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Missing my ride
July 20, 2006 3:06 PM   Subscribe

My non-pimped ride (1993 sedan, BB value: $825) was just totaled in an accident with a commercial truck (the truck driver's fault, and he was cited). Are there any ways to get the adjuster to value the car more highly than $825 so that I have any chance of replacing it?

This car cost me $2K three years ago and nothing more than oil changes since, and has been completely reliable... to me, its value was like a new car, since I never had to do anything to it and it always ran. $825 would not get me anything comparable.

Also, I haven't rented a replacement car, but I would like to if I could be more sure they'd pay for it. Are they likely to pay, considering that at $60+tax a day, in 10 days I'd have exceeded the value of my car just in rentals? My car insurance policy has a $1K deductible and no car rentals, and I haven't heard back yet from the truck's insurance claims people.
posted by xo to Travel & Transportation (28 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
 
Unless you have documented proof of accessories or other items in your vehicle that were damaged by the accident, my experience is that the insurance companies generally pay exactly the assessed value of the car, nothing more.

At various times, they have paid for a rental car as well, only when my car is being fixed (may not apply to a total)...
posted by omidius at 3:09 PM on July 20, 2006


Surely this is causing you undue stress. Contact an attorney.
posted by jmgorman at 3:11 PM on July 20, 2006


Contact an attorney.

I hope this is a tongue-in-cheek suggestion. If the book value of the car (and, as omidius mentions, any accessories that were destroyed as well) is $825, that's the maximum payout, plain and simple. Paying money a lawyer isn't going to change that fact.
posted by gwenzel at 3:21 PM on July 20, 2006


How's your back doing? Weren't you telling me it's been bothering you? Tricky things, backs. Hard to diagnose, but a lot of pain and suffering.
posted by mojohand at 3:24 PM on July 20, 2006


I sympathize completely. I’ve been on the wrong end of insurance settlements. I’ve also come out well. The longer you can wait the more you will get. Were you in the car? How is your back, neck? Was there fragile equipment in the car? A camera, laptop?
posted by mrleec at 3:26 PM on July 20, 2006


Aside from my rather suspect suggestion, actually, I'm serious. You should get an examination, as serious problems can manifest themselves months after the accident.
posted by mojohand at 3:28 PM on July 20, 2006


Um, I drove an $825 car -- you think I have anything other than catastrophic health insurance?
posted by xo at 3:35 PM on July 20, 2006


His insurance company wants to pay you as little as possible. They hope you don't think to demand a rental. Call them and tell them you need one. His insurance company (not yours) owes you one. You can be driving tonight.

Have you already told them you're uninjured? They'll be hardasses once they realize the only thing they have to pay for is your car. Until that point, they want you to like them... Keep track of what they promise and get definate figures from them (like when they'll stop paying for the rental). They'll probably ask to record your conversations. Tell them you're doing the same, even if you aren't. It'll keep them honest.
posted by jaysus chris at 3:37 PM on July 20, 2006


They'll probably ask to record your conversations. Tell them you're doing the same, even if you aren't.

I'd just ask the adjuster's permission to record. If he refuses, tell him to contact you in writing. Ask where you can pick up the car they've rented (prepaid) for you. If the adjuster "doesn't know," tell him you'll rent one yourself and forward the bills. Make sure you get a claim number.

Always note the time, date and name of anybody you speak to by phone. You'll probably have better luck if you write a follow-up letter after every conversation: "I spoke to so-and-so at 3:00 p.m. on Thursday, July 20, and he agreed to reimburse me for a rental car to replace the vehicle his insured damaged." or "...he refused to reimburse me for a rental car. I advised him that the vehicle was essential for my work." And so on.

These letters (and any you receive in reply) will be invaluable when (not if) the insurance company screws you over. It's a pain in the ass to write the first one, but you can cut&paste the rest so it gets much easier.

It'll keep them honest.

Not likely. They're insurance adjusters, remember.

IIAL, but IANYL.

