Assessing Accident Damage: How to tell if your car is a write off

Posted by naeemsheeraz | Comments Closed | Blog

Whilst it’s not something we ever want to think about, accidents do happen when driving on the road. Unfortunately, sometimes the damage caused by them is so extensive the car has to be written off. This is because it is deemed too much of a risk to drive. Or as being too expensive for the insurer to make it roadworthy again. But who decides to write it off? And how can you tell if a car needs to be written off? In this article, we will look at this in more detail so you will know what to look out for should this worst-case scenario happen.

Whose decision is it?

This might come as a surprise but classing your car as a write-off is not your decision at all. It is, in fact, the determination of your insurance company which is bound by the laws of the state or territory in which they are operating. When making their decision, insurance companies are obliged to abide by these laws. Typically there are two classifications they need to follow when it comes to writing vehicles off. The first is ‘non-repairable write-offs’. Often referred to as ‘statutory write offs’ this is applied when a vehicle is seen as being too hazardous to fix. The second is known as ‘repairable write-offs’ and applied to cars that can technically be repaired but will cost more than the car is worth to do so. When assessing the damage caused to a vehicle in an accident your insurer will have to follow these classifications.

They will also have to adhere to a set of criteria drawn up by Austroads and NMVTRC (also known as the National Motor Vehicle Theft Reduction Council). This is officially called the ‘Damage Assessment Criteria for the Classification of Statutory Write-Offs’. It was created to enable insurers to be consistent in their judgment of writing off vehicles by following a clear set of guidelines and measures.

Should your vehicle be deemed too dangerous to repair

In the event of your car being classed as too unsafe to warrant repairs, it will be de-registered permanently and most probably stripped at a junkyard for its parts.

  • The vehicle will also be included on your state’s write-off vehicle (WOV) register.
  • For your motor vehicle to be classed as too dangerous to fix, it will have suffered excessive structural, fire, water, or stripping damage.
  • The specific process for assessing this depends on each state or territory’s ‘Damage Assessment Criteria for the Classification of Statutory Write-Offs’.
  • However, to give you an idea of what insurers have to look for, here are Queensland’s guidelines.
  • As an aside, when buying a used car, it is always worth searching your state’s WOV register to check that the vehicle does not feature on the list.
  • Sadly, there have been cases where some people have unwittingly bought motors that were involved in major accidents and subsequently underwent repairs that were unlawfully performed on them. This due diligence can prevent you from being caught out.

Should your vehicle be classed as not financially viable to repair

  • If your motor car has been determined to be financially unviable to fix, it will still be put on the WOV register.
  • The difference though is that at any time, you can get in touch with your state authority to have it taken off the WOV register and repaired at your own cost.
  • In this circumstance, it is perfectly legal to drive or sell your car. However, its value might diminish as it will be officially marked as a repaired write-off.
  • When assessing if a car is financially viable to repair, the insurers work to a basic formula, this adds the value of the car after it has been salvaged to the cost of repairs.
  • It then works out whether this exceeds the amount the car was insured for or how much the car was worth before the accident.
  • The salvage value of a vehicle is regarded as the amount of money you would get for it if you sold it to a salvage yard in its current damaged state.
  • A car will be written off if the sum of the car’s salvage value and its cost of repairs is more than its market value or the insured amount.
  • After your vehicle has been written off, you will be paid out the amount of your cover from your insurer – minus what is outstanding from your registration and your excess.

Disputing the write-off

  • Should you want to challenge your insurer’s decision to write off the vehicle on the grounds of it being a repairable or a statutory write-off, you will have to act fast.
  • This is because your insurance company has to let the WOV register know within seven days of their determination.
  • Once it has been added to this register, it can be a struggle to get your car taken off it. Generally, it requires plenty of evidence to do so.
  • For instance, if your vehicle was classed as a statutory write-off, you will have to prove that the insurer was wrong and that they did not follow the legal requirements set in place to ascertain whether a car is non-repairable.
  • Similarly, if the car was concluded to be a repairable write-off, but you want your insurer to foot the bill for it, you will need to prove without a doubt that the salvage value and repairs cost less than the vehicle’s insured sum and market value.
  • In such cases, the pathway to do this initially is via your insurance company’s internal dispute resolution function. Failing that, you can contact ACFA (the Australian Financial Complaints Authority).

Should your car be damaged but not classed as a write-off?

If the damage inflicted on your car is not classed as a write-off, then you are in luck.  You should be able to work with your insurer to have the damage to your vehicle repaired to make it look as good as new. If you are comprehensively covered with NRMA or another reputable insurance company, this should be a relatively straightforward process. Especially if the accident was proved to be the fault of another driver. However, should you have any difficulties, you again have the option of contacting the ACFA to help you resolve them.