If I was rear-ended by a driver, can their insurance company refuse to pay fordamages and instead declare my car a total loss?

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If I was rear-ended by a driver, can their insurance company refuse to pay fordamages and instead declare my car a total loss?

I was rear-ended by a driver not paying attention. She was found by the police to be the only one at fault and was given a traffic citation. Her insurance adjuster just came out this morning and tried to tell me that my vehicle is a total loss even though the damage to my vehicle is really not that severe. The car is perfectly drivable. Most of the damage is to the very rear door/hatch area and will no longer open. This girl’s insurance company wants me to turn my vehicle over to them, consider my car paid off, and I get nothing. I am out of a car to drive except for the rental.

Asked on April 21, 2011 under Accident Law, Arizona

Answers:

SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 10 years ago | Contributor

If you feel the insurerr's offer is too low, you don't have to accept  it--though you'd have to sue to look to get more money, and given the cost of a lawsuit, it's entirely possible that even if you won, you'd spend more pursuing the claim that you would recover in additional funds. Also, the issue is not whether the damage to the car is severe or not--it's whether the cost to repair the damage exceeds the current value of the car. If it does, the car is a loss because it cannot economically be repaired. If your car is an older one, then it is not unreasonable that even with what seems to be less serious damage, that it would cost more to repair the vehicle than the insurer to total it--even minor body and frame repairs can cost a few thousand dollars, after all.


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