Whether you drive a car, motorcycle, RV or heavy truck in Arizona, accidents happen which is why you carry insurance. But unless your vehicle is covered by an Agreed Value policy, the amount you’ll be paid if your car is deemed a total loss is entirely up to the insurance company. How does an insurer determine the value of your vehicle? FYI, unlike in most states, which have percentage of value thresholds that determine when a car is totaled, in Arizona, the insurance company decides whether or not your car is “uneconomical” to repair. A $50,000.00 car suffering only $10,000.00 in damage could theoretically be totaled by an insurer, leaving the car owner with no recourse other than to accept their decision or take legal action.
Typically, most large insurers use outside vendors such as CCC, Carfax, Autosource or Mitchell which allows them to input your automobile’s information such as year, make, model, mileage, engine, options, etc. There is also a section that enables the insurance appraiser to make additions or subtractions for mileage, optional equipment, old damage and conditioning issues. Then the primary factor in the valuation is the use of comparable vehicle sales or auction results to determine how much your car is worth. Unfortunately, an insurance appraiser can be selective in which comparables he or she uses. Many times, we’ll find that the examples don’t quite measure up to your auto.
Some interpretations include choosing vehicles with much higher miles and making costly mileage adjustments. This practice can lead to skewed results that don’t accurately describe what your low-mileage car would have sold for prior to the wreck. Another common practice is to limit the geographical search area, thereby reducing the number of comparable vehicles. An additional problem occurs when the insurance appraiser uses dissimilar vehicles to yours. Yet another common drawback is the insurance appraiser’s failure to recognize specialty vehicles, such as diesel pickups, that hold their value better than others.
What recourse does an Arizona car owner have when faced with this situation? You could simply accept the lower settlement figure. Another option is to hire an independent appraiser to prepare a fair and objective valuation appraisal that accurately reflects your car’s true pre-accident value. This can be tricky so it is best to do your due diligence and research the company before hiring. Do they have poor reviews in online sites such as BBB, Angie’s List, Ripoff Report, Pissed Consumer, etc.? Also, does the appraisal firm work for insurance companies in addition to private parties? These conflicts can cost you more than just a few dollars since insurance clients may represent the majority of their business. It isn’t unusual for an independent appraiser to target the adverse insurer as a potential client.
Most states recognize the “Appraisal Clause” whereby the appraisers from both sides try to negotiate a fair settlement. A typical compromise is the median of the values arrived at by the respective appraisers. Other times, however, when no agreement can be reached, the appraisers both offer candidates to act as an umpire. This entails an additional cost which is borne by both you and the insurance company. In the event that neither side agrees on a suitable umpire, one will be chosen by a magistrate in your county. The decision of the umpire is non-binding, however, and you can still choose to litigate.
The business model of all insurance companies is to charge as much as they can in premiums and to pay out as little as possible in claims. Keep this in mind when you receive the settlement offer for your total loss vehicle.
Additional fees you may incur are $125.00 for our representation in Appraisal Clause negotiations, and half of an umpire’s fee (Umpires typically charge from $300 – $700) if either are necessary. On average, approximately 10% of Appraisal Clause cases go to an umpire.
Complaints against insurance companies? The Department of Finance handles insurance claims for all State of Arizona agencies.
Arizona Department of Insurance and Financial Institutions
100 North 15th Avenue, Suite 261
Phoenix, AZ 85007
Please email the insurance company CCC or other work sheet to firstname.lastname@example.org
Joan McD (Arizona)- I think St. Lucie Appraisal is wonderful…. especially the way they support their customers.
Laura S (Arizona)- Did a great job of providing us with a prompt and fair appraisal of our vehicle.
Roger S (Arizona)- I am very happy with the work done by St. Lucie Appraisal and the response time. I would highly recommend you for future work. Thanks for your quick work and please use me as a reference. In my position, I deal with our branches in 38 states and over 100,000 customers. If the opportunity arises, I will recommend your company.
Rock M (Arizona)- My motorcycle appraisal was done quickly and efficiently, and from what I saw advertised online on various sales venues and valuation guides, the appraisal was done fairly and accurately. Would definitely use again.
John M (Arizona)- Thank you very much for the appraisal. I was able to use it along with the insurance company field appraiser’s salvage estimate and repair estimate to agree with them that the right thing to do was to declare the vehicle a total loss. I managed to pick up one of the few remaining new ones in the nation last week and am bringing this to closure without having to file a diminished value claim. Thanks again!
Service throughout Arizona including Apache Junction, Avondale, Buckeye, Bullhead City, Casa Grande, Chandler, Flagstaff, Gilbert, Glendale, Goodyear, Lake Havasu City, Marana, Mesa, Oro Valley, Peoria, Phoenix, Prescott, Scottsdale, Sierra Vista, Surprise, Tempe, Tucson and Yuma.
Apache, Cochise, Coconino, Gila, Graham, Greenlee, La Paz, Maricopa, Mohave, Navajo, Pima, Pinal, Santa Cruz, Yavapai, Yuma Counties.
TOTALLOSSDISPUTE.COM is a service of The St. Lucie Appraisal Company
This is an Open Education resource focused on automobile total losses, the appraisal clause, collective knowledge and the sharing of scholarly content.
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