Tag Archives: car accident

What Makes a Car Totaled After a Wreck?

When most people picture a totaled car, they picture a car crunched like an accordion or a car that is in pieces all over the road. While a car in this condition is undoubtedly totaled, a car that appears to have minor damage may also be declared totaled as well.

How is that possible?

Well, whether or not your car is totaled has a lot to do with the value of your car. Basically, if it will cost the insurance company more to repair your car than it would to replace it, then they will declare your car a total loss. A lot of times a car can look like there is no way it could be totaled, but when repairs start to take place, unseen damage can be found in the engine that can quickly make the repair costs add up. In most cases, if the repairs equal 70-75% of the car’s value, it will be declared a total loss.

Even if your car has a high value, it may still be considered totaled if the damage that occurred cannot be repaired to a safe state. In fact, some states even require that a car be totaled if the amount of repairs reaches a certain threshold.

Sweet, so then the insurance company will replace my car?

If only it were that easy. Insurance companies are actually only required to pay you the actual cash value of the car, which they get to determine. They will look at what similar cars are selling for in your area, as well as sources like Kelley Blue Book. But if your car has unusually high mileage or any pre-existing damage, you can expect your settlement amount to be even less.

Whether this is good or bad for you depends on your financial status with the car. If the car is paid off and you were considering getting a new car anyway, getting your car totaled can be a blessing in disguise. However, if you still owe on your car, the insurance company will only pay what they consider the actual value of the car, not the amount you owe. Yes, that means you may have to keep making car payments on a car that is no longer drivable.

Do I have any other options?

Actually, yes. If for financial or sentimental reasons you would rather keep your car, then that is an option as well. Insurance companies sell totaled cars to salvage companies, so they may as well sell it to you instead. In that case, the insurance company will deduct an agreed upon salvage amount from your settlement payment. However, keeping a totaled car is risky business. After all, it was declared totaled for a reason.

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How to Handle a Wreck when the Other Driver Does Not Have Insurance

After the realization has set in that you have just got in a car accident, you may experience many emotions. You may experience pain, worry, and confusion. You may even feel some relief if you know that you were not at fault for the accident. At least you won’t have to worry about using your insurance coverage or paying for the damages. Whew!

But wait…what if the other person doesn’t have insurance?

Of course they have insurance, right? It is the law, after all. That is true, but that does not mean everyone follows this regulation. In fact, according to the Insurance Research Council, as many as 1 in 7 drivers do not carry the insurance required by law. That means that if you get in a car accident, there is a 14% chance that the person that hits you will not have insurance.

What does that mean for me?

Well, unless you are extremely lucky it means that you are going to have a hard time getting your medical bills or car damage paid for. That is because most people that do not have insurance do not have very many personal assets. Even if they actually have enough money to pay you, are they accountable and responsible enough to actually follow through? Considering they are already breaking the law by not having insurance in the first place, probably not.

Can’t I take legal action?

Yes, hiring a lawyer to get your expenses paid for is always an option. However, even if you win, that does not guarantee payment. Some states will garnish wages to pay for lawsuits, but oftentimes you are responsible for collecting the payment yourself. Not to mention, there is a chance that you could lose. In that case, you will end up with legal fees to pay as well.

So I am just tough out of luck?

Unfortunately, yes. That is, unless you were smart enough to add uninsured and underinsured motorist coverage to your insurance before you got in the accident. This is the best way to ensure that you will be covered in an auto accident no matter what. The coverage only costs about 10 extra bucks a month and covers medical payments, car damages, and even wages lost in the event of a no-fault accident where the other driver does not have insurance. Plus, isn’t peace of mind priceless?

