If another motorist collided into and totaled your vehicle, in most cases, that driver’s auto insurance company will offer you a settlement for a total loss.
How much might you be offered in such circumstances? What if you are still paying for the automobile that was totaled?
And what if you are seriously injured in such a collision? Do you have legal recourse in the state of Texas?
At the start, it’s important to distinguish between accidents with and without injuries.
If you are injured by a negligent driver on any Texas street or highway, notify your insurance company that you’ve been in an accident, but do not make any statement, sign any insurance document, or accept any settlement offer before you’ve consulted an experienced San Antonio personal injury attorney.
Your health and well-being are too important to risk.
On the other hand, if you were not injured, but your vehicle was damaged or totaled, there’s no reason why you shouldn’t negotiate a settlement directly with the insurance company, provided that you’re up to the task.
What will you be offered for a totaled vehicle?
It may be less than you think, especially if you’re still paying for the vehicle.
If you have to refuse the first settlement offer and negotiate for something better, keep reading for some useful suggestions.
WHAT IS AN AUTO INSURANCE COMPANY’S OBLIGATION?
Automobile insurance companies are obliged to compensate you for the value of the vehicle you lost, but only for the vehicle’s actual market value at the time of the accident.
An auto insurance company is not obligated to replace your vehicle or cover the amount that’s still outstanding on a car loan.
How does an insurance company determine that a vehicle is a total loss?
In Texas, when repairs to a vehicle will cost more than that vehicle is worth, it’s considered a total loss.
After an accident that totals your vehicle, an insurance adjuster will set a value on the vehicle based on its condition immediately prior to the crash.
A “claims adjuster” is the insurance company representative who identifies precisely which damages a policy covers and negotiates with claimants regarding a settlement amount.
How does a claims adjuster determine the value of a totaled vehicle?
Time and usage cause every vehicle to depreciate.
A claims adjuster will give substantial weight to a vehicle’s age and mileage, but an adjuster will also consider a vehicle’s maintenance history, repairs, and part replacements.
New tires will boost a vehicle’s value, but a previous accident, for example, will reduce that value.
A claims adjuster arrives at a figure based on the information he or she has, and then the adjuster will make an initial settlement offer.
WHAT DOES IT MEAN WHEN YOU ACCEPT A SETTLEMENT OFFER?
If you believe that the initial settlement offer is fair and sufficient, accept it.
When the first offer is fair and sufficient, it’s probably the only settlement offer the insurance company will make.
Remember – and this is important – that when you agree to and sign a settlement offer from an auto insurance company, you are also signing away your right to bring any future legal action regarding the accident or the settlement amount.
However, if you have evidence that would justify a higher settlement figure, make a counteroffer and share your evidence with the adjuster.
That evidence might include photos of the vehicle prior to the crash, receipts for repairs and improvements, and appraisals from other adjusters or appraisers.
If your evidence proves that the vehicle was worth more than the first amount offered, an adjuster can show the evidence to his or her manager to authorize a better settlement.
Your negotiations may have to go back-and-forth several times before you and the insurance company are able to agree on a final settlement figure.
Remember that the adjuster makes no final decisions – he or she is essentially a spokesperson for the insurance company, answerable to senior adjusters and company managers.
WHAT CAN YOU DO WHEN AN INSURANCE COMPANY WON’T HELP?
Most auto insurance companies are managed by honest professionals who are dedicated to meeting their obligations and to paying off claims quickly and fairly.
When an insurance company operates in good faith, evidence that a vehicle is worth more than the company’s first settlement offer will usually generate a second and more reasonable offer, but if you are being treated unfairly or unjustly, you may have to sue the insurance company in civil court.
Do not let an auto insurance company treat you unjustly.
If the company delays, evades you, or fails to negotiate in good faith, you have options.
In the most extreme cases, you may have grounds to bring a bad faith claim against an auto insurance company that fails to meet its legal responsibility.
In such cases, let an experienced San Antonio personal injury attorney review the particulars of your case and offer you sound legal advice regarding the best way to proceed.
We’ve focused here on vehicle damages in accidents with no injuries.
As mentioned previously, there’s no reason why you shouldn’t negotiate directly with the insurance company in these circumstances.
However, if you are injured in an accident because the other driver was negligent, it’s a completely different situation.
You’ll need to take your case at once to an experienced San Antonio personal injury attorney.
HOW CAN A SAN ANTONIO PERSONAL INJURY ATTORNEY HELP?
In the state of Texas, the injured victims of negligent drivers are entitled by law to compensation for their medical expenses, lost wages, and all other accident-and-injury-related losses and damages.
Again, if you’ve been injured, don’t make any statement to an insurance company, and don’t accept the first settlement offer.
Your personal injury attorney is a trained and experienced negotiator who routinely represents injury victims in negotiations with insurance companies.
If the insurance company does not offer you a reasonable settlement amount, your personal injury lawyer may recommend filing a personal injury lawsuit and taking the insurance company to court.
If that happens, do not be intimidated by courts or by courtroom procedures. They exist to protect your rights.
Your lawyer will explain the procedure and answer all of your questions.
If you’ve been injured by negligence in Texas, the law is on your side.