Can 2 insurance companies combine their costs of repair for my car to claim my car totaled?

UPDATED: Oct 1, 2022

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Can 2 insurance companies combine their costs of repair for my car to claim my car totaled?

I was rear-ended twice in a week. The first accident left a little crack in my bumper and left it a little bit loose. The second accident caused more damage than the first one. It created a huge crack where the little crack was, half of the bumper is hanging off the body, the tail light is cracked, the rear quarter panel is dented and there might be some internal damage close to the rear bumper. Due to the first accident, the damage by the second accident was maximized. Therefore, I believe that insurance company for the first accident is responsible for whatever the bumper damage the first accident caused to my car although my car looks worse than how it looked like after the first accident at the moment. My car is 1995 Honda Civic and the value of the car will probably be 1500 which they might try to claim that it is a total loss. I do not want my car to be totaled because it is not fair that I’m going to lose my car when I was driving very carefully and following all the laws and rules and my car is perfectly drivable and the cost to fix my car will probably be around $1,500. However, if the first accident did not happen the damage by second accident was going to be minimized. I am guessing that they are going to talk to each other and discuss who is responsible for which damage. If 2 insurers split the cost of the repair for the damage, which I think is going to happen, are they allowed to combine those repair costs to claim my car totaled? For example, if the first insurance covers $600 for the cost of repair for the bumper, and second insurance company covers $1000 for the rest of

the repair, can they claim my car totaled because the combined cost of repair is $1600 and that is more than the value of the car, which is $1500?

Asked on August 12, 2018 under Accident Law, California


SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 4 years ago | Contributor

Yes, they can coordinate and combine the cost of the repairs to declare that the car is totalled. The law follows the principal of not unncecessarily increasing costs--so, for example, if the value of something is $X, no one--not singlely or in combination--has to pay more than $X for it (including to repair it), because it is ineffecient to spend more to fix a thing that it is worth. (By definition, if something is worth $X, that's all you'd pay to have it, whether in terms of cost to buy or cost to fix.) So if the total repair cost exceeds your car's then-current fair market or blue book value, the car will be "totalled" and you paid the value, rather than the insurers (or at-fault drivers) paying more than that amount to fix it.

IMPORTANT NOTICE: The Answer(s) provided above are for general information only. The attorney providing the answer was not serving as the attorney for the person submitting the question or in any attorney-client relationship with such person. Laws may vary from state to state, and sometimes change. Tiny variations in the facts, or a fact not set forth in a question, often can change a legal outcome or an attorney's conclusion. Although has verified the attorney was admitted to practice law in at least one jurisdiction, he or she may not be authorized to practice law in the jurisdiction referred to in the question, nor is he or she necessarily experienced in the area of the law involved. Unlike the information in the Answer(s) above, upon which you should NOT rely, for personal advice you can rely upon we suggest you retain an attorney to represent you.

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