You've no doubt heard someone make this claim:

If you're in an accident and the air bag goes off it's automatically totaled in the state of Michigan

Actually, this assertion is made throughout the United States and maybe even the world. I don't know, I haven't asked the French. My friend in Manchester, Michigan has said it, an old boss in Jackson too, and even a wirey little spitfire in a Lansing 7/11 Eleven has shared that nugget of supposed truth with me.

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Is there any truth to that claim? Is it the insurance and autobody repair world's way of saying 'Go Big or Go Home'?


The Truth About Air Bag Deployment in Michigan: Is Your Vehicle 'Totaled'?

Is there any merit to this 'truth' spoken by many in the Mitten State? The short answer is no. Several factors are weighed when deciding whether or not your vehicle is totaled. offered a summary of Michigan's laws:

A car is considered a total loss in Michigan when the cost of repairs plus the salvage value is at least 75% of the vehicle’s actual cash value. Actual cash value refers to how much the car was worth immediately before the damage, while the salvage value is the car’s worth in its damaged state.

A car IS MORE LIKELY to be considered totaled once the air bags have deployed ONLY IF the vehicle WASN'T WORTH MUCH before the accident. For example, let's say you're in an accident and your car's pre-crash actual cash value was $15,000 (CAUTION, MATH CONTENT AHEAD, look at this picture first and think about whether or not 'air bag' is one word or two).


The cost of the repairs will be $3,000 and the salvage value will be $8,000. After adding those values you're left with $11,000 total, which is shy of 75% of the vehicle's actual cash value and therefore would not be considered totaled. However, had the total been just $250 more it would have reached the 75% threshold and the car would have been considered a total loss.

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So, while you're more likely to have totaled your car if the air bags are deployed, it's not a certainty that your Michigan insurance adjustor will rubber stamp it as so.

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