A white car with a crumpled front and totaled engine block sitting on the side of the road after an accident.Our clients often have questions about “total loss” car accidents. Some may want to know precisely what a “total loss” is, while others may be upset that their relatively new car has been totaled out.

Still, others may feel the insurance company has not offered them enough money to cover the car’s replacement, or they might question the repair estimates.

Should you accept the insurance company’s offer, or do you have other options? An experienced car accident lawyer can help you find answers to your total loss car accident questions.

How Can a Bridgeport Car Total Loss Attorney Help?

Your attorney will review the insurance company’s offer to ensure you get the total value you deserve for your vehicle. If we find evidence that the valuation may have been flawed, we will negotiate with the insurance company to address any errors or assist you with the arbitration process.

In Connecticut, you may be able to file a dispute with the Auto Arbitration program when you have an issue with the value offered by the insurance company.

If you were injured in the accident, we can also review the bodily injury liability portion of your offer. In many cases, we find that the injured party loses even more money in this part of their claim. It’s important to understand that you may be entitled to multiple damages, including:

  • Medical bills (current and future). Unfortunately, health insurance doesn’t always cover everything when you’re hurt in an accident. Some tests and procedures may only be covered at 50-80 percent or not at all. For example, imaging, including MRI or CT scans, can be highly expensive even with a more robust policy. Other people find that broken bones continue generating new bills for weeks as the patient returns for follow-up visits, physical therapy, and more. We’ll review your current medical bills and ask if you’re still in treatment because we want to ensure all future medical costs are also handled.
  • Lost income. After an accident, you may miss days or even weeks of work as you struggle to recover from injuries and deal with vehicle damage. Even if PTO covers your time off, you can still seek compensation for losing your paid time off, as well as your unpaid time off.
  • Diminished or lost earning potential. In some situations, the injured person becomes permanently disabled or disfigured due to their injuries. If you can no longer work at all or have to work reduced hours or in a less demanding job, we can seek compensation for the loss of earning potential.
  • Permanent disability or disfigurement. A permanent disability affects all areas of your life, not just your ability to be employed. We can pursue compensation for your loss of quality of life.
  • Pain and suffering. The physical pain after a car accident can be intense, and mental or emotional distress is also common. Frequently, accident survivors experience anxiety, insomnia, symptoms of PTSD, and other mental health difficulties following their accident. We’ll work to help you seek compensation for both physical and mental suffering related to your accident.

Many insurance companies offer to cover current bills but not future medical care, and may not include damages like pain and suffering. Your lawyer will carefully calculate all your damages and work to get you a fair settlement.

How Is a Total Loss Calculated?

In Connecticut, a car is considered a total loss if its cash value (what you could have resold it for immediately before the damage occurred) is equal to or less than the cost of repairs plus its salvage value. The salvage value is the car’s value in its current, damaged condition.

Sometimes, people are confused about what car insurance actually covers. They may think that if they paid X dollars for their car, they should receive a value of X dollars when it’s totaled, but that’s not how the car insurance company calculates your car’s value.

Your car depreciates in value as time passes, and the actual cash value used in the formula is based on its worth just before the accident, not the day you purchased it.

What if You Believe the Cost of Repairs Is Unreasonable?

“It costs how much to fix that?” is not an unusual response to a repair estimate.

Most car owners have had a moment of disbelief upon hearing the cost of vehicle repairs. Even minor bodywork can add up quickly, and if you add engine repairs to that, costs can quickly skyrocket.

In most accidents covered by insurance, the insurance company will negotiate a price with the repair shop. Often, the insurer encourages the car owner to choose from a list of repair shops the insurance company “prefers.”

Typically, the insurer has a good relationship with these shops and gets relatively reasonable prices, which is why the insurance company “prefers” them. You can get estimates from other shops, but they may charge even more because they lack this relationship with the insurance company.

In some situations, the insurance company and repair shop can’t come to an agreement, and the insurer may offer you a certain amount for the repairs. When that happens, you may have to pay the balance at the body shop.

Additionally, many policies have a deductible that you have to pay before the rest of the repairs are covered, so you might have to pay at least some costs out-of-pocket. If you think the insurance company has an obligation to pay more of your repair costs than they are offering, please speak with a lawyer to learn more about your options.

Can You Drive a Totaled Car in Connecticut?

The short answer is no, at least not right away. In some states, you can keep the car, make minimal repairs, and continue to drive it after the insurance company totals the car and pays you the car’s actual cash value. If you can get the car in a driveable condition without completing all the needed repairs, you can keep the difference.

For instance, some people choose not to repair purely cosmetic damage like dents as long as this damage doesn’t affect the car’s function.

However, in Connecticut, it is illegal to drive a car that has been totaled because the car’s title will be marked as “salvage.” If you want to continue driving it, you will have to bring it to the DMV for re-inspection.

If the car passes inspection, you may be able to get the title re-issued, and then you can continue driving the vehicle.

Who Is Going to Pay the Rental Car Costs While My Car Is Being Repaired or While I Look for a New Car?

If another driver caused the car accident, and there is no dispute about fault or this dispute has been settled, you can request reasonable rental costs from the at-fault driver’s car insurance company for a reasonable period of time.

The term “reasonable” can mean different things in different situations. Most policies will pay for you to rent a comparable car.

If your car is a ten-year-old Buick, they’re not going to pay for you to rent a brand-new Porsche, as enjoyable as that would be. A “reasonable time period” can vary depending on how extensive the damage is and how long the repair or replacement process should be expected to take.

In most cases, the insurance company won’t expect you to need a rental car for more than a few weeks or a few months at the most.

If you were at fault or you can’t prove the other driver was at fault, your own Collision insurance may cover your repair or replacement costs. (Please note that Collision coverage is optional in Connecticut, so if you didn’t buy a Collision policy, you will have to pay out-of-pocket for any repairs or replacement expenses.)

Most Collision policies will also cover reasonable rental costs for a reasonable time period after you have met your deductible.

Where Can You Get Help From a Bridgeport Car Total Loss Law Firm Today?

If you or a loved one have questions or concerns about an insurance company’s total loss offer, please contact Bert McDowell Injury Law for a free consultation. We’ll review your case, answer your questions, and help you understand the options for negotiating the best settlement.

There is no obligation, and if we take your case, you won’t owe us anything until we win or settle it.

Attorney Bert McDowell, Jr. is an experienced Bridgeport personal injury attorney who represents clients in a variety of personal injury situations. He has recovered millions of dollars in compensation for injured people and their families and has been a Super Lawyer Rising Star for four consecutive years.

Mr. McDowell has been featured in 40 Under 40 Connecticut Magazine and National Trial Lawyers Top 40 Under 40. He is committed to community service, serves on multiple nonprofit boards, and has received the 100 Men of Color Award for his nonprofit work and stellar legal reputation.

In 2019, he also received the Man of Excellence Award from the organization Black People Rocks. Work with Attorney McDowell by calling (203) 590-9169 today.