What can I do if I think my auto insurance claim was mishandled because the car should have been totaled instead of repaired?

UPDATED: Sep 30, 2022

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What can I do if I think my auto insurance claim was mishandled because the car should have been totaled instead of repaired?

I asked several times while the claim was open whether it wouldn’t be more appropriate to total the car but I unfortunately didn’t press the issue. From something the repair shop told me, I suspect the value determination may have been made by the shop, rather than by my claims adjuster. Now I need to sell the car and am finding it very difficult to get an offer for anything close to its original value. I already checked into the diminished value issue but I don’t think that I’m eligible. However, can I challenge the insurance company for mishandling the claim in the first place?

Asked on February 7, 2016 under Accident Law, South Carolina


SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 6 years ago | Contributor

Unfortunately for you, the law *never* requires a car to be totalled--it is completely up to the insurer whether to total it or whether to repair it. That being the case, there is not and cannot be a claim against an insurer for not totalling a car, since it is their choice whether or not to do so. What totalling a car means is that the insurer thinks it'd be cheaper to pay the value than fix it; the law does not require them to fix something when the cost to repair exceeds the value. But they are allowed to: a car could be worth $100 and cost $10,000 to fix, but the insurer would be allowed to pay to fix it if they wanted. That being the case, even if they made an error and spent more to fix than the car was then worth, they're allowed to make that mistake, and you would not have a claim against them for doing so.

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