Good luck.
posted by spacewrench at 4:06 PM on July 20, 2006


You don't need to deal with any insurance companies. You were struck by someone. That person/company owes you. They may or may not have insurance to protect them in case they ever screw up and hit anyone, but that is no concern of yours. That car of yours might have been worth a great deal to you. It may have belonged to your dearly departed grandfather, or some famous person. Whatever. The point is. It's your car. The other person's insurance can't total your car and pay some reduced fee. Your insurance may be able to do that, but theirs can't. They can't force you to go and get something new. You might want to keep your car. And like I said, you don't even need to talk to the insurance companies. This person/company wronged you. You are put out, and you have the right to recover from this person or company, whatever they took from you. This could be reimbursement for inconveniencing you, causing you to pay for a rental, causing you to miss work, etc... I had a similar experience. I was driving a car worth maybe $1000. I was hit by someone. I took my car to their insurance adjuster as a courtesy. I did not even bother contacting my insurance. When their adjuster came back with what I considered a low estimate for repair (you can count on this), I took my car to a few shops of my own choosing. I happened to chose some shops in town that specialize in expensive restoration of classic cars. No matter. I told them I wanted an estimate to bring my car back to it's previous state. They said the only way to do that was to pull all the body panels off and strip and repaint them all; to be sure the paint would match. Then they'd have to replace all the rubber and bushings etc... during reassembly. To make a long story slightly less long, my 3 estimates averaged about $3500. While the other person's insurance estimate was about $550. I got a little bit of runaround from his insurance company. So I wrote a letter to him directly. Remember, my beef was with him, not his insurance company. Well, he freaked out to his insurance company about some lunatic writing and threatening lawsuits, etc... They warmed up after that. I ended up getting $5500. $3500 for the car, and $2000 as payment to 'release them from liability for any injury to me'. I never claimed any injury. I just said I would take that payment to release them and accept full responsibility for any injuries I discovered in the future. The other option was I would go get FULLY checked out to make sure I wasn't going to discover any problems in the future. Once they saw possible doctor and chiropractor bills in my future, they settled quick.

Hope this helps.

ps. These experiences were in AZ. Don't know if you will have different options/obstacles where you are.
posted by gummo at 4:32 PM on July 20, 2006 [3 favorites]


They should be paying for a rental car for you, because you have lost the use of your vehicle because of their client. Part of the fun of negotiating is that they'll be under the gun to get you out of that rental ASAP so they can stop paying for it. I mean, they might be more amenable to paying you $2K for a car if they know you'll be sitting in a $60 a day rental while you're negotiating for weeks.

If the adjuster is giving you trouble about negotiating the value of the car, aside from bringing any possible injuries you might have to their attention, you should do some research, either through AutoTrader or the local used car ads or even eBay and see if you can find a comparable car for sale. Make copies of everything you find that supports your case for a higher value and forward them to the adjuster.

Price guides are just that, a guide, not a hard and fast rule, and they aren't particularly reliable for older used cars. Better evidence of the real world value of a car is current local dealer pricing or even completed sales on eBay.
posted by MegoSteve at 4:58 PM on July 20, 2006


When I was hit by someone else they paid for my rental BUT not upfront, it was reimbursement, My car was in the shop past 40 days and I had to shell out almost 2k bucks for the rental... I did get it back but it was a total pain in the TAIL to come up with that type of cash... all over 3000k worth of body work..
posted by crewshell at 5:20 PM on July 20, 2006


As far as getting more than book value for your car, I would suggest trying this (it's the first comment to the post, if the permalink doesn't work).
posted by ajr at 5:24 PM on July 20, 2006


They'll pay you fair market value, minus depreciation.

Most state insurance laws require the at fault party's insurance company to provide you with a rental car for the length of time that it takes to repair your vehicle (adequate transportation, a standard size car, usually, so watch the limits), but they are not required to provide you with a rental if your vehicle was a total loss. They might provide you with one as a courtesy until they cut you a check, but as soon as you have your money, they'll likely require that you return the rental. You'll want to ask the insurance company about this for the laws in your state.
posted by mewithoutyou at 6:15 PM on July 20, 2006


Hire an independent appraisal company to determine the value of your vehicle.
posted by oh posey at 8:57 PM on July 20, 2006


Stop trying to get something for nothing. Insurance is not for "getting a big check," it's for getting you back to where you were before the accident happened. This is called the "principle of indemnity" and it's one of the base properties of insurance: you don't profit from a loss.

