After a Car Accident, Whether Your Car was a Total Loss or Can be Repaired, You can Settle Your Property Damage Claim

Can you resolve your property damage claim without a lawyer? Can your vehicle be repaired or was your car totaled in the accident? In this Florida Car Accident – Property Damage Guide, the scenario-based step-by-step guide will help you resolve your property damage claim after an accident. Before we go over the various “after a car accident” scenarios let’s go over some basics below.


Don’t Settle Your Negligence Claim Fast for Less

Beware, immediately after an accident, the at-fault party’s insurance company will have their adjusters attempt to settle the injury portion of your claim. They will throw low settlement offers, make promises to take care you, but they’re only trying to issue a small check and get a signed release.

Injury Claim vs. Property Damage Claim

Your injury claim is completely separate from your property damage claim. They are 2 distinct claims and come out of separate lines of coverage unless the at-fault party has combined single limits (CSL). If the defendant has a CSL, then your injury and property damage claims are paid out of the same pot. For example if the CSL is $100k and your property damage claim totals $10k (repairs, rental, etc.) the available limits for your injury claim will be $90k ($100k CSL – $10k property damage claim).

You should consult with an experienced personal injury lawyer before accepting any settlement offer.


The insurance companies will aggressively pursue you to obtain a recorded statement. Do NOT provide a recorded statement to the at-fault party’s insurance company. Politely decline, ONLY discuss your PD claim and refuse to discuss or answer any questions regarding: 

1. How the accident happened.

2. Injuries.

3. Treatment.

4. Pre-existing history.

Your insurance company will also request a recorded statement. As an insured you have a duty to cooperate as part of your contract/policy with your insurance company. However, if you hire a personal injury lawyer, your lawyer will coordinate this statement and will be present on the line when you provide the recorded statement to your insurance company. 

Consult with your attorney before providing a recorded statement.


Florida only requires auto policies issued in our state to have at least $10k in property damage (PD) coverage. As long the at-fault party has an active policy and there are not any coverage or liability issues, you know there should be at least 10k in PD coverage available. 

When you cause damages to someone else’s property, your PD coverage pays for the damages you caused. Your PD coverage does NOT pay for damages to YOUR vehicle. Your insurance will only pay for damage to your vehicle if you have collision coverage.  


Check your policy to see if you have collision coverage. Collision coverage pays for repairs to your vehicle or the fair market value of your vehicle when you’re involved in an accident, even if you’re at-fault. It’s optional coverage and not everyone elects to carry it. When a client does not have collision coverage, it’s often because their vehicle is older, and they do not see the value in paying a premium for this coverage. The issue is nobody plans for an accident and when it rains it pours. 

If you have collision coverage, you have options and will also be in a better position in the event there are any issues with the at-fault party’s insurance policy. Also check your policy to determine the amount of your deductible for your collision coverage. Most policies have deductibles that range from $100.00 and up. IF you use your collision coverage, you will be responsible for the deductible as follows:

Deductible When Vehicle is Declared a Total Loss

Total Loss – If your vehicle is a total loss, your insurance company will deduct your deductible from the amount that will be paid to you. For example, if the fair market value of your vehicle is $14,000 and your deductible is $500.00, your insurance will pay you $13,500 ($14,000 – $500 deductible).

Deductible When Vehicle is Repairable

Vehicle is Repairable – If your vehicle can be repaired, you will have to pay the repair shop whatever your deductible amount is when your repairs are complete.

Subrogation Claim for Your Deductible

Your insurance company will try to recover your deductible from the at-fault party’s insurance for you. They will submit what’s called a subrogation demand to the at-fault party’s insurance, seeking reimbursement for any money they paid out for your property damage claim, as well as your deductible. This is not a fast process, and it can take months before you receive your deductible back. Often you will only receive a portion of your deductible because there’s not enough coverage for the at-fault party’s insurance to issue reimbursement at 100%. If that’s the case, reimbursement will be issued on a pro-rata basis.


If your vehicle was towed from the scene of the accident and is sitting at a tow yard, you have a duty to mitigate your damages. This means, you cannot let your vehicle sit at the tow yard and incur excessive storage fees. The status of your vehicle needs to be determined right away. Is it repairable or is it a total loss? 

