How can I be made legally whole after an accident?

UPDATED: Oct 1, 2022

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How can I be made legally whole after an accident?

Recently, I was in a car accident where the other driver was at-fault. I slowed down at a yellow light and their truck crashed into the rear of my compact vehicle. I was still able to drive my car while trying to get in contact with the driver’s insurance agent. I didn’t feel like the damage was that bad, however when I took it to one of their covered body shops they informed me that the car was a total loss. They offered me a settlement but due to the fact that I haven’t even had this car for 6 months, the settlement did not cover what was left on my loan, let alone a down payment on another vehicle. I checked with the dealer that I purchased my car from to see if I have GAP insurance and they informed me that I do not. I have tried contacting other repair shops as well and they have told me that if a car is considered a total loss, then I am better off taking the settlement. So now, due to an accident that I wasn’t at fault for, I am going to owe $2,000 on a loan and won’t have a car

while I try to save for a down payment all over again.

Asked on February 7, 2019 under Accident Law, California


SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 4 years ago | Contributor

There is no way to be made whole in the absence of GAP insurance--that is what GAP insurance is for. When a car is destroyed (or effectively destroyed: it would cost more to fix than it is worth), all you get is it's then-current value (less any applicable deductible, if your own insurancde paid). It does not matter you paid for it or owe: if a car is worth, for example, $15,000 when totalled, you get the same for it whether the car was a gift from your family, was inherited, cost you $15k, cost you $20k, and whether it is paid for in full or you still owe on it. Value, not cost or amount owed, is the measure of compensation, which is why there is GAP insurance. So you cannot get more than the car is worth from your insurer, the other car's insurer, or at-fault driver him/herself.

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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