What to do if your car is a ‘write off’

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Q. I was involved in a traffic accident last week, I am worried my insurance company will say it is a write off, can I dispute this if they do?

If your insurer decides that it is not economical to repair your vehicle they should offer you the vehicle’s market value.

Good advice if your car is declared a write off

Good advice if your car is declared a write off

This is known as an insurance write off. They normally then take the car from you but you may be able to negotiate to keep it.

A car may be called a write-off or total loss by an insurance company under the following categories:

l A: a vehicle which should have been totally crushed, including all its spare parts

l B: a vehicle from which parts may be salvaged but the body shell should have been crushed and the car should never return to the road

l C: a vehicle that can be repaired, but where the insurer’s repairs cost more than the value of the car before the accident

l D: a vehicle that can be repaired, where the insurer’s repairs don’t cost more than the value of the car before the accident.

Minor damage to older car

If you have an accident in an older car with minor damage, you may decide not to claim on your insurance in case the car is written off.

Then you can get the car repaired yourself and keep it.

If you do claim on your insurance and your car is declared a write off, you could ask the insurance company how they worked this out. For example, some insurers will write off a car if the cost of the repairs is as little as 60% of the value of the car.

In some cases you may be able to claim on your insurance and avoid the car being written off by negotiating with your insurance company. You can negotiate to get your car valued at a higher price than first offered by the insurance company.

You may also be able to find a garage that charges less for the repairs than the insurer’s approved garage.

The insurance company will have to give their approval before you go ahead with the repairs from another garage.

You may also have to pay some of the repair cost yourself if your vehicle is in a better condition after repairs than it was beforehand.

If your car is a write-off

If your insurer decides that your car is a write off and you don’t agree the amount you’re offered is fair, you’ll need to give the insurer or insurance broker evidence to show your car is worth more. For example, you could give prices of similar cars for sale in the local area. You can also get a valuation from an independent qualified engineer, if you wanted to pay for this.

Once the claim is settled, your insurer will keep the damaged car.

If you want to keep it instead, you can negotiate with the insurer.

The insurer will only let you keep the car if it’s possible to repair it to make it roadworthy again. In this case, money will be taken off the amount you get, to cover the cost of the salvage value of the car.

Your insurer should get your consent to send your written-off car to the scrapyard for sale or to be broken into parts.

If they don’t get your consent, then scrap the car and decide not to settle your claim, you are entitled to claim the salvage value of the car.

Get free, confidential and independent advice from your nearest Citizens Advice at www.citizensadvice.co.uk or for further information go to www.citizensadvice.org.uk/nireland