This type of mentality screws all the rest of us who have to pay higher premiums because you want to get 5-grand for the piece of shit you should have replaced four years ago.

Take the $825 and put it down on a lease for a new car. You can lease a perfectly good economy-sized vehicle with little money down and very reasonable payments each month.
posted by PandemicSoul at 9:25 PM on July 20, 2006


What gummo said. If you have insurance, that's to cover you against claims made on you due to your errors. If the party who wronged you has insurance to help cover him against claims made on him due to his errors, and his insurance company isn't prepared to do so in such a way as to satisfy such a claimant (which would be you), then by rights that's his problem, not yours.

So, make it his problem.

You had a vehicle with which you were happy. Now you don't. You have a legitimate right to be presented with a comparable vehicle at minimal inconvenience to you.

IANAL.
posted by flabdablet at 9:46 PM on July 20, 2006


You have a legitimate right to be presented with a comparable vehicle at minimal inconvenience to you.
A "right"? Says who? "His" insurance company did not make that contract with you. The government doesn't say that. So who is giving you this "right" to have a comparable vehicle? If you want to go to small claims court and argue that he/his company needs to reimburse you for the more than the vehicle is worth, then you can try arguing that. But insurance companies have no obligation to do anything but bring you back to "zero," so to speak.

Also, in regard to the rental car: it's not a matter of how "likely," your insurance company is to pay, especially if you don't have that kind of coverage. Your insurance company only has a contract with you to cover what your policy states. Read your policy. If it says they'll give you a rental, then they'll give you a rental. If it says you have no rental coverage, then guess what: you should have paid more for that feature.

Where does this mentality come from that says it's okay to demand things that aren't rightfully yours? There are too many people on this thread who are advocating arguing with insurance companies that have little or nothing to do with giving someone more money than they're due. It doesn't matter how much the car "meant" to you, or how much you loved it, or how reliable it was. I could argue until I'm blue in the face that my car carries the spirit of Mahatmas Gandhi, but I bet my insurance company is still only going to give me a check for the market value of the vehicle when it's totaled. That's how insurance works. Learn the system. If you want more coverage, you have to pay for it. There's no doubt it's a gamble, but that's the nature of insurance. You may never use it, or it may be the thing that saves you from bankruptcy. But please, don't try and argue (anyone, that is, not just the thread starter) that you're due something above and beyond what the policy states.
posted by PandemicSoul at 10:24 PM on July 20, 2006


PandemicSoul: Our poster isn't trying to get something for nothing—the poster is trying, as stated in the original post, to get enough money to be able to afford a similar car to the old one. As you yourself just noted, the point of insurance is for, and I quote, "getting you back to where you were before the accident happened." Is that not what our poster is trying to do?!

As far as I can tell, and as far as I think any reasonable reader would ascertain, the poster isn't trying to make a buck here, or to get enough money to buy some new luxury sedan. The poster is seeking to replace the old car that was totalled with a comparable one. Because cars depreciate quickly, the already-old car bought several years ago for $2,000 is now "worth" $885. But to buy a car comparable to the old one, the poster would now likely need more than even the $2,000 originally spent.

"Learn the system." Unbelievable. Why are you so in favor of the status quo in this situation? Do you work in the insurance industry or something? Or are you simply angry because you, a "good citizen," pay a lot for your insurance and think everyone else should, too? The poster seems to have struck a nerve...but that shouldn't keep you from providing relevant information, rather than a blanket condemnation of the poster's supposed motives in asking the question.

Our poster should be able to recoup the losses occasioned by this car wreck. Our poster should be able to get enough money to get a car that's in decent working condition so as to continue working and generally living life as before the accident. And our poster is asking this question specifically to learn more about the system—in particular, how to make an impersonal system work for the individual!
posted by limeonaire at 10:51 PM on July 20, 2006


Are there any ways to get the adjuster to value the car more highly than $825 so that I have any chance of replacing it?

