If a vehicle has undergone severe damage, the salvage vehicle law in New York requires that the Department of Motor Vehicles inspect the vehicle before a new certificate of title can be issued. If your vehicle was damaged in a car accident, it is essential that you understand the process for a salvage title. If you are purchasing a used vehicle, it can also help to understand how the process protects consumers.

Qualifications for Salvage Vehicles in New York

According to the DMV, a salvage vehicle is a vehicle that:

  • Has repair costs that total more than 75 percent of the vehicle’s pre-damage retail value
  • Transferred to an insurance company through a Salvage Certificate because of significant damage due to water, collision, vandalism, or theft
  • Was declared a “wreck” on the certificate of title by an owner when it was sold or transferred
  • Has a salvage title issued by another state before being brought to New York

If any of the above situations apply, a vehicle must be inspected by the DMV before a new registration or title is issued. The examination is not an emission, insurance, or safety inspection. 

The inspection is to determine if a rebuilt salvage vehicle has stolen parts. The NY State Auto Theft Prevention Program requires the inspection of all salvage vehicles.

Some vehicles are not eligible for an inspection and a new certificate of title. If the Salvage Certificate notes any of the following, the DMV will not conduct an inspection or issue a new certificate of title:

  • Scrapped
  • Parts only
  • Non-repairable
  • Destroyed
  • Non-rebuildable

If you receive a new certificate of title after your vehicle is repaired or rebuilt, you might pay higher insurance rates for car insurance. Some insurance companies are uncomfortable insuring salvage vehicles.

How Does an Insurance Company Acquire Salvage Title to a Vehicle?

If your vehicle is damaged in a traffic accident, you can file a property damage claim with the at-fault driver’s insurance provider. If the accident was your fault, you might have property damage coverage under a collision or comprehensive insurance policy.

The insurance company sends an adjuster to inspect your vehicle. The adjuster determines the extent of the damage and the cost to repair the damage. 

If the cost to repair the damage exceeds the vehicle’s value, the vehicle is a total loss. Insurance companies may also declare a vehicle a total loss if the cost to repair the vehicle exceeds 75 percent of the value of the vehicle. 

When your vehicle is a total loss, the insurance company offers to settle the claim by paying you an amount equal to the vehicle’s fair market value. The market value is based on the condition of your vehicle before the accident. Other factors that impact the value of your vehicle include:

  • Make, model, and year of the vehicle
  • Special features and systems
  • Mileage
  • The current market for your specific vehicle

Most property damage claims are settled before claims involving injuries and other damages. However, when signing a release to settle your property damage claim, make sure you read the entire form. 

If the form refers to injuries or other damages, it is best to allow a car accident lawyer to review the form before proceeding. You do not want to release any of your rights to seek compensation for a personal injury claim

What Happens if My Vehicle Can be Repaired?

If the damage to your vehicle is repairable, the insurance company should pay the repair costs. However, there are a few issues that can arise.

The insurance company might authorize the repair shop to use aftermarket parts or used parts when repairing your vehicle. These parts can reduce the value of your vehicle. Demand an itemized list of repairs and parts before any work starts on your vehicle.

You may want to obtain at least three estimates from certified repair shops to compare the estimates. Itemized estimates allow you to ensure that all repairs are being made to your vehicle. 

The value of your vehicle may also decrease because of the accident. The insurance company may fight a claim for depreciated value. However, decreases in market value should be included in your property damage claim. 

Who Can Help Me With a Property Damage Claim?

If you were injured in a car accident, you might have already consulted with a car accident attorney about your personal injury claim. Your attorney can also advise you about your property damage claim. If you have not hired a personal injury lawyer, some lawyers handle disputed property damage claims with or without a personal injury case.