You were hit hard in an accident in Arizona. The collision sent you to the hospital, but it also destroyed your car. You’re more upset about that than your torn shoulder! Now an adjuster from the insurance company tells you the car is a total loss, and makes you an offer for it. But that offer doesn’t look right to you. The adjuster sends you a fancy 40 page report from an official-looking “independent” company that shows why that offer is right. So, how do you know if it is? What is fair? And if the company is wrong, how do you fight with that 40 page report?
If the adjuster thinks it will cost more to fix your car than to pay you for it, that is what is called a “total loss.” It is really the insurance company’s call whether to fix or total the car, so it is hard to fight that decision. But, then the company does need to offer you a reasonable amount for the car. That amount is often called “fair market value,” but what does that mean? Basically, it means that the insurance company is buying your car from you, for about what it would have sold for on the market before being damaged. It follows that the amount should also be enough money for you to buy a car very similar to the one you just lost.
Insurance companies often use outside agencies to study the market and determine the fair market value. Others may disagree, but my experience is that those studies are usually in the ballpark—but on the lower end of it (they do want to keep the insurance companies happy). Sometimes they are altogether wrong. A great way to check if they are in the right ballpark is to do your own market study by looking in local resources as if you were shopping for a car very similar to the one you just lost, and see what it would generally cost. If the offer from the insurance company number is lower than what you are seeing, send what you found to the adjuster and she may negotiate upward. If you cannot reach an agreement, and the dispute goes to court (sometimes as part of the injury claim), then real ads from the local market can be the evidence you use to try for a better result. There are also companies you can hire to do a more extensive market value report, like the one the insurance company uses. Of course, you need to make sure the fee for those services doesn’t exceed what you may gain.
Of course, every case, and probably yours, will be different from the “norms” in significant ways, so the information I shared here may not be right for your claim and is not legal advice. If you want to talk about your own matter, just give me a call to talk, or to get my free book on auto accident claims in Arizona. Just call 480-733-6800 or go to autoinjurybook.com. I look forward to helping how I can.