Handling Auto Claims: The Total Loss Process

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    Handling Auto Claims: The Total Loss Process

    Understand how to handle auto claims when dealing with total loss with our insurance experts at Morris & Garritano.


    In the event you’ve been in an auto accident and are going through the claims process, understanding vehicle total losses can ease some of the stressors of the situation.

    With M&G, you don’t have to go through it alone. Our team is on your side! Our dedicated in-house Claims Advocate, Heather Ross, discusses best practices when dealing with a total loss claim.

    “After an auto accident,” she begins, “not all vehicles can be successfully repaired and, even if repairs are possible, they’re not always cost-effective. In that case, the insurance provider may call the damaged vehicle a ‘total loss.’”

    If you’ve never been in an accident or are unfamiliar with the process, Heather provides an overview to give you an idea of what you can expect. “After you’ve reported the accident to your insurance provider, an inspection of the damaged vehicle will be coordinated to assess repairs and costs,” she says. “Once your vehicle is inspected, the appraiser will create a detailed estimate for the repair and send it to the company adjuster for review.”

    The adjuster will review the report and decide what to do next. If the vehicle can’t be repaired safely, or if it looks like the repair costs for the vehicle might be close to, or even exceed, its actual cash value (ACV), the adjuster will typically assign the loss to a total loss adjuster to work up a detailed vehicle valuation report.

    Heather explains, “The vehicle valuation process is somewhat like that used in the real estate industry: the adjuster looks for vehicles for sale in the area that are similar to the total loss vehicle – here, these are also called “comps” – and then utilizes a computer software program to make adjustments.” Elements such as age, model, condition, and mileage are factored into the calculation, which is usually done entirely by computer. This keeps claims payments consistent and objective.

    Once the valuation report is complete, many companies will send you a copy of the report, along with their settlement offer. Heather says this is an important step for you and explains, “The settlement offer includes the actual cash value of the vehicle, as determined in the valuation report, plus any applicable fees and taxes.” Often, you’re given two options: one in which you sign the vehicle over to the company in return for a larger settlement, and one in which you’re offered a lower amount, but you’re able to keep the vehicle, otherwise known as the “salvage.”

    When you receive the settlement offer, you’ll want to review it carefully to be sure that all the options and features for your vehicle have been considered. Also, if you disagree with the vehicles that have been selected as “comps,” be prepared to provide documentation to demonstrate that there are better examples of comparable vehicles available in your area.

    Heather continues, “After the settlement offer is accepted, you’ll need to complete some paperwork to finalize the claim and to receive payment for the vehicle. If the vehicle has a lienholder, that lender or finance company will typically receive payment first, and then you will be issued payment for any remaining balance.”

    If you’re experiencing a total loss claim and have any questions about what to do next, you can reach our team of experts at M&G by contacting your Account Manager or Dan Cole at dcole@morrisgarritano.com to speak to a risk advisor in our office. Our agency is here to ease your process and offer the best help we can!

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