What rights do I have when they want to total my car because of the year it was made not the damage that was done?

UPDATED: Oct 1, 2022

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What rights do I have when they want to total my car because of the year it was made not the damage that was done?

The car has been in the family for 17 years and I have all the paperwork to show it has been maintained and serviced when it was due to be done. The damage to the car is the front fender and headlight and the plastic bumper and they want to total my car at book value..

Asked on October 5, 2017 under Insurance Law, Florida


SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 5 years ago | Contributor

The insurer only has to pay the lesser of the car's then-current fair market or blue book value (given make, model, age, mileage, etc.) or the cost to repair: you cannot make them pay the repair cost if greater than the blue book value. And when they "total" it by paying the fair market value when that is less than repair cost, since they paid you its value, they essentially bought it and take title (so they can salvage it and recoup at least some of their money). Therefore, if the repair cost is more than the fair market value, if you take their money for totalling the car, they then get the car.
Having had to recently repair almost identical damage to what you describe for a cost of around $2,500 (parts and labor)--and that is on a new car, where parts are readily available--it is entirely plausible, even reasonable, that the repairs you describe will exceed the blue book value of a 17-year-old car. You have the right to refuse the insurer's money, refuse to total the car, withdraw your claim, and pay to fix it yourself, if you think that is better for you (or want to do so for other, say sentimental, reasons).

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