Does the auto insurance company at fault have to notify me or have me signed paperwork when they salvage my car's title?

Asked 6 months ago - San Diego, CA

My car was sandwiched in a car accident, and the only party at fault was the rear one. Their insurance company did not notify me when they salvaged my car nor give me options to choose from retaining the car or giving it up to them to get compensated for the market price of my car at the time. Are they required by law to notify me or have me signed something to agree to whatever further actions they are going to do esp. when it comes to salvaging my car? What happened is that they only paid me the estimated amount and leaving me a salvage title which I only found out six months later when I go register my car again. Now I want to go after them and get compensated fairly. Please help! Thanks a lot!!

Additional information

I don't recall signing any release statement nor were I informed I had any other options. They just sent a payment equal to the estimate to my address. Now that I am stuck with a salvage title I lost about a couple thousands dollars of value to my car. Did they break the law?
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The insurance co has never notified me as the owner that my vehicle has been a total loss before issuing payment for the repairs. In fact, they have never given me written notice of anything. According to Vehicle Code 11515 (http://www.dmv.ca.gov/pubs/vctop/d05/vc11515.htm), did they break the law?

VC 11515 - http://www.dmv.ca.gov/pubs/vctop/d05/vc11515.htm

Attorney answers (8)

  1. Harry Edward Hudson Jr

    Contributor Level 20

    6

    Lawyers agree

    Answered . You are only entitled to the fair market value of the vehicle a nano second before it was damaged. If you have accepted funds, you have probably signed a release and are stuck with your settlement.

    The above is not intended as legal advice. The response does not constitute the creation of an attorney client... more
  2. Christopher John Gansen

    Pro

    Contributor Level 18

    4

    Lawyers agree

    Answered . See mr. hudson's pretty much perfect answer.

  3. Michael Shemtoub

    Contributor Level 17

    3

    Lawyers agree

    Answered . Yes they do! And if you're injured you have many rights as well! But the insurance company purposefully won't tell you anything.

    I live and work in California and deal with accidents like yours all the time, so I am happy to answer your question. Your gut instinct is right that you have questions regarding your rights and your case. I've handled a good amount of accident cases and know that insurance companies give cases like yours a hard time even if the police report finds the other person at fault. You should hire an attorney now before you hurt your case (happens unfortunately very often). You should hire a lawyer to help you out with the claim because regardless of the outcome of the police report insurance companies give unrepresented people a tough time. I've handled cases and referred clients to great doctors in the San Diego, CA area.

    At our firm we always refer clients to all kinds of doctors and chiropractors when our clients are injured and our clients never pay anything upfront, not even a copay. The doctors are willing to do this because an attorney is on board. You are entitled to have your property damage, medical bills and future medical expenses PAID FOR BY THE OTHER PARTY'S INSURANCE (or your uninsured motorist policy). The attorney you hire will handle the claims process from start to finish.

    But you are going to need to see a specliast to even get a shot at getting future medical treatment from the Defendant. Moreover it sounds like the accident is completely the other persons fault so you don't want this case to become a difficult one because of lack of inattention. The insurance company will make you believe that your case is worth very little... Regarding pain and suffering, you need to speak to an experienced attorney that can strategize your case. Just because you were in an accident doesn't mean you have pain and suffering, at least thats what the insurance companies think. Make no doubt about it you have a great case, but you need help from a professional. You are entitled to your medical bills being covered as well.

    Do you feel that you are at the same medical condition that you were before the accident? As a basic premise I wouldn't handle your claim by yourself. The attorney you hired can likely refer you to a doctor, if you ask for one, who will see you with no upfront payment! I've done this many times to help my clients out. You should not wait a single day to hire a lawyer, we will advise you on the strategy of your case. There is no upfront cost to hire an attorney.

    With a case like yours it seems like you have some good facts in order to get a high settlement, but your case definitely needs to be developed further to corroborate your story. The most important thing when building your case are: liability (were you at fault); how bad are your injuries to your body. A lot of these things sound like they are not complete yet in your case so its something that is worth hiring an attorney for in order to get a sense of whether you have a case and what the strategy would be for you to build a strong case! I've handled cases and/or spoken to clients in the San Diego, CA area.

    Its very possible that your case is worth more than the $$$ that the insurance company will offer you by yourself. Make your life easier and call an attorney today, you won't regret it.

    I am licensed in California only and my answers on Avvo assume California law. Answers provided by me are for... more
  4. Christian K. Lassen II

    Pro

    Contributor Level 20

    4

    Lawyers agree

    Answered . You get fair market value

  5. Richard Andrew Harting

    Pro

    Contributor Level 18

    2

    Lawyers agree

    Answered . The insurance carrier is required to notify the DMV when they determine a vehicle to be a total loss, meaning the repair cost exceeds the vehicle value.

    They should have provided you with a complete breakdown of a total loss settlement and whether they were charging you a salvage retention amount (the cost of you keeping the totaled vehicle), along with what is called a 'pro quote' and contact number for a company that will pay that amount to buy the car from you. Call them and ask for this info. It is possible they did not charge you anything to keep the totaled car and you are free to go sell it and increase your compensation.

  6. Arash Khorsandi

    Contributor Level 5

    2

    Lawyers agree

    Answered . Short Answer is yes! they will provide you with the total loss documents, and often times the amounts are negotiable even if they tell you otherwise! if you truly want to fight their valuation you can either hire a private adjuster yourself, hire an attorney, or refuse their offer and pursue them in court. Keep in mind, you are also entitled to Loss Of Use of your vehicle(assuming they did not put you into a rental car during the time of the investigation).

  7. Robert Bruce Kopelson

    Contributor Level 20

    1

    Lawyer agrees

    Answered . You get fair market value, and loss of use. Normally the ins co has you sign over title and they get money from a salvage company who takes the damaged vehicle. The ins co will give the person the option of keeping the vehicle, and then they deduct what they were going to get from the salvage co, from what they are going to pay you. Dmv is advised of the total and you then have to fix the car to meet dmv requirements in order to register it, and you now have a salvage title.

  8. David A. Papa

    Contributor Level 16

    2

    Lawyers agree

    Answered . You are entitled to the FMV or Fair Market Value of your vehicle prior to the accident.

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