Don’t Settle Your Auto Insurance Claim Until You Have All The Facts

Todd Tracy Warns Owners Of Flood Damage Cars About Insurance Companies Lowballing Estimates
500,000 Flood Damaged Cars From Hurricane Harvey May Be Declared Total Loss

In the wake of Hurricane Harvey, insurance companies will use a bag of tricks to pressure the owners of flood and water damaged cars into settling their insurance claims for far less money than their vehicles are really worth.

Hurricane Harvey Vehicle Claim Alert

Flood and water damaged vehicles are typically declared a total loss.  Insurance companies usually lowball policyholders into accepting offers for automobile storm claims that are 40% less than the actual value of the car according to data in a presentation made by independent public insurance adjuster Auto Claim Specialists to the Auto Body Association of Texas in Hurst as Hurricane Harvey first hit the state’s gulf coast.

When car owners feel most vulnerable, insurance estimators use tactics to quickly settle claims with lowball offers by stating, “that it is a one time offer”.  They also resort to threats of cancelling the claim or not providing a rental car.  This is bad faith insurance adjusting.  Do not be taken advantage of by these high pressure closing tactics by insurance companies.

An estimated half million vehicles received flood and water damage during Hurricane Harvey and its aftermath.  

2 Warning Signs That A Flood Damaged Vehicle Is A Total Loss

  • A water line is at the base of the vehicle’s door or located higher up on the vehicle.
  • The interior insulation under the passenger side floor carpet beneath the dash is damp or condensation.

What Constitutes a Total Vehicle Loss In Texas?

If the actual cash value of the vehicle is less than the total repair cost, minus the paint materials/labor and sales tax, then the insurance company cannot repair the vehicle.

Under Texas Insurance Law the official definition of a total loss is the vehicle, “has damage to or is missing a major component part to the extent that the cost of repairs, including parts and labor other than the cost of materials and labor for repainting the motor vehicle and excluding sales tax on the total cost of repairs, exceeds the actual cash value of the motor vehicle immediately before the damage.”

The insurance company will send a Declaration of Total Loss and Settlement to the owner of an insured flood or water damaged vehicle.  As mentioned above, data collected by independent public insurance adjusters indicates that insurance companies grossly underestimate large number of mass storm claims by upwards of 40%.  

Based on data supplied by Auto Claim Specialists, insurance companies have undervalued vehicles from 0 to 2 years old by nearly nine thousand dollars and have undervalued older cars 12 to 14 years old by more than $14,500.

A car owner can quickly find themselves upside down on their car loan. Insurance companies have typically undervalued vehicles between 3 to 5 years old by $7,725.  The lender will come after the car owner to collect the difference between the balance owed on the vehicle and the insurance company’s declared value of the total loss.

Robert McDorman, a certified public insurance adjuster in Texas, says due to the large volume of claims in hurricanes as well as hail storms, “many important factors contributing to a vehicle’s value, such as options, condition, and other considerations simply get overlooked.”  For example, the insurance estimator may not include the leather seat package you originally paid extra money for as an upgraded accessory.

3 Tips On How Hurricane Harvey Vehicle Owners Can Negotiate A Fair Value For Flood Damage

  • Don’t accept the first settlement offer from the insurance carrier without researching the value of your flood damaged car.
  • Request a Market Valuation Report from your carrier, and question every value and item, whether it is included or missing upgraded equipment and accessories on your vehicle.
  • If you can’t get a satisfactory resolution, contact a Public Insurance Adjuster licensed by the Texas Department of Insurance to help you obtain a fair settlement. Here’s a link to TDI’s list of licensed public insurance adjusters.

Reputable licensed public insurance adjusters fees should not be more than ten percent. The average increase in vehicle value negotiated for clients by Robert McDorman’s Auto Claim Specialists is more than $3,000 for current year models through fourteen year old model vehicles.  

As a vehicle safety lawyer, I believe every automobile that was in water up to the floor pan should be declared a total loss and sent to a salvage yard to be crushed. Unfortunately, there is no state law that prevents flood damaged cars from being repaired. This poses a major safety hazard for the future.  The complex electronic safety systems design to protect occupants from serious injury or death in car accidents cannot be “dried out” and will not function properly in car crash.  

