What can be done if my vehicle was involved in an accident was not my fault but the insurance company is offering me less than what I paid for the vehicle?

UPDATED: Oct 1, 2022

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What can be done if my vehicle was involved in an accident was not my fault but the insurance company is offering me less than what I paid for the vehicle?

My vehicle was parked outside of my house when someone fell asleep at the wheel and ran into it, resulting in it being completely totaled. The driver was ticketed and insurance companies were contacted. The driver-at-fault’s insurance company is now offering almost $2,000 less than what I paid for the vehicle. I have asked to see the list of vehicles they are comparing to get their value of worth on my car, all of which have nearly double the miles mine does and have been involved in accidents. I’ve had this vehicle for less than 6 months, it is almost 15 years old and is in impeccable condition with incredibly low miles – finding another like this will be impossible. Is there anything I can do to ensure I won’t be receiving a loss in a situation that was not my fault?

Asked on October 30, 2017 under Accident Law, Iowa


SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 5 years ago | Contributor

First, bear in mind that all you are entitled to is the vehicle's then-current fair market value ("blue book" value); what you paid for it is irrelevant, since what people pay for vehicles does not necessarily have anything do with with their value (e.g. some people get vehicles as gifts from significant others or family; some people are good are negotiating deals and get good values, while others are bad negotiators and overpay; cost varies with whether you pay cash or finance; etc.)
If you believe they are offering you less than the fair market value of your vehicle, you could refuse the offer and sue the at fault driver for the full then-current market value. But consider carefully whether it would be worthwhile. Again, ignoring what you paid, say that you think the market value is $1,200 more than is offered and find comparables to support it. Even if you acted as your own attorney ("pro se") to save legal costs, you'd have to file a lawsuit, which has some costs and can take many weeks or months before the matter is resolved; you may also need to get someone "expert" at valuing cars, like an insurance adjuster or car sales rep with experience in this make car, to testify (since as a layperson, your testimony may not be persusive to the court) and may have to pay such person for their time. You could spend hundreds of dollars or more on litigation, spend many hours of your time, and delay payment by months, if you sue--you need to think about whether the extra money to which you believe you are entitled is worth that.

IMPORTANT NOTICE: The Answer(s) provided above are for general information only. The attorney providing the answer was not serving as the attorney for the person submitting the question or in any attorney-client relationship with such person. Laws may vary from state to state, and sometimes change. Tiny variations in the facts, or a fact not set forth in a question, often can change a legal outcome or an attorney's conclusion. Although AttorneyPages.com has verified the attorney was admitted to practice law in at least one jurisdiction, he or she may not be authorized to practice law in the jurisdiction referred to in the question, nor is he or she necessarily experienced in the area of the law involved. Unlike the information in the Answer(s) above, upon which you should NOT rely, for personal advice you can rely upon we suggest you retain an attorney to represent you.

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