valuation process.

BONUS HINT: I often hear from people who have been told that the adjuster can’t consider comparable cars outside the valuation the insurance company came up with. That is not true. Ask to speak to a supervisor if this trick is pulled on you.

BONUS BONUS: The best comparable sale is your purchase of your car. If you recently purchased he car in a bona fide transaction that is as good a valuation as can be found, demand it be considered particularly if you improved the car after you bought it.

Valuation methods like “CCC” and “Autosource” rely on a valuation method that does not actually appraise your car. It appraises a mythical vehicle. If they really wanted to value your vehicle they would find two or three very similar vehicles, they would not search high and low for as many vehicles of the approximate year, make and model as they can, toss out those they think sold for too much and then run an average.