Understanding Car Appraisals After an Accident

Navigating the car appraisal process after a wreck can be a nightmare. Fortunately, our car accident lawyer adds, if you understand the process, you can put yourself in the best possible position to ensure things go quickly and smoothly. The car appraisal process is necessary to determine a vehicle’s fair market value after an accident. 

The insurance company can then use that value to determine if it is more expensive to replace the car or to fix it.  If it is more expensive to fix the car, it will likely be “totaled,” and the fair market value of the vehicle will be paid out by the insurance company. Our Indianapolis personal injury attorneys at Keller & Keller want to make sure you can navigate the steps of the appraisal process, and that you have the best possible tools to do so. 

Where to Start After an Auto Accident

Where do I start? After an auto accident, you need to reach out to your own insurance company in order to ask about and understand what coverage you have for your vehicle.  It may be possible to work with the “other driver’s” insurance, but working with your own insurance is the best place to start to ensure you know what coverage you have to fall back on.  If you don’t have collision coverage, you will need to reach out to the at-fault party’s insurance company.   

I thought I wasn’t supposed to talk to the insurance company. Do I really work with you on property damage?  YES!  The insurance company will assign an appraiser who will work with you to determine the fair market value of your vehicle. While the accident may not have been your fault, you still have a duty to work with them in the appraisal process. This can mean making the vehicle available to them on private property, taking and sending pictures, talking with them on the phone, and even working with a tow yard to ensure that the appraiser can access the vehicle. 

Once they can access it and you’ve helped them get all the information they need, they can appraise the vehicle. If you don’t help them do this, you give the insurance company an excuse for delay and vehicle storage costs that may be your responsibility. However, if you are represented by an attorney, make sure to tell the insurance adjuster that you are only speaking about property damage and do not discuss your medical condition or treatment.

The Appraisal Process person driving car in indiana

The appraisal is complete, and the insurance company is going to total my vehicle. They’ve made me an offer. What now?  First, do not accept the offer unless you believe it to be a fair offer for the value of your car.  The offer may not match what you owe, or what you paid for the vehicle, but legally it has to match the car’s fair market value.  Hopefully, at this point, the appraisal and compensation process is complete, and you can accept the offer, but if not...

I disagree with the offer on my vehicle or want to evaluate further. What can I do?  First, you might simply look for comparable cars for sale in your local market.  Share these with the insurance adjuster/appraiser and explain that their offer isn’t matching the market and what your car is worth.  The insurance company may request other specific information that will show them the valuation should be higher.  Thankfully there are also several tools and companies that can help review your appraisal if necessary: 

Truck Appraisal Services:  https://benchmarkautoappraisers.com/

Kelly Blue Book: www.kbb.com

Search for listings similar to your vehicle: www.cars.com

Have further questions about how to handle your auto accident and property damage with the insurance company?  Keller & Keller can help!

Your Free Keller & Keller Guide to Auto Accidents:  https://www.2keller.com/reports/auto-accident-guide-truths-and-myths.cfm

Click here for help with understanding and handling property damage claims:  https://www.2keller.com/faqs/property-damage-claims-in-indiana.cfm

James R. Keller
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Partner at Keller & Keller