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TexLaw, Attorney
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Experience:  Lead trial/International commercial attorney licensed 11 yrs
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My motorcycle has been totalled by my insurance company. Most of the damage is cosmetic,

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My motorcycle has been totalled by my insurance company. Most of the damage is cosmetic, except for a broken clutch lever and a broken rear brake pedal. Does the following From Georgia Code 40-3-2, mean that I DO NOT have to have a Salvage Title issued to me?

The term salvage motor vehicle shall not include any motor vehicle for which a total loss claim has been paid which vehicle has sustained only cosmetic damage from causes other than fire or flood.

Zachary D. Norris :


Zachary D. Norris :

I'd be happy to answer your question.

Zachary D. Norris :

I need a few details, if possible, to get a full understanding of what is going on.

Zachary D. Norris :

Is the motorcycle still in your possession?

Zachary D. Norris :

Hi, since you are unavailable, I'm going to switch to a non-chat room format called "Q&A". This will allow me to service other customers until I hear back from you. Please respond to my question when you get a chance, and I will provide you with an answer. Thanks - Zach

Customer: replied 5 years ago.
Yes I still have the bike.
Thank you for your response. Generally, your insurance policy will state that when the insurance company "totals" your vehicle, the insurance company has the right to take possession of the vehicle. This makes sense when we look at a car that is totaled, and will be towed to a wrecker yard by a tow truck after the wreck. The insured at that point doesn't have to go and retrieve the vehicle once the insurance company totals it and pays out. The insurance company takes car of it. That's when the insurance company would get a Salvage Title.
In your case, you actually have possession of the totaled motor cycle, so you still own it under the original title. Thus, you do not have to get a salvage title, and can still hold the motorcycle under your original title. Please let me know if you have any further questions on this subject.

Zachary D. Norris
Customer: replied 5 years ago.

How do I convince my insurance company. They are telling me that Georgia Law states they must apply for a salvage title in my name because they are totalling my bike.


If your insurance company is telling you they must apply for a salvage title, that means they want to take possession of your bike. There are two ways you can prevent them from doing this. The first is to reject the offer to "total" the bike, and instead tell them you want the bike repaired. The second is to request a waiver of their right to obtain a salvage title. Simply tell them that you want to keep the junked bike title under your own name and see if they will agree to still pay out the full "totaled" amount.

Customer: replied 5 years ago.

They have really portrayed the salvage title application, as a service to me. I will keep the bike in my possession during the complete process. They want me to surrender my title and licence plate and at that time I will be paid the differrence between the claim and the salvage vehicle value.

I think the value of my bike will be reduced with the salvage title.


Yes, the value of your bike will be greatly reduced because you won't own the bike any more. The insurance company will be listed as the owner of record. That is what the function of the salvage title is. If you want to keep the bike as your property, you need to tell them that you only want it repaired, or again, see if they will let you keep it and still pay you the full totalled amount.
Customer: replied 5 years ago.

Sorrry, I guess I am not being clear. The insurance company will help me apply for a salvage title in my name. I will keep the bike and a salvage title will be issued in my name, all for the agreed upon price. Basically they are paying me market value for the bike and out of that amount I am giving them a salvage value. They claim this is the process stipulated in Georgia law. I was tring to read the Georgia code to see if all totaled vehicles are required to follow this process.


Interesting. If you are keeping the bike, then you don't have to get a salvage title. Salvage titles are only required when the insurance company wants to obtain title of a vehicle on which it has paid a total loss value claim. So, the answer to your question is that the insurance company is wrong. If they are letting you keep the bike, you don't have to get a salvage title.
Customer: replied 5 years ago.

The repair estimate for my bike is high enough that my insurance company considers it a total loss. They will pay me the market value for the bike and in there words, I will buy the salvage back from them. In this process I turn my title and licence plate over to them and they handle the replacement salvage title being issued in my name.

This excerpt from Georgia Code seems to define this as correct to me, but my reading of law speek is not well practiced. Do you see this different?

Thanks Frank

Georgia Code - Motor
Vehicles & Traffic - Title 40, Section 40-3-2

(11) 'Salvage
motor vehicle' means any motor vehicle:

(A) Which has
been damaged to the extent that its restoration to an operable condition would
require the replacement of two or more major component parts;

(B) For which
an insurance company has paid a total loss claim and the
vehicle has not been repaired, regardless of the extent of damage to such
vehicle or the number of major component parts required to repair such vehicle,
but shall not mean or include any stolen motor vehicle which has been recovered
with the public manufactureŕs vehicle identification number plate intact and
the vehicle:

(i) Is

(ii) Has only
cosmetic damage; or

(iii) Has been
damaged but only to the extent that its restoration to an operable condition
will not require the replacement of two or more major component parts;

(C) Which is an
imported motor vehicle which has been damaged in shipment and disclaimed by the
manufacturer as a result of the damage, has never been the subject of a retail
sale to a consumer, and has never been issued a certificate of title.

