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How Does Totaling a Car Work in California?

After a car accident anywhere in California, it’s understandable you want your vehicle repaired so you can get your life back on track. However, the process of fixing a car can be a confusing process which only delays returning to normal; even victims whose vehicles on appeared to suffer minor damage may receive shocking news that their car is determined a total loss. There is a process for totaling vehicles in California. If you aren’t happy with the offer you receive from an insurance company, a California car accident attorney can help deal with insurers on your behalf whether you live in Huntington Beach, Bakersfield, or anywhere in between.

Total Loss Formula in California

After you’re involved in an accident, the first step to getting your vehicle repaired or declared a total loss is notifying your insurance company and beginning a claim. Every state has a different standard for determining when vehicles are considered a total loss. California uses a total loss formula, whereby an insurer determines the repair cost to the vehicle and its scrap value. If this amount equal or greater than your car’s actual cash value, an insurer will usually total it.

Factors Affect a Car’s Actual Cash Value

According to Investopedia, an actual cash value – your car’s worth – is the amount of your vehicle’s replacement cost minus its depreciation including wear and tear and any deductible listed in the comprehensive or collision section of your auto insurance policy. Factors cited by Allstate that may affect determining the value often include:

  • Age
  • Mileage
  • Resale value
  • Vehicle condition
  • Sale price of similar vehicles in the area

This means the amount needed to declare your vehicle a total loss may vary based on how you cared for your car or whether you live in Los Angeles, Chula Vista, Santa Monica, Torrance, or West Covina.

Do any Other Factors Play Into the Decision?

According to, even with the total loss formula being used, the decision to declare a total loss may be determined by other factors. If a car cannot be repaired safely, an insurer may total the vehicle. The decision may also vary from one insurance company to another.

Speak to an Attorney Today

When a car accident happens, it’s a traumatic experience that can leave victims injured, overwhelmed, and confused about what happens next. If you or a loved one were involved in a California car accident, an experienced personal injury attorney with the law firm of Steven M. Sweat can answer your questions, explain what to expect during the process, and help you take right steps to secure the best outcome from this unfortunate event. Let us review the facts of your unique case and work to deliver the best outcome possible. Contact us for a free and confidential consultation by calling (310) 592 0445 or completing our online contact form today.

Client Reviews
I have known Steven for some time now and when his services were required he jumped in and took control of my cases. I had two and they were handled with the utmost professionalism and courtesy. He went the extra mile regardless of the bumps in the road. I can not see me using any other attorney and I would recommend him to any of my family and friends. Josie A.
Steven was vital during our most trying time. He was referred by a friend after an accident that involved a family member. While he was critical and lying in the hospital, Steven was kind, patient and knowledgeable about what we were going through. Following our loss, Steven became a tough and aggressive negotiator and made sure that we receive a huge compensation. I would refer Steven in fact, this happened 2 years ago and I still speak highly of his service. Cheryl S.
Mr. Sweat is a pitbull in the courtroom as well as settlement negotiations - You can't have a better equipped attorney in your corner! It is a pleasure working as colleagues together on numerous cases. He can get the job done. Jonathan K.
Because of Steven Sweat, my medical support was taken care of. Plus, I had more money to spare for my other bills. Steven is not only an excellent personal injury lawyer, providing the best legal advice, but also a professional lawyer who goes beyond his call of duty just to help his clients! He stood up for me and helped me get through the process. I would definitely recommend. I couldn't think of any better lawyer than him. MiraJane C.
I must tell anyone, if you need a great attorney, Steve sweat is the guy! I had an awful car accident and had no idea where to turn. He had so much to deal with because my accident was a 4 car pile up. Not to mention all the other cars were behind me and they were not wanting to settle in any way! He never stopped working for me and had my best interest at heart! Audra W.
I believe I made the best choice with Steven M Sweat, Personal Injury. I was very reluctant to go forward with my personal injury claim. I had a valid claim and I needed a professional attorney to handle it. I felt so much better when I let Steven take my case. His team did everything right and I am very satisfied. Stia P.
I have to say that Steve has been exemplary! I met Steve at a point with my case that I was ready to give up. He took the time and dealt with all of my concerns. Most importantly, he was present and listened to what I was going through. He was able to turn things around, put me and my case on the right track! The results were better that expected! Highly recommend!! Cody A.