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When personal property is damaged, the person who damaged it usually must pay you the lesser of the cost of repairs (plus dimunition of total value after repairs) or the fair market value of the property before the damage.

If it would cost more to repair the property than its fair market value just before the damage, this is known as "total damage" or "totaled." 

So, instead of repairing the car (which they have no obligation to do), they will simply pay you what the car would have traded for the day prior to the damage.

You can download a FREE copy of our consumer guide, The Five Deadly Sins That Can Wreck Your Injury Claim, to learn more about personal injury claims.

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Ben Glass
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Ben Glass is a nationally recognized car accident and ERISA disability attorney in Fairfax, VA.