The status of your vehicle will determine if it needs to be relocated to the insurance company’s storage lot or towed to a repair shop of your choice. If you do not cooperate, you can become responsible for the tow yard’s storage fees and the tow yard may even sell or destroy your vehicle if it is not removed. In some cases, YOU may have to relocate your vehicle. This typically occurs when you do NOT have collision coverage and:

1. The at-fault party does not have an active policy or there are coverage issues. 

2. You were involved in a hit & run and do not know the at-fault party’s identity.

3. There are liability issues and the at-fault party’s insurance is delaying investigation or has denied liability.

4. There are multiple cars involved and the at-fault party did not carry sufficient PD coverage to pay for everyone’s property damage.

You will have to provide the tow yard with a release to give them permission to release your vehicle to the insurance company.


Whose insurance you should go through ultimately boils down to the facts of your case. When you’re involved in an accident and it was not your fault, most people do not want to use their own auto insurance policy. But if you have collision coverage, you’ll thank yourself later because going through your own insurance coverage may be in your best interest or sometimes your only option.

If you have collision coverage, you can decide whether you want to go through the at-fault party’s insurance or have your auto insurer handle your PD claim. But if you do not have collision coverage, you’re at the mercy of the at-fault party’s insurance company.

In some situations, you may be forced to use your collision coverage. This can occur when:

1. The at-fault party does not have an active policy or there are coverage issues. 

2. You were involved in a hit & run and do not know the at-fault party’s identity.

3. There are liability issues and the at-fault party’s insurance denied liability or only accepted a percentage of fault. 

4. Your vehicle is a total loss and exceeds the at-fault party PD coverage limits; OR

5. There are multiple cars involved and the at-fault party did not carry sufficient PD coverage to pay for everyone’s property damage.

It is also common to go through both insurance companies when there are rental expenses involved. This typically happens when the repairs costs are high, and you are in a rental vehicle for an extended period. If you have rental coverage on your auto insurance policy, you may be forced to have your insurance company pick up the rental expenses, while the at-fault party’s PD limits are used for the repairs.


You need to notify the insurance company where your vehicle is located. Whether it’s at a tow yard or sitting in your driveway, the insurance company may send a field adjuster out to conduct an initial inspection to determine the status of your vehicle. If your vehicle is still drivable, the insurance company may still send a field adjuster out to conduct a preliminary estimate; OR have you submit photos through their app; OR request that you take it to a shop of your choice to have an estimate performed. Remember, before the shop begins ANY repairs, they must first get approval from the insurance company.

We recommend you put the insurance company on notice in writing regarding the location of your vehicle. Most insurance companies have claim dashboards or an app you can use to send a message or text to the assigned adjuster. You can also email or fax a brief letter providing the information on the location of your vehicle and whether its incurring storage fees. This will save you later down the road in the event the insurance company attempts to take the stance that they were never notified.


Pursuant to § 319.30, Fla. Stat., (2022), a car is deemed a total loss when the cost to repair it is 80% or more of the car’s actual cash value (ACV). For example, if the ACV of your car is $10,000 and the repairs are $8,000 or more, your car would be deemed a total loss.

Who Gets the Insurance Check?

After a car accident, clients want to know who gets the check when their car is a total loss or if it’s repairable. When your car is repairable, the insurance may send you payment for the initial estimate. You will want to hold onto those funds because you will have to pay that amount to the auto body repair shop. If they do not send you an initial amount for the repairs, the insurance company will pay the body shop directly.

If your car is deemed a total loss after a car accident, depending on whether you have a loan on your vehicle and who has title to the vehicle will control where the check is sent. If you still owe a balance on your car loan, then the property damage check will be sent to your lien holder to satisfy your loan. You will receive a check for any money that is leftover after the car loan is satisfied. For example, say you owe $5,000 on your car loan and the insurance company’s valuation of your vehicle was $10,000. The insurance company would send a check in the amount of $5,000 to the lien holder and the remaining $5,000 to the titled owner of the totaled vehicle.


The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration recommends replacing your child’s car seat following a moderate or severe car crash. Simply submit your receipt for the replacement car seat or the original purchase receipt to the insurance company. If you cannot locate the original receipt, send a screenshot of the identical or similar car seat with its price from an online store.


Four Common Scenarios

Scenario #1

Your Vehicle is REPAIRABLE & You Do NOT Have Collision Coverage

Scenario #2

Your Vehicle is a TOTAL LOSS & You Do NOT Have Collision Coverage

Scenario #3

Your Vehicle is REPAIRABLE & You HAVE Collision Coverage

Scenario #4

Your Vehicle is a TOTAL LOSS & You HAVE Collision Coverage