Total Vehicle Loss Claims in California


The magnitude of your risk of suffering a car crash may surprise you. According to data published by the California Department of Transportation, during the 10-year period from 2010 to 2019, the number of vehicle crashes in California rose by more than 24 percent. A total of 180,759 crashes occurred in the state during 2019 alone.

Many car crashes result in significant damage to the vehicles involved. But even relatively minor auto crashes can be traumatic events. Personal and financial stress is elevated when the crash results in major damage to your vehicle. Auto insurance is supposed to protect you from those financial risks and stresses.

When you buy insurance, you do so with the expectation that if you must make a claim, your insurer will treat you fairly and will pay the claim in conformance with the law. Too often, however, especially when a car is rendered a “total loss,” insurance companies fail to do so. What then?

What Happens When Your Insurance Company “Totals” Your Car?

Depending on the extent of damage caused by a crash, your insurer my declare your vehicle to be a “total loss.” Under California law, a “total loss salvage vehicle” means a vehicle that has been damaged to the extent that the owner, leasing company, financial institution, or insurance company that is responsible for repair of the vehicle, considers it uneconomical to repair the vehicle.

The ultimate amount you are entitled to receive from insurance is based on the requirements of state law and the terms of the applicable insurance policy.

If your vehicle is declared a total loss, under California law, your insurance company is required to replace the vehicle or pay you the actual cost of a “comparable automobile” less any deductible provided in the policy. A “comparable auto” is one of similar kind and quality, made by the same manufacturer, of the same or newer model year, of the same model type, of a similar body type, with options and mileage similar to the insured vehicle. This cash settlement amount must include all applicable taxes and one-time fees incident to transfer of evidence of ownership of a comparable automobile. That amount also must include the license fee and other annual fees, computed based upon the remaining term of the loss vehicle’s current registration. This procedure applies regardless of whether or not a replacement automobile is purchased.

However, some insurance companies, when settling total loss claims, fail to properly calculate the settlement payment, often neglecting to include some or all of the following costs and fees:

  • Sales tax
  • Title transfer fees
  • Vehicle registration fees
  • License plate transfer fees
  • Other mandatory California fees

If these costs and fees are not factored into the settlement for your total loss, you may be entitled to pursue a claim to receive those additional amounts from the insurer. Where it appears that the insurance company has failed to include these items as a general practice, moreover, a class action lawsuit may be appropriate to recover on your behalf and for all other persons similarly affected. And for that, Anderson + Wanca can help.

Call Anderson + Wanca for Total Loss Vehicle Claims

Anderson + Wanca is a boutique class action litigation law firm. Our consumer rights attorneys at Anderson + Wanca have years of experience with class action litigation, including fighting for the rights of insureds whose total loss claims have been improperly underpaid. If you believe you have been wronged by an insurance company in connection with your total loss claim, or if you just want to be sure you have been offered a proper settlement, contact our attorneys at Anderson + Wanca. We will review your insurance policy, settlement documents, and the invoice for your replacement vehicle to see if you are being offered a fair settlement and, if not, to determine if there is a potential for a class action claim that our firm could advance on your behalf at no monetary cost to you.

Contact us today. Call Anderson + Wanca at (888) 505-0953 or email us at to set up a free consultation regarding your total loss claim.

Anderson + Wanca works with licensed attorneys throughout the United States.

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Total Vehicle Loss

If you have sustained a total vehicle loss in the state of California, we would be happy to review your settlement documents, your insurance policy, and the invoice for your replacement vehicle to determine if there is a potential for a class action claim.

Contact us today by submitting the form below.