I tell every new client whose vehicle is totaled the same thing: “You will not be happy with the total loss value of your car.” It is true. When you add up your monthly payments, maintenance, subjective love of your car, and memories, no total loss value will do it justice.
For the most part, the companies that the insurers use to calculate the total loss value of vehicles are pretty accurate; not flawless, but relatively accurate. Nonetheless, I always review the total loss offer for my clients and try and get them a few extra dollars. This starts with going beyond the simple offer and obtaining a copy of the market report the insurer uses. The insurers don’t provide this to the claimant (that’s you) unless you ask. Most people don’t know how to read it anyway.
In reviewing the total loss report, the first thing I do is to make sure the insurer has the right year, make and model. It sounds obvious, but sometimes the insurer will mistakenly list your LE as a CE, or your 2009 model as a 2008. Next, I make sure they have listed all of the options; the insurer may forget to give you credit for fog lights, a sun roof, or an upgraded sound system. After that, I look at the “comps.” The insurers base their offers on how much other similar cars sell for you in your geographical area. I check the comps to make sure they have proper similar cars, but I also check to make sure they have the right geographical area. For example, if you live in Montgomery County, Maryland it is important to make sure that the total loss value is not based on Baltimore or Hagerstown pricing.
By following the above steps, you may sometimes increase the offer, but even with that, you won’t be happy with the offer. That is the simple truth of total loss value.
By Craig I. Meyers, Esq.