What to Do When Insurance Falls Short on Paying for a Totaled Car

In the aftermath of a car accident, dealing with insurance companies can be a daunting task, especially if your vehicle is deemed a total loss. The Nicotra Law Firm, PC understands the complexities of such situations and aims to provide comprehensive guidance to ensure you receive fair compensation for your totaled car.

Understanding the Situation

When your car sustains significant damage in an accident, your insurance company assesses whether the cost of repairs exceeds a certain percentage of the vehicle’s market value. If it does, they may declare it a total loss. This decision can leave you grappling with the aftermath, especially if the proposed payout falls short of what you need to replace your vehicle.

If you find yourself in this situation, it’s crucial to explore your options thoroughly. While the insurance company’s initial offer may seem final, there are steps you can take to potentially increase your settlement.

Order an Appraisal

Begin by ordering an appraisal of your vehicle. This appraisal, based on various factors including the car’s make, model, and condition, can provide a more accurate assessment of its pre-accident value. Ensure you gather relevant documentation such as maintenance records and the original window sticker to support your appraisal.

Richard Nicotra

Founding Partner

Andrew Connelly

Managing Partner

Emily Oczytko

Associate Attorney

Negotiate with the Insurance Company

Armed with the written appraisal, engage in negotiations with the insurance company. Highlight any inaccuracies in their assessment and provide supporting evidence to substantiate your claim. Appeal to the emotional impact of the accident and present a counteroffer backed by thorough research.

Consider Arbitration or Legal Action

If negotiations prove unsuccessful, you have the option to pursue arbitration or file a lawsuit. Arbitration involves a neutral party reassessing the value of your car, while litigation may be necessary if a fair settlement cannot be reached through negotiation alone. Seeking legal counsel can be invaluable during this process, ensuring your rights are protected and advocating for a favorable outcome.

Explore Buying Back Your Totaled Car

In some cases, you may have the option to buy back your totaled car from the insurance company. This can be beneficial if you have a sentimental attachment to the vehicle or if repairs are feasible despite the damage. However, weigh the costs and limitations associated with this option carefully before proceeding.


Richard Nicotra represented my husband for a motorcycle case. His professionalism and empathy during the case was exceptional. The professionalism Displayed by the firm and staff was truly appreciated.. I highly recommend Richard and his practice for any of your needs.”

- Lisa Isenberg


I used Andrew Connelly after I was in a car accident, and he has been my go-to for over 10 years when anyone has asked for a recommendation for a no-fault attorney. His knowledge, patience, and professionalism go a long way in making an often difficult and challenging situation easier. He is reliable, and someone you can trust to get the job done right. The 5 stars are well deserved."

- Andrea Mccarthy


Rick Nicotra from the Nicotra Law Firm PC is a very honest, knowledgeable, and genuinely caring attorney. Furthermore, he is very personable and always available for you whether it be a text, email, or phone call. Rick and his team are exceptional. They treat you like family and are second to none. I would recommend Rick Nicotra and his team from The Nicotra Law Firm PC."

- Chad

Document Everything

Throughout the claims process, meticulous documentation is essential. Keep records of all communication with the insurance company, including emails, letters, and phone calls. Maintain a comprehensive file containing any relevant paperwork, such as appraisals, estimates, and photographs of the accident scene and damage to your vehicle. This documentation serves as crucial evidence in supporting your claim and can strengthen your position during negotiations or legal proceedings.

Know Your Rights

Familiarize yourself with your rights as an insured individual. Insurance policies can be complex documents, but understanding the terms and provisions relevant to your situation empowers you to advocate effectively for fair treatment. If you encounter resistance or delays from the insurance company, knowing your rights can help you assertively assert your entitlement to adequate compensation.

Seek Legal Representation

Engaging the services of a qualified attorney who handles car accidents and insurance disputes can significantly enhance your chances of achieving a favorable outcome. Lawyers possess in-depth knowledge of relevant laws and regulations, as well as extensive experience navigating insurance negotiations and litigation. They can assess the strength of your case, develop a strategic approach tailored to your unique circumstances, and advocate vigorously on your behalf to secure maximum compensation.

Consider Additional Damages

In addition to compensation for the value of your totaled car, you may be entitled to recover other damages resulting from the accident. These can include medical expenses, lost wages, property damage, pain and suffering, and emotional distress. An attorney can evaluate the full extent of your losses and pursue appropriate compensation for all applicable damages, ensuring that you are adequately reimbursed for the harm you have suffered.

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Understand Insurance Dispute Resolution Processes

Insurance disputes can be resolved through various methods, including negotiation, mediation, arbitration, and litigation. Each approach has its advantages and challenges, and the most suitable method depends on the specific circumstances of your case. An attorney can guide you through the pros and cons of each option and help you select the most effective strategy for achieving your objectives.

Be Patient and Persistent

Resolving a totaled car insurance claim can be a protracted process, requiring patience and persistence. Insurance companies may employ certain strategies — such as delay tactics or lowball offers — in an attempt to minimize their financial liability. It’s essential to remain steadfast in pursuing fair compensation for your losses, even in the face of adversity. With the guidance and support of experienced legal counsel, you can navigate the complexities of the claims process with determination and resilience.

Explore Alternative Resolution Options

In some cases, alternative dispute resolution methods such as mediation or settlement conferences can facilitate a mutually acceptable resolution without the need for protracted litigation. These approaches can offer a more streamlined and cost-effective means of resolving disputes, allowing both parties to reach a compromise that meets their respective needs and interests.

Stay Informed and Involved

Stay actively involved in the progress of your insurance claim, staying informed about any developments or updates from the insurance company. Regular communication with your attorney is essential, as they can provide valuable guidance and updates on the status of your case. By remaining engaged in the process, you can ensure that your rights are protected and that you are positioned to achieve the best possible outcome.

Review Settlement Offers Carefully

If the insurance company presents a settlement offer, you and your attorney should carefully review the terms and conditions before accepting or rejecting it. Consider whether the offer adequately compensates you for your losses.  Remember that you are not obligated to accept any offer that does not fully reflect the value of your claim, and you have the right to negotiate for a better settlement.

Prepare for Litigation if Necessary

If efforts to resolve the insurance claim amicably prove unsuccessful, be prepared to pursue litigation to seek fair compensation through the court system. Your attorney can guide you through the process of filing a lawsuit, gathering evidence, and presenting your case in court. While litigation can be time-consuming and costly, it may be necessary to ensure that you receive the compensation you deserve for your totaled car.

If you’re facing difficulties with your insurance company after a car accident resulting in a totaled vehicle, don’t navigate the complexities alone. Contact The Nicotra Law Firm, PC today for a free consultation. Our experienced team is dedicated to advocating for your rights and securing the compensation you deserve. Let us help you navigate the legal process and achieve a favorable outcome. Don’t delay — reach out to us now to protect your rights and pursue the compensation you’re entitled to.