The term
salvage motor vehicle shall not include any motor vehicle for which a total
loss claim has been paid which vehicle has sustained only cosmetic damage from
causes other than fire or flood.

Exactly. The insurance company is taking the title away from you, getting a salvage title, and then giving it back to you along with your settlement check. An insurance company will generally go through getting a salvage title after paying a total loss claim on a vehicle, as is their right under the terms of the policy.

Your question comes in as to whether your bike is actually a salvage vehicle under the statute. The statute is poorly written in this sense because it contains contradictory definitional terms (which I think is what you were picking up on). The salvage title is for a vehicle on which a total loss claim has been paid "regardless of the extent of the damage." At the same time, it does not include vehicles for which a total loss claim has been paid where there is "cosmetic damage" only. This is contradictory, as it is not "regardless of the extent of the damage" if it does not also include "cosmetic damage". Thus, we must interpret what the statute means, which is that they really meant "for all damage which extends beyond cosmetic damage only." Because you state that your bike has two damaged parts which are not cosmetic, then you have a problem with trying to claim that your bike does not qualify for a salvage title. We need to look at the other parts of the statute.

Section 40-3-36(4)(B)states "A motor vehicle owner who retains possession of a damaged vehicle which is a salvage motor vehicle as defined in paragraph (11) of Code Section 40-3-2 shall surrender the license plates and registration for such vehicle, shall not operate such vehicle upon the roads of this state, and shall not sell, trade or otherwise dispose of such vehicle prior to obtaining a salvage certificate of title for such vehicle."

Section 40-3-36(C) states in relevant part "in every case in which a total loss claim is paid and the insurance company does not acquire such damaged motor vehicle, the insurance company paying such total loss claim [and] the vehicle owner...shall take the following steps to secure a salvage certificate of title....

This is why they are saying it is required. Unfortunately, it will decrease the value of your motorcycle.

Here is what I suggest you try: Ask the insurance company to agree that the damages are cosmetic only, and take a lesser value on the claim than the "total". If you settle for less than the total claim, then they don't have to follow this procedure.

Also, you can take the total claim value, and get the salvage title, but before you repair it, you follow the procedure in 40-3-37, which is you take photographs of the damage which you are repairing, and then you conduct the repairs and apply for a new certificate of title which will take the words "salvage" off the title and replace it with "rebuilt". This should increase the value of the bike somewhat (although probably not much.).

One more thing to note is that 40-3-37(f)(1) states that motorcycles which are over 25years old shall be exempt from the salvage laws of this state. So if your bike is older than 25 years, you can get out of this requirement altogether.
Customer: replied 5 years ago.

I like the ideas that you have given me. In their statement of value they use the NADA average retail amount. I was considering asking for more money, in that my bike has just over 1000 miles on it and in my opinion is better than average. If I can get them to agree that my bike is worth more than average and the damage is cosmetic, I think I will have your argument covered. If they are not willing to agree to that, I will ask to be paid an amount higher than the NADA average retail.

Last question I promise. Do you think I should present my argument to my insurance contact, or do you think I should ask to talk to someone in the legal department. OK I lied, two questions. Should I present my argument by e-mail or should I call first to get a feel for cooperation level?

Thanks, Frank

P.S. The total amount they have offered is good for me to rebuild the bike but it is not great. Some would just take the money and buy a new bike.

Hi Frank,

It's my pleasure to answer more questions on this subject. When dealing with an insurance company, it is always best to try to get everything in writing. I think communication by email is fine. You are correct in that the insurance company will base its assessment of the value of the bike on lower values. NADA is always a mainstay of the insurance companies, but as you point out, may not actually reflect the true value of the bike on the actual market. Your best bet would be to start looking around and gathering documentation of the price that similar bikes are being sold for in the market. The more local the seller, the better. Gather this documentation, and send an email demand for the value along with your argument that the bike has only cosmetic damage and does not qualify for "salvage title" certification and send it to the adjuster working on your case. The insurance company's legal department does not get involved unless there is potential litigation. Plus, an adjuster should easily be able to handle the increase if justified.

Good luck,
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