I’ve handled numerous cases involving totaled vehicles in my time in practice. In my experience, the value offered for your totaled car is not always accurate. The amount you get back in return for your totaled car is often an average of an index of 10 similar vehicles currently on the market in a reasonably nearby area. Insurance companies use outfits such as Autosource for their market surveys. A reasonably nearby area cannot be more than 150 miles away unless there are no comparable vehicles within that range. See WAC 284-30-391: Methods and standards of practice for settlement of total loss vehicle claims.
For example, if you live in Seattle and the insurance company includes a car from Spokane or Pullman in the index then that value is not valid. If there are plenty of comparable vehicles within close proximity to your home then there is no reason to have to go more than 150 miles out. Similarly, it is important that when receiving the valuation that you ask for the list of cars used to make this valuation.
I just handled a matter in which the totaled car value index included a vehicle that had been previously totaled and received a rebuilt title. This would not pass Carfax muster. This vehicle’s value was well below any of the other cars thus indicating an irregularity in the valuation. Another vehicle was being sold for $1,000 more than what the company doing the market survey reported. Also, another two vehicles, with almost double the mileage, were very low priced as compared to vehicles with closer mileage even using the standard deduction for miles.
The bottom line is that these market surveys utilized by insurance companies often provide valuations biased towards the insurance companies. If you do your homework early to explore the value of your totaled vehicle then you will be in a better position to challenge the biased valuations that we see far too often.
Usually in cases with totaled cars there are sufficient injuries to want to retain an attorney anyways, and especially if you notice significant irregularities in the amount you get back for your totaled vehicle it might be worthwhile to have an experienced car accident injury attorney review your case.