I am an insurance agent with AAA and I used to be a claims adjuster with AAA.
Some advice for you on settling your claim.
1. I would opt to go through your own policy, assuming you have collision coverage.
When you go through the other insurance company for either repairs or a total loss settlement, you are treated differently as a claimant vs. insured. Basically, if you are the claimant against the other responsible person's policy...that insurance company's sole obligation is to their client, not you. Example: If you have your car repaired through the other person's insurance policy, the other insurance company will have you sign a Release of All Liability form before they give you a check for the cost of the repair and rental car that you might need while your car is in the shop. Once you accept the check and sign the form, you have no recourse for futher assistance. Example: 4 months after the car is repaired, you hear a rattle in the car and take it back the shop that fixed the car. If the rattle is found to be related to the accident, then you have to pay for additional repairs out of pocket.....no option to go back to the other insurance company. If you had gone through your own insurance policy via the Collision coverage, your insurance company may have the ability to reopen your claim and pay additional money to fix your car. (This is what our policy would do). Bottom line, your own policy may have guarantees for you for work done on your vehicle. (Often this guarantee applies if you use a body shop recommended by your insurance company vs. one that you pick). Note: going through your own policy may have the issue that you have to pay your deductible and then seek reimbursement for your deductible once your insurance company recovers all the money that they spend on fixing your car and setting you up with a rental car...process called subrogation. Again, bottom line....when your insurance company gets their money back, you can get your deductible back.
2. Issues of Total Loss vs. Getting Repaired
Often, if the initial estimate for the repair of your car is 50% or more of the market value of your car, it is likely that the insurance company is going to start thinking about totaling your car vs. fixing it. (This percentage could be higher before they consider totaling the car if the value of the car is significant, such as an $80k vehicle). Reason for this, it is very common that once the repairs are done and panels are removed from your car, there will be additional damage found and would increase the cost of the repair. An insurance company does not want to get into a situation where they know that the damage is 50% min and then after the work is done that that cost balloons to 80% of value and there might be issues if the vehicle will still be safe for you to drive. Bottom line, your claims adjuster will be working with the body shop and checking their computer systems, which has labor rates and materials cost based on your Zip Code to determine how much the cost of the repairs might run vs. value of vehicle.
3. What do you do if the vehicle is deemed a total loss and options?
Two options for a total loss....you get ACV (Actual Cash Value/market value) of your vehicle, less any collision deductible and you get a check from your insurance company you sign paperwork essentially selling your car to your insurance company and they dispose of the vehicle for you. Other option is for you to retain the car, but the registrations will be branded/listed as a Salvage vehicle. Having Salvage Title will greatly reduce any possible resale value of the car, as it lets any potential buying know that your car has suffered significant damage in the past. Bottom line, your resale value is going to be significantly lower than any BLUE BOOK value.
If you want to keep your car in it's damaged state here is how the math would work:
Let's say your ACV/Market Value is $3500.00 for the vehicle.
The Salvage value (value of the car in its damaged state) is $1500.00
Your Deductible is $500.00
$3500.00 less $1500.00 (because you are keeping the car) less $500 Deductible =
$1500.00 Check in your pocket with possible $500 more back if your insurance company collects all the money back that they spent on you & your deductible.
Hope that makes sense.
4. What to do to prepare for a possible Total Loss
Remove all your valuables from your car that you would want to keep because it maybe towed from the body shop to be scrapped. Better to get your stuff out vs. chasing the car down to another city, depending on where the insurance company disposes of its cars.
Start researching your local news paper, LOCAL craigslist for real cars available for sale in your area that same make, model, year...approximate same mileage. Your insurance company will provide you with what it thinks is a good/fair value for your car. If you disagree and want more money, you need to have some evidence of why they should give you more money. They can send someone out to look at the comparable cars for sale that you found to make sure it is not better than your car. Just realize that often what someone ask for in an ad is not what it would sell for, but it is a starting point.
If there were any injuries in the accident, you will have a Bodily Injury claim against the other insurance company for medical bills, lost wages, pain and suffering. Your insurance company can not help you legally pursue the other party. They can help defend you from a lawsuit, but not help you go after someone else.
In CA, the statue of limitation for settling an injury claim is 2 years, but you might want to check with your company about the laws where you are.
I have not been in claims for 12.5 years....been an agent for the past 12.5 years.
Hope this helps you out and please feel free to ask me any questions.