After an auto accident, an insurance company will declare if your vehicle is what’s known as a write-off or if it can be repaired, and from there the claims process can begin.

Often, drivers are surprised to hear that their vehicle has been deemed a write-off after an accident that didn’t seem that serious. But insurance companies have several ways of deciding if a vehicle is a write-off and it is often in the best interest of the driver for it to be declared a total loss.

Here are a few things you should know about auto insurance write-offs.

What Does a Total Loss or Write-Off Mean?

A write-off and a total loss are the same thing: they essentially mean that repairing the damage to a vehicle would cost more than the actual cash value of the vehicle. In the event of a write-off, an insurance company will pay you (if you have the right insurance in place) for the actual cash value of the vehicle before the accident as opposed to paying for the cost to repair it.

Write Offs When You’re At-Fault

If you’re at-fault for an accident and your vehicle is written off, the insurance coverage that would reimburse you for the value of your vehicle is known as collision coverage. This is an optional (but strongly encouraged) type of insurance coverage, although if you lease or finance your vehicle it’s almost always required by the lender.

If you’re in an accident that’s your fault and you don’t have collision coverage, you’ll be responsible for covering the cost of repairing or replacing your vehicle on your own.

Write Offs When Another Drive is At Fault?

If another driver was at fault for an accident that damaged your vehicle and it’s in need of repairs or if it’s a write-off, that driver’s insurance is responsible for paying for repair or replacement costs. So, even if that other driver doesn’t have collision coverage, they’re required to have liability insurance and their coverage can go toward the cost of repairing or replacing your vehicle.