What to do if my car has been declared a total loss but I just put in a new transmission?

UPDATED: Mar 13, 2011

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What to do if my car has been declared a total loss but I just put in a new transmission?

I had an accident last month; the guy who crash into my car accepted all responsibility. AAA sent a guy to check my car but only gave $1,300 for the damage on the door. The next day I went to a collision center. They told me that, “your car is old so it would be cheaper for AAA to pay the car and take a total loss”. The called AAA and now AAA says that my car is a “total loss”. However these people don’t know that I change the transmission 8 months ago and I paid $2,200 for the job. Now AAA doesn’t want accept this and doesn’t want pay me for the transmission.

Asked on March 13, 2011 under Accident Law, California


SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 12 years ago | Contributor

When a car is declared a total loss, the insurer only needs to pay the value of the car as it then exists. This is typically based on the make, model, year, and sometimes mileage. There is no obligation to compensate the car's owner for work done on the car, repairs made, etc.--essentially what you can get is the "blue book value" of your car.

If you can document and prove that a car of your make, model, etc. with a new transmission would sell for more than the same car without the new transmission, you *may* be able to make a case that you should get something more for the car--though the extra amount you get will be be much less than what you paid. For example: if you car without the transmission would only be worth $1,000 and maybe with a new transmission it would be worth $1,200 (20%) more--assuming you could prove that--you may be able to get the insurer to pay the extra $200.

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