What Makes a Car Totaled? | Fuller and Fuller

If you’ve been involved in an auto accident, you’d probably like to get your car repaired or replaced as soon as possible. Dealing with insurance companies can be stressful, especially when all you want to do is get back on the road to your normal life.

If your car was severely damaged in the accident, you may be wondering if it will be considered “totaled.” If you were hurt in an accident that totaled your car, you may also be facing mounting medical bills, debilitating injuries, and time away from work you can’t afford.

An Olympia car accident attorney at Fuller & Fuller can review the specific details of your case and explain the damages you may be able to pursue, including your physical, emotional, and financial losses.

What Is the “Total Loss Formula” In Washington?

In some states, auto insurance companies use a “total loss threshold” to determine whether a vehicle should be deemed non-repairable and sent to salvage. In these states, if the cost to repair a vehicle’s damage exceeds a specified percentage of the car’s value, then the car is deemed totaled.

However, in Washington, insurance companies use a “total loss formula” instead of a specific percentage. This formula uses three key factors to determine whether a car is considered “totaled”:

1. Cost of Parts and Labor to Repair the Car

The first factor to be considered is the cost to repair the vehicle. This includes the cost of parts and labor. You can – and should – take your car to an independent repair shop for an estimate, especially if you are concerned that you may be forced to either fix a car you don’t want to fix, or scrap a car you don’t want to lose.

Repair estimates can vary widely, especially if your insurance company tries to get you to accept refurbished parts, or if a dealership or “preferred” collision shop charges a particularly high or low labor rate. You may consider getting multiple estimates, as the cost of repairing your car will be key to determining whether it will be declared a total loss.

2. The Car’s Salvage Value

The second factor to be considered is your car’s salvage value. If your car is totaled, then it will typically be sent to salvage. A car’s salvage value is essentially the value of its parts that can be reused or resold, without considering the car to be a fully-functioning vehicle that someone can legally drive. Depending on your circumstances, you may also have the option to keep your totaled car after an accident in Washington.

3. The Car’s Value Prior to the Accident

The third factor to be considered is your car’s value prior to the accident. This “actual cash value,” or ACV, is the amount that your car would have sold for prior to the collision. The insurance companies will assign an appraiser to determine your car’s pre-crash actual cash value. If you disagree with the insurance appraisal, you can seek an independent appraisal as part of the insurance settlement negotiation process.

Once the cost to repair, salvage value, and actual cash value have all been determined, then these three figures get plugged into the total loss formula. If the cost to repair plus the salvage value exceed the actual cash value, then the car will be deemed a total loss. 

If your car is totaled based on the total loss formula, the insurance companies have two options:

  • To replace your car with a “comparable motor vehicle” that is available in your area; or,
  • To offer a cash settlement based on the actual cash value of comparable motor vehicles in your area.

Contact an Olympia Car Accident Lawyer Today

Dealing with the insurance companies after a car accident can be challenging, especially if you sustained injuries. Don’t face the insurance company alone. Accomplished car accident attorney Marya Fuller has extensive experience in a wide range of auto accident matters. She understands the hardships you may be facing, and she is committed to helping you recover the full and fair compensation you deserve for your losses.

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With offices in Olympia and Tacoma, we represent individuals in car accident claims throughout Washington. To learn more about how the law applies to your situation, please call 800-570-4878 today for a no-cost, no-obligation consultation.

Personal injury cases are handled on a contingency basis, which means we will not charge you a fee unless we get you money.

by Fuller & Fuller Attorneys at Law
Last updated on - Originally published on

Posted in: Car Accidents