*Specific legal citation that defines what is a total vehicle loss in Texas:



Sec. 501.091. DEFINITIONS. In this subchapter:


(8) “Motor vehicle” has the meaning assigned by Section 501.002.

(9) “Nonrepairable motor vehicle” means a motor vehicle that:

(A) is damaged, wrecked, or burned to the extent that the only residual value of the vehicle is as   a source of parts or scrap metal;


(15) “Salvage motor vehicle” means a motor vehicle that:

(A) has damage to or is missing a major component part to the extent that the cost of repairs,   including   parts and labor other than the cost of materials and labor for repainting the motor   vehicle and excluding sales tax on the total cost of repairs, exceeds the actual cash value of the   motor vehicle immediately before the damage;

17 Responses

  1. Robert McDorman’s Auto Claim Specialists has been helping consumers in East Texas and Customers of Burl’s Collision Center get fair and equitable settlements from insurers for the last 3 years. I consider Robert McDorman a Consumer Advocate, that can help prevent the Under Valuation of your totaled vehicle. He can also help with Diminished Value and other benefits that you are owed that the insurance companies will not tell you about. Robert has helped our clients that have had their damaged vehicles at our facility get reimbursed for required OEM and other Safety Related processes and procedures.

    1. I am privileged to have experienced Robert McDorman’s expertise first-hand. My client knew her vehicle was worth much more than the insurance company, but she felt helpless to fight the “CCC” evaluation, which seemed biased in favor of finding a low value. With his expert knowledge, Robert McDorman provided a fair assessment of my client’s vehicle. He was able to get the insurance company to p[ay much, much more than they had originally offered my client. Mr. McDorman’s professionalism and expertise were greatly appreciated. I look forward to working with him again, as I’m sure my clients will need him!

      Rebecca Henderson, Attorney – Tyler TX

  2. Wilco Finance is a Licensed Lender in North Carolina. We use the Public Insurance Adjusters at Auto Claim Specialists to negotiate and settle our Consumer Total Loss Claims in our Loan Portfolio. Wilco Finance has enjoyed staggering Settlement increases on client Total Loss Settlements of up to 30%+ from the Insurance Carriers Final Offer before employing Auto Claim Specialists. The guys at Auto Claim Specialists have been extremely professional, prompt and handle claims from all angles. Nothing gets by these guys. Using an independent public insurance adjuster has become a necessity, and Robert McDorman and his team at Auto Claim Specialists are top notch. We highly recommend them for all claims, professionally and personally.

  3. The Tracy Firm is exactly right. I’ve owned a collision repair shop in Texas for almost 30 years now. Over the years I have watched my customer’s vehicles progressively get undervalued once they are considered a total. It is almost on every total loss claim that comes through my facility now. And insurance companies are many times totaling out vehicles prematurely because they are making money on their policy holder’s vehicle by selling them on international bidding markets.

    Many of my customer’s have used Robert McDorman (www.VehicleValueExperts) with a 100% approval rating. He is as professional as they come.

    It is really an injustice for consumers who rely on their insurance carrier to take good care of them only to be taken advantage of when they are most vulnerable. Many consumers don’t even realize it and just trust that they are receiving fair compensation for their vehicle. The ones that do try to stand up for fair compensation are usually meet with a barrage of planned tactics by their insurance carrier that are intended to discourage them to give up or either accept a small re-vised offer (I call it the new car salesman tactic) in which they give you slightly more which leaves most people feeling that they have negotiated a fair deal when all the while they have really been enormously taken advantage of and never came close to the real true value of their vehicle.

    Insurance companies are not only undervaluing total loss claims, but on repairable vehicles they are compromising safety by their cost cutting policies which in turn is jeoprodizing consumer’s lives and encourages substandard repairs by many shops. Repairing vehicles has always been a very specialized field but even more so today. Repair shops need to get compansated fairly for having this knowledge and to be able to continue to train and be current on the proper repair proceduers in order to keep consumers safe.

    Mr. McDorman is helping these consumers with his knowledge and professionalism. My customers thank him and the repair industry as a whole need him to help ensure that consumers are safe and treated fairly. Insurance companies should not be allowed to dictate how to repair a vehicle in order to save money. Their main concern should be their customers and their customers safety and leave the repair process up to the trained professionals.

