Vehicle Written Off? 5 Best Practices to Dealing with Your Insurance Company
Excerpts from an article published on Miami Herald Online, Dec 09, 2008
In most areas of South Florida, there are a few sure things we can all count on - death, taxes and driving on I-95. And with our gorgeous "winter" weather comes more dangerous driving hazards, in the form of tourists doubling the number of drivers. Combine one of America's most dangerous driving corridors with drivers unfamiliar with the area and residents frustrated by the slow commute and you get ... accidents. Even if you have the safest car and are a careful driver, you could still end up being hit by someone else. Here are some top-line statistics about Florida driving: 256,206 traffic crashes in 2007; with average crashes per day of 702. The result is often the total loss of a vehicle.
Viraf Baliwalla, President of TheyWroteOffMyCar.com, is a consumer advocate for those facing the intimidating task of dealing with an insurance company after experiencing a total loss. A total loss is when a vehicle is written off by your insurance company after a collision or theft.
With over 14,000 insurance claims amounting to over $300 million in vehicle value under their belt, he shares below some of the best practices that his company has developed for insurance companies to ensure that their policyholders receive a fair and reasonable settlement for their vehicle as well as some advice for policyholders to get what their vehicle is actually worth.
- Make sure the insurance appraiser has paid close attention to
accuracy in vehicle identification
It is not uncommon for appraisers to miss important features or
identify vehicles incorrectly, especially when things get busy. For
example, if you have air conditioning and it is not specified on
their report, it may identify your vehicle as a lower model. If you
have an LX identified as a DX, then you may not be offered what you
are entitled to. Reviewing the report before it goes to the
insurance company can avoid a dispute in such cases for both sides.
- Ask your adjuster for a copy of the research and valuation report if
you think the value is too low
Believe it or not, insurance companies want to pay out the right
value, However, they rely on the tools of the trade to come up with
a figure. If the tools give them the wrong value because something
was missed, then simply asking for the report and examining it
closely may help you identify the problem and have it fixed quickly
before it becomes a dispute.
- Make sure the research compares apples to apples
The car business is full of mislabeling and lax advertising rules.
If your vehicle is an LX, then prices of other currently advertised
LX vehicles should be used as a guide to come up with a value for
your vehicle. If prices of lower models are included in the research
without adjusting for the difference, the final figure will be
- If you maintained your vehicle well, it is worth more than average
Insurers often offer settlements based on an average price formula. Keep your maintenance receipts. Vehicles that are regularly and properly maintained are worth more than the average price. Also, those with low mileage are worth more than average. Conversely, be realistic if you have excessively high mileage or your vehicle is in poor condition as such vehicles are worth less than the average.
- If you purchased new tires, engine or transmission recently, keep your receipts
These items will add value in most circumstances. "Honda just replaced the transmission on my Odyssey under recall" says Baliwalla. "That has just added close to a thousand dollars to its previous value.