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Totaled Car

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WSVN -- Some people don't appreciate their parents till they are older. Not Theo Roker.

Theo Roker, More Than A Car: "My family is the world to me."

Theo's parents were wonderful to him. Like in 2001, when he was a teenager and they bought him a new car.

Theo Roker: "So I cherished that from day one. I really cherished that car."

This is what the blue Impala looked like for the 11 years Theo drove it. This is what it looks like today.

Theo Roker: "When I got into the accident with the car all these things ran through my head."

Earlier this year Theo was on Hollywood Boulevard when a driver ran a stop sign and smashed into him. Then the bad news got worse.

Theo Roker: "It happened Friday. On Monday the claims adjuster tells me that this car is totaled."

His insurance company told him that the repairs would exceed 80% of the value of the car. In other words, instead of repairing it, they would rather replace it.

Theo Roker: "And then the thought of losing the car went through my head and then I really just broke down."

You see, four years after Theo's father bought him the car, he died. The car is a link to his father.

Theo Roker: "I simply would like to keep the memory of my father and that will only happen by me keeping this car."

Theo then found a body shop that would fix the car for less than the insurance company would have to pay to replace it. The insurance company still said no.

Theo Roker: "That they can't do that. They give me a reason that it's not safe for the car. It's not safe for us."

But Theo says he can't bear the thought of the car his father bought him as a teenager being sold for parts in a junkyard. That he can't bear the thought of losing it.

Theo Roker: "It would mean losing my father again."

Well the insurance company has valid reasons for wanting to dispose of the car. But legally, for emotional reasons, does a car owner have the legal right to get it back and get the repairs paid for?

Howard Finkelstein: "This is extremely complicated and there is no definitive answer. The reason- Theo needs to avoid the car being declared a total loss but to protect themselves the insurance needs to declare the car a total loss. The solution- Theo needs to convince the insurance company to pay for the repairs."

When we talked to the insurance company they told us they didn't want to turn the car over to Theo because under state law once a car is determined to be totaled, the title is turned over to the insurance company and it's branded unsalvageable. But when they heard why Theo wanted to keep the car, they said they would turn the car over to him and pay a set price to get it repaired, but the title would still be declared unsalvageable, meaning Theo could not drive the car on the road.

Howard Finkelstein: "Theo does have another option. He can pay to repair the car out of his own pocket. He could then try to have the car declared salvageable and get the insurance company to reimburse him. But that's extremely risky and it's not advisable."

Theo Roker: "This is out of my hands. It's out of my control."

Theo has decided he can't keep a car he can't insure or drive. He will accept the insurance company's money to buy another car and let them junk the car his parents bought him. But...

Theo Roker: "I am going to take the license plate and also the gear shift as a memento because it's very dear to me."

Patrick Fraser: "If your car is totaled and it's paid for you can go get it but getting the insurance company to settle with you can be difficult. Of course in most cases no one wants a totaled car, they want the money to go get another car."

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REPORTER: Patrick Fraser at



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