1. Report the claim to the insurance company as soon as possible.
2. Have the vehicle towed to your insurance company’s preferred shop.If you think your vehicle has a good chance of being totaled, have it towed to your insurance company’s preferred body shop. Most companies have a few appointed shops they work with directly and it can speed up the claims process to use a preferred shop. If you do not like your insurance company’s preferred body shop, it really doesn’t matter because it’s totaled. They are not going to be doing any repairs to the vehicle. Having the vehicle towed to the preferred shop just makes the claims process faster. Plus, often if you have your vehicle towed to the tow company's lot you will be charge a storage fee. The preferred shop will hold your vehicle with no charge.
3. Locate your title.Titles have a way of coming up missing right when you need them. Make sure you know where your title is as soon as you think your vehicle is a total loss. If you have lost your title, file for a lost title at the DMV right away. If your vehicle is a total loss, you will have to sign the title over to the insurance company.
4. Check to see how much you owe, if you have a loan on the vehicle.Knowing how much you owe on your vehicle can prepare you in case your auto loan is greater than the current value of the vehicle. Hopefully, if you are underwater on your loan you have gap insurance or loan/lease payoff on your car insurance policy. Total loss claims are not paid out based on what you owe but on the actual cash value at the time of loss.
5. Do some research on your own to determine the value of your vehicle.
Researching the value of your vehicle is not mandatory. Your research gives you an idea whether or not the insurance company is in the ball park with its final payout figure. Investigate the value of your vehicle the following ways to determine its value:
- Check Kelly Blue Book for figures on your vehicle. Insurance companies do not base payouts strictly by Kelly Blue Book, however the site does a good job at placing a value on a vehicle. For someone who is not familiar with car values, Kelly Blue Book is a convenient tool.
- Check similar vehicle listings in your area. Most insurance claims adjusters go through the same process by checking auto websites, newspapers, and dealerships in the area.
- Collect receipts of recent major improvements because the upgrades may factor into your final payout.
6. Mail all of your completed paperwork as quickly as possible.
Total loss auto accidents can require quite a bit of paperwork. An agreement needs to be reached on the payout amount of the totaled vehicle. If you have a loan on the vehicle, you will probably need to sign a power of attorney document which will transfer ownership of the vehicle to the insurance company once the loan in paid off.Tips for Total Loss Paperwork
- Sign your name exactly how it appears on the title when signing the power of attorney.
- Ask if you can fax the insurance company the documents from your agent’s office before mailing to speed up receiving your check.
Communication is the key for any insurance claim to run smoothly. Take it one step at a time and work closely with your claims adjuster. Make sure the insurance company has a good contact number for you and be available so you are not constantly playing phone tag. If you can survive a major accident which totals your auto, you can survive the claims process.