I don't think any insurance companies valuate total loss vehicles by consulting the blue book. They generally have that work outsourced to companies that specialize in that sort of thing. A total loss, by the way, is just a vehicle that would either cost more to repair than, or more than an arbitrary percentage of, its fair local market value. It doesn't sound to me like the adjuster from this other company has assigned a total loss value to your car yet. Don't go by the blue book; this process is a little more complex than that.

Also, I haven't rented a replacement car, but I would like to if I could be more sure they'd pay for it...

It seems unlikely, but as has been said, don't be afraid to ask. Rental coverage is (as far as I know) only for use in situations where you are deprived of your automobile while it is being repaired.
posted by clockzero at 11:28 PM on July 20, 2006


It seems unlikely, but as has been said, don't be afraid to ask. Rental coverage is (as far as I know) only for use in situations where you are deprived of your automobile while it is being repaired.

Nah. Old lady totalled my car. Her insurance got me a rental until I got the check. I told them I needed one at the accident scene. They paid for it for about a week. They need to make you whole. Part of that is providing transportation until you can buy another car. They will pay for a rental.
posted by jaysus chris at 12:26 AM on July 21, 2006


A "right"? Says who?
Says the law. OP was not at fault; OP is the injured party in a vehicle crash; OP has been harmed and is entitled to a remedy. The OP believes (quite reasonably) that $850 cash in hand is an insufficient remedy.
But insurance companies have no obligation to do anything but bring you back to "zero," so to speak.
The other party's insurer has no obligation at all to the OP; the other party's insurer has a contractual obligation to the other party to reduce, not remove, the other party's liabilities. The other party did commit a tort, and is obliged to remedy it.

This is why the other party's insurer will require, as a condition of the OP accepting the insurer's offer of compensation, that the OP sign a specific document waiving all rights to further claims against the other party arising from this incident.

The OP is under absolutely no obligation to the other party or the other party's insurer to play ball, and is perfectly free to pursue the other party directly for what a court - not the other party's insurer - decides is fair and reasonable compensation.

IANAL, but I know that much.
posted by flabdablet at 12:50 AM on July 21, 2006


Good luck with this. Almost the same thing happened to me when I was in college; I was stopped at an intersection and a tow truck (heavy) with bad brakes ran into the rear end of my car. It was a 1978 Datsun; the year was 1990-ish. Smashed in the hatchback so you couldn't drive it without exhaust coming in. Though the car was still drivable, they totaled it out at $750 (I believe). I couldn't get it fixed for that much, and I couldn't realistically get another car for that much (I think I paid $800, but it was an exceptional deal).

It seemed tremendously unfair to me then. Still does, and your story brings it all back. What did I do? I bought a couple of cans of "Great Stuff" at Home Depot (foam insulation you can spray into crevices; it expands and hardens), and made the car pretty ugly by spraying the foam along the edges of the hatchback to try to seal out the exhaust. Drove the car for another year before it gave out, at which time I was able to buy another equally-old Datsun.

Good luck. I wish I could have asked Metafilter back then.

PandemicSoul: The idea of putting $850 as a down payment on a car lease also is not necessarily realistic for the poster; I know I couldn't have afforded any kind of monthly car payment when I was in college, for example, and I was only paying $150/month in rent; I barely scraped by, and had a substantial credit card balance when I graduated. And my jobs all paid substantially more than minimum wage.
posted by amtho at 7:14 AM on July 21, 2006


In a similar situation I was able to get the insurance company to pay more than the book value for a totaled car. I went to a few local dealers of that make and asked them to write out a quote of what they would sell the car for. These were higher than the book value. I presented this evidence to the insurance company, and was able to negotiate a higher payment.
posted by Gungho at 7:26 AM on July 21, 2006


As you yourself just noted, the point of insurance is for, and I quote, "getting you back to where you were before the accident happened." Is that not what our poster is trying to do?!
No. Let me quote:
Are there any ways to get the adjuster to value the car more highly than $825 so that I have any chance of replacing it?
The car is valued at $825. It's not an issue of being "cheated," it's an issue of getting what your vehicle is worth. If your vehicle is valued at $825, then that's what you should get for it. Depreciation is an industry standard -- not something that evil insurance agencies make up to make a buck. All of these terms are listed in your policy. What angers me most is people "accepting the status quo" before the fact by signing up, but when it comes time to get their check, suddenly they're "being cheated." Bullshit.

