Total loss cases dealing with automobiles have certain rules that apply. A Dallas Court of Appeals case discusses this issue. The opinion is styled, Sunny Letot v. United Services Automobile Association. There are multiple issues in this case but the opinion dealing with the total loss of an automobile is something many people will have the occasion to see.
The opinion is an appeal from a summary judgment in favor of USAA. The part of the opinion dealing with total loss was reversed by this appeals court.
Letot was involved in a wreck that resulted in the total loss of her vintage 1983 Mercedes. Letot was offered $2,494.02 by USAA which was rejected. However, USAA still mailed a check for that amount and the check was returned. The same day the check was mailed, USAA sent TxDoT a letter informing them the vehicle had been totaled. Letot had the vehicle scrapped to avoid incurring further storage fees. USAA later filed a report with TxDoT stating the initial report was filed in error.
Pursuant to Texas Transportation Code, Section 501.0002, an insurance company who pays a claim on a non-repairable motor vehicle and the who does not acquire possession of the vehicle, shall submit to TxDoT a report stating that the insurance company: 1) has paid a claim on the vehicle; and 2) has not acquired ownership of the vehicle.
Texas Transportation Code, Section 501.091 states that a “salvage motor vehicle” is a vehicle that has suffered damages to the extent ” the cost of repairs … exceeds the actual cash value of the motor vehicle immediately before the damage.”
The case the discussed what it means to “pay” the claim.
Here, USAA showed only that it mailed a check in an effort to pay Letot a portion of her claimed damages. It is undisputed that Letot did not accept either the amount of payment or the manner in which USAA tendered it. Further, because she returned the check, USAA did not actually transfer any funds to Letot. The concluded USAA did not conclusively establish it paid a claim on Letot’s vehicle.