My Vehicle Was Totaled or Damaged in a Baltimore Car Accident. What Do I Do?

Over the course of more than four decades handling auto accident claims, we’ve represented thousands of Maryland motor vehicle accident victims. In car wrecks involving minor or no bodily injury, victims breathe a huge sigh of relief. Their initial reaction is, “Thank God I’m alright.”

When they get a look at their totaled or damaged vehicles, however, that relief can quickly turn to confusion and frustration. In Maryland auto accident cases where no one is seriously injured or killed, the first thing most people as us is, “What about my car?”

If your vehicle was damaged in a car accident, you probably want to know how to go about getting it repaired or replaced, and who will be financially responsible. The answers depend on a number of key factors, including:

  • The extent of the damage in relation to the vehicle’s value
  • Who was at fault for the accident
  • Available insurance coverage

In scenarios where the accident seems to be the other driver’s fault, victims often assume their insurance claims will be straightforward. They expect the other party’s insurance to pay to have their damaged vehicle fixed and to put them in a rental car while they’re waiting on repairs.

If their car, truck, SUV or minivan is totaled, they expect the at fault driver’s insurance to pay the reasonable Blue Book value of their damaged vehicle. They hope everything will fall into place and move forward quickly.

About half the time, it works out that way. It all comes down to whether or not the other driver’s insurance company accepts liability for the accident. When they don’t and they contest your claim, that’s where things get complicated.

Here’s where we try to educate our clients on the realities of the insurance system.

Let’s say you’re rear-ended by a SUV while driving your car on the Baltimore Beltway. Clearly the fault lies with the SUV driver, right? It may seem that way. But if the other driver lies, twists the facts or tells a different version of the accident, the other driver’s insurance company may contest your claim. That’s where things can get frustrating.

If the other driver’s insurance company feels they have a valid defense, they will take their time determining liability. That means your car can be sitting in some tow lot while the insurance companies take days or even weeks to make a decision. Storage charges and other fees can build up into the hundreds or even thousands very quickly and, if liability is denied, these charges will not be voluntarily paid by the carrier.

Why collision coverage in Maryland is a good idea, even on older vehicles.

People love their cars, often driving the same car for five, ten years or more. Today’s vehicles are manufactured to last for many, many more years than our parents’ old Fords, Chevys and Pontiacs. Now, it’s not uncommon to drive a car for upwards of 150K or even 200K miles.

What we see happen in Baltimore auto accident cases is that while our clients love their older, cars, trucks, SUVs, they may have dropped their collision coverage. They figure the Book Value on the car is so low, why pay for additional, expensive collision insurance?

The reason to keep your collision coverage on an older vehicle is this: If you’re in an accident in Maryland where the other driver contests liability-or is uninsured or underinsured, your own collision insurance will pay for you to get your car fixed or get another car, while things are being sorted out. You would only be responsible for your deductible upfront.

In cases where clients have collision coverage, we can help them get things moving forward with their insurance company. If the other driver is liable, his or her insurance company will reimburse your insurance company (this is called subrogation). If they contest your claim, we may need to bring a lawsuit to seek compensation for your damaged or totaled vehicle.

But note: Where a vintage 1991 Ford Mustang (or other antique vehicle) may be priceless to its driver, it will only be worth a few hundred dollars in the eyes of the insurance companies. They are only obligated to pay the reasonable Blue Book value on the vehicle. This is another harsh reality we help clients to deal with.

Repair Costs and the Value of Your Car

An insurer is only required to pay damages up to the value of your vehicle. If you’ve received a repair estimate or two and it looks like repair costs will exceed the value of your car, the insurer will often declare it a total loss, pay you the fair market value (also known as “actual cash value”), and take possession of your car.

Remember that with any type of vehicle damage claim, the amount of the claim is based on the value of the property at the time of the accident. The value of the claim has nothing to do with how much you originally paid for the vehicle. And keep in mind that whichever insurance company ends up bearing financial responsibility for the vehicle damage portion of your car accident losses, that insurer will only pay for repairs/replacement of your vehicle up to policy limits.

For example, if the other driver was at fault and caused $15,000.00 of vehicle damage to your vehicle, but only has a $10,000.00 of property damage coverage, their insurer will only pay $10,000.00 toward your repair costs.


While valid legal defenses certainly exist, the Law Offices of Larry B. Litt can discuss possible defenses with the insurance claims adjuster or the claims manager, in detail. Frequently, we are able to convince the insurer to take a second look at denied matters and accept liability, when otherwise they might not. If you or a family member needs assistance with your vehicle damages or your vehicle being totaled in a car crash, call us today at 443-844-1528, or email us at for a free consultation. We are conveniently located in Baltimore, Maryland.