  4. Our collision repair facility, Gold Coast Auto Body, is located in Chicago, Illinois…Robert McDorman’s Auto Claim Specialists has been helping our customers obtain proper indemnification from insurers for approximately 1 year…The collision repair industry has never seen a true professional like Robert L. McDorman…He is an advocate for consumers and an invaluable asset for our shop and clients…As an OEM-Certified collision repair facility specializing in high-end luxury vehicles, we’ve benefitted from Robert’s ability to assist our customers reach a fair settlement while we concentrate on our objective – restoring collision-damaged vehicles back to OEM specifications…

  5. I have a Honda Fit 2016 , real price is around$ 18500 , but insurance company with out see the car send an email with $14500 suggestion !!!

  6. As of last night many of the clients who have retained our services have received Total Loss Settlements offers from their Insurance Carrier without an inspection of the vehicle. In each of these situations the model, mileage and options have been incorrect.

    When the Insurance Carrier deems the Vehicle a Total Loss, it is critical prior to accepting a settlement to have the Carrier email you The Market Valuation Report. The Market Valuation Report identifies the Year, Make, Model, Mileage, Options, and Condition.

    Should there be any questions as to the Fair Value, please email us the Market Valuation Report to review, and offer our professional opinion as to the validity of such.

    Our email address is

  7. Robert McDorman with Auto Claim Specialists helped my mom on her Mercedes. He got her about a 30% increase in payout. Robert really took his time to explain the process and handled our case personally from start to finish. Well done and professional job.

  8. Our flood damaged car has been deemed a total loss. We believe the insurance company is undervaluing our car by using inappropriate comps. Our car is a certified pre-owned (CPO) vehicle, still under transferable warranty and it is being compared against non-certified vehicles. The inspector from the insurance company (sub-contractor) disclosed who she worked for and we have documentation from that company supporting that a CPO vehicle is undisputedly more valuable than a non-CPO vehicle (obviously all other things being equal). Is this a winnable fight worth pursuing? We’re off by $4-$5k based on all the research we’ve done. And we’re not using retail value…we understand that would be inaccurate.

  9. Robert McDorman is amazing I just called him and he responded back immediately. He has already noticed flaws in my claim and is working to help us as well…..thank you Robert

  10. I can’t stress enough how important it is for anyone dealing with an insurance company to get a second opinion from a qualified independent appraiser. I had two expensive cars flooded in Hurricane Harvey and they were totaled by my insurance company. The insurance company wanted to settle fast and for an appraisal value I didn’t agree with based on the condition of the cars. I contacted Robert McDorman and he negotiated with my insurance company a $12,000 increase in value. The whole process took about a week and Robert only gets paid if he is able to increase the final appraised value. I am very satisfied with the outcome.

  11. well, I hate to burst yalls bubble. I am an adjuster and I work as an independent adjuster for 1 of the top 5 insurance companies in the us. the 1st thing I want to point out is that the person who wrote this article is a certified public adjuster. that means that he try’s to convince a policyholder that the insurance company is ripping you off! now see, I am doing the same thing he is ! they make their money by getting more money out of the insurance company. sometimes it legit and sometimes its not! unfortunately, there have been needs for a public adjuster , but that is not the norm! there are laws in place that punish insurance companies if they do not pay claims in a reasonable time period and if the amount is not a fair and reasonable , then there are consequences for that too! my job with hurricane Harvey was to call the insured to confirm all the options. I did that. even though a lot of options were pulled up with the vin, we still confirmed and asked for aftermarket equipment! so, my point is that not all insurance companies wronged their policyholders, maybe some of the little companies did, I don’t know.

  12. Robert McDorman went above and beyond for my husband and me. We lost my car during Harvey. We naively thought our insurance company (which touts it’s dedication to military families) would offer us a fair Actual Cash Value. We were sorely mistaken. We contacted Robert after our repeated unsuccessful attempts at working with the insurance co. He was immediately able to substantiate our research on vehicle value and he worked successfully to increase the final ACV to an acceptable amount, significantly above the original offer. We highly recommend Robert. He was professional, timely, thorough and truly dedicated to seeing our claim through to a successful conclusion. A+ HIGHLY RECOMMEND

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