What are the provisions for settling a dispute regarding valuation of a vehicle deemed a total loss, including rental car and second opinions?

My car was hit head on and deemed a total loss. The driver of the other vehicle was at fault and their carrier assumed liability. A rental car was provided pending valuation. I received an absurdly low settlement offer today along with written notice immediately terminating the rental car and refusing to pay storage charges. My carrier will perform a separate valuation to be completed within five days. I do not want to be forced into accepting the initial offer, yet the at fault carrier is forcing my hand by refusing to provide a rental or storage. What is my recourse?

Asked on July 1, 2009 under Accident Law, Utah


L.M., Member, California Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 11 years ago | Contributor

If your carrier is doing their own valuation on your car, I'm guessing you have collision coverage on your own policy.  Often it is best to deal with your own insurer if possible.  If you can settle with them, then they will "subrogate against" (make a legal demand for reimbursement from) the at-fault driver's insurer.  The benefit of dealing with your own insurer is that if you disagree on value, there is a provision built into your policy allowing for a neutral appraisal.  If you have rental car coverage on your own policy, you can utilize that, as well.  The other driver's insurance should be covering your rental and storage, but only for a "reasonable" period of time.  Since they have offered you a settlement (albeit a low one), they appear to feel that that time is over.  There isn't much you can do about that, but do keep track of your costs for rental and storage in case this winds up in court.  If you don't have collision coverage on your policy and you are stuck with the other insurer, provide them with documentation to support a higher value, such as Kelley Blue Book pages, ads from the paper and from used car dealers and the Internet for a car of the same year, make and model with similar equipment.  If you cannot agree, you can always sue the other driver for the value you believe it is along with your storage and rental charges in small claims court. The limit, however, in Utah is $10K.

B. B., Member, New Jersey Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 11 years ago | Contributor

Your best recourse is to have a lawyer deal with the insurance company.  He or she will be able to give you reliable advice about what to do next, based on the detailed facts of your case and the law of your state (I don't practice in Utah).  One place to look for an attorney is our website, http://attorneypages.com

In many states, an insurance company can be required to pay the other side's attorneys' fees, if they are found to have failed to deal in good faith.  That doesn't stop the low-ball offers;  sometimes, you need to have a lawyer get into the case on your side to get the insurance company to "reconsider."

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