If my new car was totaled in an accident, how do I recoup losses against the driver that hit me?

UPDATED: Jun 23, 2015

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If my new car was totaled in an accident, how do I recoup losses against the driver that hit me?

In particular, how do I recoup the loss of what I paid for my car vs. what my insurer gave me vs. what it costs to replace the car? I purchased a new car almost 2 years ago. I paid a down payment of $7,000 and made $4,500 in car payments on my $13,500 loan. My insurer paid off the lender ($9,000) and I gave me a check for $6,000. Can I recoup any of the loss because I’m worse off than when I originally purchased the purchased the car after paying $11,500 towards it? Also, the insurers’ assessed car value is well below the replacement cost for a similar car.

Asked on June 23, 2015 under Accident Law, District of Columbia


SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 7 years ago | Contributor

All you can recover is the then-current value (e.g. the "blue book" value) of the car, because all you entitled to as compensation in the law is what the property is worth when it is destroyed--not the replacement cost, not the original cost, not what you have paid including interst, fees, etc.--just what it was actually worth when destroyed.

Therefore, the replacement cost is irrelevant. If the total of $15,000 ($9,000 plus $6,000) equals the then-current market value of your car at the time of the accident, in the law's eyes, you have been made whole.

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