Florida total loss for a car: Avoiding a salvage title
December 22, 2017 6:35 AM   Subscribe

Is there a way to avoid having to obtain a salvage title after my insurance company declared my car a total loss?

I'm in Florida. I was in a minor collision with an animal on December 18. My mechanic estimated the repairs to be about $900 to replace the side view mirror and fix some dents in the side of the car. I made the mistake of filing a claim with my auto insurance, USAA.

I have a 1998 Volvo with about 221,000 miles on it. I like my car, I've put money into my car so it runs great, and I do not want to get rid of my car.

When I initiated the auto claim, my insurance had me to go a local mechanic who they authorized to review the damage for an estimate. This mechanic looked at the entire car, instead of just the areas where the collision was, and came up with a repair number of $2,700. USAA said that exceeded the value of the car and they were declaring the car a total loss. They offered me two different settlement figures, one where they take possession, and one where I keep the car.

I called USAA on December 21 to cancel the claim altogether, and they told me that they had already reported my car to the state of Florida as a total loss, so my only option now was to accept one of the two settlements and to obtain a salvage title for the car if I wanted to keep possession of the car.

I want to know if there are any other options for me. Ideally, I would like to retain title, not switch to a salvage title, not accept any money from the insurance company, and just pay for any repairs myself without involving any other party.

I was reviewing this link regarding total loss settlements with insurance companies in the state of Florida and if I'm reading it correctly, all of the definitions involving total loss are if the insurance company actually pays the owner something. (Also, I understand that that link is from 2014. I was having difficulty in finding a 2017 version).

Does that mean that if I go forward with canceling the claim and not accepting any money from the insurance company, there's a way to reverse the total loss that they submitted to the state? If I cancel the claim, and do not accept any money from the insurance company, what can I expect from the state of Florida? Are they going to still process the car as a total loss and start haranguing me for getting a salvage title or a certificate of destruction? If there's not a way to reverse the total loss classification, is there a way to retain title without having to switch to a salvage title?

I think that ultimately, obtaining a salvage title and having a total loss classification on the car isn't the worst, since I'm not expecting to be able to get anything for my current car anyway when I do finally buy a new one, but I'm worried that I'm not being told all of the information, and that there's more to this whole thing than just switching out the current title to a salvage title.

Is there anything else that I'm missing here? The last USAA representative that I spoke with, when I asked if I would need to get a rebuilt certificate if I obtained a salvage title, kept saying that those were the same thing, even though the Florida DMV website says that they're not. So I don't entirely trust that this rep knew what he was talking about.

In addition, because I feel like I've made such a colossal mistake in initiating this whole thing with USAA, I don't trust my own judgment anymore in knowing what to do next.

Any help is appreciated.
posted by lea724 to Law & Government (3 answers total)
If it’s anything like Pennsylvania, getting a rebuilt certificate or salvage title will mean a special super-thorough inspection at a specially certified shop, to establish that it’s safe to have it on the road. You can’t just stop in at the DMV and convert a normal title to a salvage title. If the state has your car down as totaled then it’s illegsl to drive it and you won’t be able to get plates until you go through the process of getting it certified as roadworthy.

If the situation can clearly be pinned on an error by the insurer’s authorized shop then you could argue that the insurer owes you the costs of the special inspection, the salvage title, a rental car in the meantime, and any reduction in value attributable to its having s salvage title. I don’t know that you’ll get anywhere on that road without a lawyer whose fees might exceed the benefit, but maybe the threat of this could improve the settlement offers...
posted by jon1270 at 7:00 AM on December 22, 2017 [1 favorite]

If it's anything like New Mexico, you can keep driving your car with a salvage title. YS(tate)MV.
posted by yohko at 1:40 PM on December 22, 2017

call your local DMV (tax collectors office) & ask them.
posted by patnok at 7:37 AM on December 26, 2017

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