What To Do If You Are In An Accident

Bad things can happen, even to the safest of drivers. For this reason, it’s a good idea for everyone, particularly young drivers, to know exactly what to do should they experience an accident. First of all, be prepared. Some things that may be useful to have in your car:

  • Your cell phone
  • A camera (if your phone doesn’t have a camera, you can always carry a disposable one in your glove compartment.)
  • A card with a summary of any pertinent medical information, such as allergies or chronic conditions, in case you are injured and unconscious.
  • Contact numbers for local and state police
  • Cones, warning triangles or emergency flares
  • Your insurance ID card and your car’s registration

First, don’t panic! Check to see if anyone is injured and, if so, call 911 for medical help immediately. Make sure that everyone knows not to leave the scene of the accident, as this can be construed as a hit-and-run even if that is not the drivers’ intention. If you do call 911, be provide the dispatcher with your name and contact number, a description of the accident and any injured parties, and the details of your location; make sure to stay on the line until the dispatcher lets you know it’s okay to hang up.

Then, get all cars off the road, if possible. If you cannot get a car off the road, have drivers and passengers remain in the car with doors closed until emergency help arrives. Once you have moved the car to a safe place, then raise your hood and turn on your emergency flashers to make your car more visible. Use cones, triangles, and flares to further heighten your visibility. Have all drivers and passengers move away from the cars to a safe location. Next, contact the police. Depending on the severity and location of the accident, they may or may not send an officer to the scene.

Once you have assured everyone’s safety, then take the time to exchange contact information for each car. You will need the name, phone number, and address of both the DRIVER and the OWNER of the car; if someone other than owner is driving, make sure to get both sets of details and to establish the relationship between the driver and the insurance policy holder. You will also need to exchange insurance company names and policy numbers and driver’s license numbers and license plate numbers. If there is a police officer present, make sure to also get his name and the police report number.

Next, take the time to document the accident, if possible. Take pictures of damage done to the cars and the accident scene. Make sure to cover the full extent of the damage done to your vehicle, so that you can later support any insurance claims. Write down a description of each car—the year, model, and make—and the damage done to both vehicles. Once you get home, write a brief description of how the accident happened and what ensued. While this may seem like the farthest thing from your mind at the time, your memories of the event will be fresher immediately after the accident. It can often be particularly difficult to remember traumatic events a few days or weeks later. If you notice any witnesses, see if they are willing to offer their contact details.

If a police officer is not present at the accident scene, then you should consider filing an accident report, as this could assist with the insurance claims process. You can find the appropriate forms at your local police station and/or on your state’s Department of Motor Vehicles website.

Throughout this process, try to remain calm, cooperative and polite in your interactions with others. However, be careful not to state to others or to police officers that the accident was your fault, as this could later be used against you in an insurance claim. Even if you feel that you are at fault in the accident, remember that there may be other factors involved that you aren’t aware of; instead, leave judgments about fault to the police.

After you’ve safely returned home, promptly report the accident to your insurance company. While you may be reluctant to do this, fearing a rise in premiums, the situation could end up being worse if the other driver claims and you do not. For example, the other party could claim for damages that weren’t apparent to you at the scene or may have a story about the accident that differs from your version. Even if you live in a “no fault” state, i.e. insurers will pay for expenses incurred regardless of fault; the other party’s insurance company can still seek payment from your insurer if it appears that you were at fault. For these reasons, it’s important to make sure that your insurer knows your side of the story up front.

This may also be a good opportunity to review your insurance policy, in order to determine what is covered and what is not. I’ll cover this in greater detail in a later entry, however.

Finally, make sure to take care of yourself! The adrenaline in your body after a crash may mask injuries that aren’t readily apparent. If you notice any unusual symptoms in the hours and days after the accident, particularly dizziness, ringing in the ears, disorientation or nausea; head injuries in particular can often go diagnosed.

Of course, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. Practice defensive driving so that you don’t end up in this kind of situation; however, if you are in an accident, being prepared and knowing how to handle the situation will help to minimize the trauma, damage, and cost of the accident.

To read more on a broad range of subjects from “How To Change A Tire” to “How To Jumpstart Your Car”, visit DefensiveDriving.com’s Safe Driver Resources website!

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