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Negotiating the Value of Your Car with an Auto Insurance Company After an Accident

If the compensation you’re offered after an accident isn’t fair, you need to negotiate with your insurer. Preparing for the negotiation can get you the payout you want.

Person points at car and insurance

If you’re not satisfied with the insurance claim settlement after a car accident, you can negotiate with an insurance claims adjuster. To prepare for a negotiation, you must accurately determine the value of your car and the cost of damages. You also need to find out if you should make an additional claim, like a diminished value or total loss auto insurance claim.

This article covers:

Estimating the Value of Your Car

You need to know the value of your vehicle to ensure you get a fair appraisal amount after filing a claim. That number is crucial when you begin negotiations with the insurer. Check your car’s value through car value calculator and estimator websites like Edmunds or Kelly Blue Book. Then, get a diminished value or damage estimate from a few mechanics or garages. Compare the damage cost to the car’s value to establish a realistic target compensation range.

How to Get a Higher Claim Value for Your Car

To get a better claim settlement, you have to “win” a negotiation with the auto insurance claims adjuster. The auto claims adjuster will likely try to offer the lowest car value they think you’ll accept. Insurance companies do this to save money, so don’t be afraid to negotiate. Here’s how to get a better car insurance claim settlement deal:

  • Have your argument ready. Know what your insurance policy says. Your declarations page is a great place to start. You can’t make a claim unless the damages are covered within your auto insurance policy!
  • Know the facts. Have the value of your car, professionally estimated damage amount, and accident details ready to share. If you start the conversation with facts to back up your desired payout, you’ll have a strong case.
  • Emphasize emotional points. Let the insurance adjuster know the monetary and emotional toll your car’s damage has caused for you. Explainthe impact it has had on your commute and interference to daily life.
  • Be persistent. If your claim isn’t getting solved in a timely manner, put the pressure on your insurance company. You want your claim solved quickly and fairly.

Suing an insurance company is an expensive and time-consuming process, which both parties want to avoid. Lawsuits are a last resort and a rare outcome.

How to Negotiate Total Loss Insurance Claims

If the insurer deems your car a total loss, they’ll offer you a claim payout for the value of your car. If you’re not satisfied with the totaled car insurance payout, you can negotiate this number with the adjuster.

The first step is to research the value of your vehicle. Car estimator sites are a good place to start to get a ballpark estimate of your car’s value. Also, check your area for listings of similar vehicles to get a local market value estimate. If you’ve made any recent major improvements to your car, be sure to collect those receipts because they could factor into your car’s cash value.

The negotiation process is relatively straightforward once you have all the necessary information and an idea of what your payout should be.

Make a Diminished Value Claim

A diminished value claim is when you request that a car insurance company pay the difference in your car’s value from before and after an accident. Even if the repairs are done perfectly, just the fact that it was involved in a car accident will cause depreciated value. Negotiating a diminished value claim is a bit different than a normal claims negotiation.

How to Negotiate Diminished Value Insurance Claims

Convincing an insurance company to pay for a diminished value claim depends on the circumstances of the crash, including who was at-fault and where it occurred. An insurer is more likely to pay diminished value if the accident wasn’t your fault. States and insurance companies have varying policies surrounding these claims. This is how to make a diminished value claim:

  • Make sure your insurance company offers diminished value coverage. Some insurance companies offer diminished value claims in their policies already, others offer it as added coverage.
  • Find the diminished value of your car. You can do this by finding the original value of your car, then ask for a trade-in value from your car dealership since being damaged in an accident. Once you have an estimate of the diminished value, you can decide whether you should make a diminished value claim.
  • Present the case to your insurer and ask for compensation. Make sure you have all the facts for your case before asking for compensation. You should have evidence on who was at-fault for the accident, your car’s evaluation, and how much diminution of value you’re going to claim.
  • If necessary, go to your state insurance commissioner or hire an attorney. If you’re denied by your insurer, the next step is to reach out to your state’s insurance commissioner. If you’re not finding support there and are committed to pursuing diminished value, you can hire a lawyer. This is a last-ditch effort, and you’re not going to get far with legal action if you simply disagree with the insurer’s final decision. You need to have a legitimate reason to sue an insurance company.

State Laws That Impact Claims and Value

Your claim’s value is also impacted by laws in the state where the car crash occurred. Laws surrounding who was at-fault for the accident vary depending on the state. For example, in California, your payout depends on how at-fault you were for the accident, which could result in a 10 to 75 percent payout.

Other states, like Texas, are “fault” states, meaning whoever caused the accident is completely responsible for all damages to others involved in the crash. In Georgia, you need to be less than 50 percent at-fault for the accident to receive a payout. And some states have no-fault laws, where damages are paid out regardless of who is at fault.

The laws surrounding diminished value claims are a bit different than regular auto insurance claims. Many states don’t allow you to file a diminished value claim unless the accident was fully the other driver’s fault. For example, you can’t submit a diminished value claim in Florida if you were at-fault for the accident, or if damage was caused by anything other than a collision. You can also only seek this claim from the at-fault driver’s insurance company.

When it comes to negotiations, the insurance adjuster may attempt to prove that you were more at-fault than you say for the accident to reduce your compensation amount. Bringing car accident evidence like police reports, witness declarations, and photos will help prove that you weren’t at-fault for the accident.

Car Accident Insurance Claim Settlements

After you’ve agreed on a fair settlement amount with theclaims adjuster, make sure to confirm the offer in writing. This doesn’t need to be an extensive document, just an outline that details the settlement amount and what that amount is being used to repair.

Average Time for a Car Accident Settlement

An insurance settlement can take a few days, or it could take months. An insurance adjuster can generally wait up to 45 days to respond to your demand letter, but that varies by state. The timeline depends on the case and the amount of compensation involved. If the process is taking too long, there are things you can do to make it move faster, including:

  • Regularly reach out to the claims adjuster
  • Put pressure on the insurance company
  • If you’re still not receiving a response, consider hiring an attorney

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