"Learn the system." Unbelievable. Why are you so in favor of the status quo in this situation?
Yes. The status quo works just fine. And if you don't like it? Get an another insurance company. They're a dime a dozen. Yes, you must have insurance, but no one says you have to have one company over the other.

but that shouldn't keep you from providing relevant information, rather than a blanket condemnation of the poster's supposed motives in asking the question.
And who are you? I haven't heard you give any of your background information? Why am I required to divulge my job, my background, just because I have an opinion? You tell me yours and I'll tell you mine.

Our poster should be able to recoup the losses occasioned by this car wreck.
He is: $875.

Our poster should be able to get enough money to get a car that's in decent working condition so as to continue working and generally living life as before the accident.
No, our poster should be getting "back to zero." Their vehicle was worth $875. That's zero. If you want your car to be worth more when it's totaled, then buy a better car.

And our poster is asking this question specifically to learn more about the system—in particular, how to make an impersonal system work for the individual!
Everything you need to know is in your policy. What our poster is trying to do is game the system. They want more money for their vehicle than it's worth. It's immoral. And you're supporting this by trying to argue that the big-bad insurance company "owes" him more than the vehicle was worth simply because that's "the status quo" and it has to be challenged.

flabdablet: You're preaching to the choir. Read my comments again. We're both saying basically the same thing. I did not insinuate that the damaging party has any obligation to the poster. I said just the opposite. And, I also said that if the poster wants to sue the damaging party, that's their business. But that doesn't mean the other insurance company is going to pay, liability, etc.

amtho: Let's let the poster decide what is realistic or not. If it's not realistic then they need to sue the damaging party. Everyone's jumping on my back here, but my bottom line is: don't try and game the system to get the insurance company to pay more than the vehicle is worth. It's immoral. If you want to sue the damaging party, by all means, go ahead! But trying to ask how to get the insurance company to pay more than you're due is wrong, plain and simple.
posted by PandemicSoul at 8:07 PM on July 21, 2006


The car is valued at $825. It's not an issue of being "cheated," it's an issue of getting what your vehicle is worth.

Yep, this is the question I'm asking. Because to me, what the car is "worth" is not cut-and-dried. A national car directory says $825, yet it was a perfectly running car, the likes of which I cannot purchase in my area for $825.

It's not about "gaming the system." I am trying to understand how the insurance industry calculates "worth" and how I can make sure that it matches as closely as possible my own local marketplace. And it seems I was right in wondering about room for negotiation, since posters above have indicated that the book value I found is not necessarily the value the insurance is likely to use, and that the local market may potentially be taken into account (and there are strategies for figuring out the local worth of my vehicle).

All of these terms are listed in your policy. What angers me most is people "accepting the status quo" before the fact by signing up, but when it comes time to get their check, suddenly they're "being cheated." Bullshit.

Please note that MY policy is not in question. The other driver (unlicensed to drive a commercial vehicle of that weight, driving on a road the truck was not allowed on, failing to stop at a stop sign) has the insurance policy that will be evaluating the damage to my car.

limeonaire said: Our poster should be able to get enough money to get a car that's in decent working condition so as to continue working and generally living life as before the accident. PandemicSoul responded: No, our poster should be getting "back to zero." Their vehicle was worth $875. That's zero. If you want your car to be worth more when it's totaled, then buy a better car.

So you're arguing about the exact definition of what the insurance company is responsible for:
1. either getting "back to zero" is a dollar amount equal to the value of the lost car as determined by some algorithm, or
2. getting "back to zero" is a restoration of a close approximation of the original situation, which was me owning a beater car that runs.

I'm not convinced that it's a difference in moral values.
posted by xo at 9:34 PM on July 21, 2006


First update: The adjuster called, confirmed that the truck's driver admitted fault, and arranged for a rental car for me. Thanks to all who encouraged me to ask for this temporary remedy.
posted by xo at 9:42 PM on July 21, 2006


Well, glad to see it's working out for you nonetheless!
posted by PandemicSoul at 9:34 PM on July 22, 2006


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