Answer: I get involved in a lot of cases like this, and I can tell you that there is no clear answer. Since your insurance company is offering you a settlement that you feel is low, I have to assume that you have conventional insurance (actual cash value) as opposed to classic car insurance (agreed or stated value) on the vehicle. Unfortunately, as you’re learning now, with a conventional policy a value is determined at the time of the loss. Even worse is the fact that the value is determined by the insurance company. However, you don’t have to agree to this value. You can challenge their valuation, and oftentimes you’ll be successful. How successful you’ll be depends on several factors, not the least of which is who your insurance carrier is. Some companies are very receptive to claims of your type and others will simply reject your pleas and wait for you to take them to court.
Any claim on your part should begin by rejecting the insurance company’s offer. In almost all cases, if you accept their offer, it will be with the agreement that you not pursue any further claims. Next, get a valid appraisal of your car in its “pre-loss” condition. If you’re paying close attention, you should be thinking “How the heck am I going to get my car appraised if it’s already destroyed?” Not to worry. Qualified appraisers will know how to do this, and insurance companies will understand this limitation. Present this appraisal along with any pre-loss photos and documentation that would support your claim as to the cars value. The insurance company does not have to accept your claim. Sometimes they do, sometimes they don’t, and sometimes they meet you in the middle. Their only responsibility is to pay you the cars actual cash value once it has been determined.
In the event that you can’t come to an agreement as to the cars value, you can sue the insurance company in civil court, and this might be advisable given the value of a 1955 Packard convertible. Unless you’re a lawyer, you’ll need to hire one; usually at considerable expense might I add. Even if you recover the entire amount that you are claiming, you will still have to pay the lawyer. The insurance companies are aware of this and some will use this to their advantage when determining how much they are willing to offer you. Keep in mind that even if you go to court, there is no guarantee that you will win the entire amount that you are claiming.
As one of my favorite TV judges is famous for saying; “This is where we do a little rough justice.” Only you can determine how much time, energy and expense you want to expend to collect as much as possible from your insurance company. You may have to settle for less in order to risk spending more.