Do I Need to Notify the DMV If My Car Is Totaled in California?

You are required to notify the DMV if your car is totaled in California. It is an important step in filing an insurance claim, accepting a settlement, or keeping the car. Failing to notify the DMV may result in serious fines and penalties.

In California, the general rule is as follows: A car is totaled if the cost of repairing it exceeds 75% of its value. Your insurance company usually decides if this is the case. When it’s not obvious if you have a total loss, the insurance company will require you to drive or tow the vehicle to an approved auto shop to determine its condition. Based on the mechanic’s opinion, the insurance company may offer a settlement based on the car’s current or pre-accident value.

When an insurance company considers a car to be totaled, it will usually not cover the costs of repairs. It will instead compensate you for the value of the vehicle.

The DMV’s Role In Your Totaled Car Claim

Whether you plan to accept a settlement or keep the car, you must file the proper documentation with the DMV. Here’s how you need to notify the DMV if your car was totaled in California. First, you need to file an Application for Salvage Certificate or Nonrepairable Vehicle Certificate; the insurance company can legally do so as well. Once you fill out and submit the form, you must surrender the vehicle’s license plates within 10 days. Otherwise, you may not receive your insurance settlement.

A Salvage Certificate fee must be paid as well. In the case of a car accident, the insurance company will pay for the salvage value of your vehicle as well as compensate for the cost of taxes, licenses, and transfers. The amount you receive as your settlement should be comparable to the value of vehicles of a similar type and condition. The insurance company will also consider the year, make, model, mileage, and various features of the vehicle, as well as its location based on your zip code.

What Is a Non-Repairable Vehicle?

The California DMV refers to a totaled car as a Total Loss/Non-Repairable Vehicle. This status requires specific criteria to be met. The vehicle must be declared to be a source of parts/scrap metal; or, it must have been completely stripped; or, it has no usable or fixable parts and is a completely burned-out shell.

Once a Salvage Certificate has been issued, the DMV will not allow the vehicle to be re-titled or re-registered. This means attaining Junk/Revived Salvage status is not an option. The Salvage Certificate is an important document; if you lose it or the paperwork is lost or destroyed, you can apply for a duplicate by submitting the appropriate forms and paying applicable fees.

What If I Keep My Totaled Vehicle?

An insurance company usually makes an offer based on bids from multiple salvage vehicle buyers. If you keep the vehicle, the company will deduct the highest salvage bid from your settlement amount, so you essentially buy back the car through the insurer. However, receiving an opinion on your vehicle’s status requires verifying ownership through the DMV.

Therefore, whether you accept an insurance company’s settlement offer or keep the car, you still must notify the DMV if your car is totaled in California.

Is Your Insurance Company Not Offering as Much as You Deserve?

If your insurer is providing lowball offers for your totaled vehicle, it’s time to get in touch with an experienced attorney. Our experienced personal injury lawyers can file your claim and fight for maximum compensation based on the damage to your vehicle, any injuries sustained in a car accident, and their impact on your life. The Law Offices of Jacob Emrani serve all of California. If you need legal assistance, call (888) 859-8439 for a free consultation.

Do I Need to Notify the DMV If My Car Is Totaled in California?

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714 W. Olympic Blvd.
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Los Angeles, CA 90015


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Los Angeles

serving southern california


714 W. Olympic Blvd.
Suite 300
Los Angeles, CA 90015


(888) 508-5085