How to manage two consecutive car accidents?
March 6, 2009 4:03 PM   Subscribe

My parked car got hit by a truck. Then, before I could get it fixed, it got hit by another truck. How do I handle two claims at once?

The first accident was a couple of months ago--a truck hit my parked car and ripped my rear bumper halfway off. The wheels of paperwork have been grinding slowly, partly just because I've been busy, so I'm still working things out with that insurance company and hadn't fixed the damage yet. This morning, a garbage truck hit my (again, parked--I haven't driven it at all for a few months) car and did some damage to the door and mirrors, as well as taking my bumper the rest of the way off.

What do I tell the garbage truck's insurance company about this most recent incident? I don't want to get compensated for the same damages twice, but I also don't want to give them an excuse to claim all the damage was pre-existing. I know that the appropriate actions in situations like this can be counter-intuitive, so I'm hoping you folks can give me some advice.

Potentially relevant info: I'm in Washington State, and my insurance is liability-only (it's an old car) so I'm dealing with the other insurance companies directly rather than through my own insurer.
posted by fermion to Law & Government (9 answers total)
Did you get an estimate of work for the damage from Event No. 1 prior to the occurrence of Event No. 2? Did you then submit that estimate to an insurance company? If so, then that party is on the hook only for that estimate and that claim. The insurance company cuts you a check for that estimate and you can do whatever you like with it -- you don't have to fix your car with the settlement money.

The garbage truck company, however, is liable for everything because Event No. 2 happened after Event No. 1. Relative to them, Event No. 1 is treated as if it never happened. It's not relevant to them, and even if it were, they cannot be limited to returning your car to a broken state since you cannot reasonably discern what exact damage was caused by them.
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 5:41 PM on March 6, 2009

This is what you pay your insurance company to do.
posted by pianomover at 9:14 PM on March 6, 2009

The garbage truck company, however, is liable for everything because Event No. 2 happened after Event No. 1. Relative to them, Event No. 1 is treated as if it never happened.

Wow, you totally just made that up.

Anyway, OP, if I were you, I'd hire a lawyer on contingency to settle out with both companies, as you're more likely to get better-than-full value that way. (But the theory that Accident 2 means they'll assume that your car was mint beforehand is nonsense).
posted by moxiedoll at 9:59 PM on March 6, 2009 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Alas, pianomover, I do not pay them enough to do it; see above note regarding liability-only insurance. Since they aren't paying to fix the damage to my car, they have no vested interest in sorting out the details of reimbursement. I did ask them about it, and they were sympathetic, but there's not much they can do.

Moxiedoll, I don't think there's enough money involved to make it worth a lawyer's time.
posted by fermion at 10:05 PM on March 6, 2009

I got into an accident with my car, never got it fixed, and then about a year and a half later it got hit while parked. My experience might be slightly different because my insurance company was taking care of things, but after the second accident I called in my claim and then explained that there was previous damage to the vehicle, and told them where it was. When they assessed the damage they only looked at the damage from the second accident.

One sort of sad thing was that the damage from the first accident drove down the value of the car (a 2001 Chevy Prizm with body damage isn't worth much), so after the second accident the insurance company just considered it totaled instead of paying to actually fix it. Since yours is an older car with previous damage that might affect what you get from Company #2. YMMV, of course.
posted by christinetheslp at 10:55 PM on March 6, 2009

Wow, you totally just made that up.

Wow, I used to sell auto insurance. So who's the one making things up?
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 11:22 PM on March 6, 2009

I am Australian, and IANAL (although I do have a law degree). Bearing that in mind ...

Taken at face value Cool Papa Bell's statement doesn't seem to make a lot of sense (although the law and sense don't necessarily always go hand in hand).

Let's say I have a brand new Ferrari. Truck one crashes into it, causing sufficient damage to write off said Ferrari. Some time later truck two then hits my written-off wreck. Is CPB suggesting that the law treats the situation as though truck two hit a brand new Ferrari? Or a mangled ball of steel?

I can only assume CPB means the latter, but the inference that the former was suggested - "Wow, you totally just made that up" - is certainly open to be drawn from the language used in CPB's post.
posted by puffmoike at 8:13 AM on March 7, 2009

My experience has been pretty much what CPB laid out. I got lightly rear-ended twice over the span of about a month.

What ended up happening was that, at least to my observation, the first insurance company was off the hook, and the second one covered everything because - as CPB mentioned - there was no way for the claims agents (short of my word, and they're not gonna take that) to tell who did what damage.

I do not know if the insurance companies settled between themselves behind the scenes - just that I ended up only dealing with one.
posted by kaseijin at 8:41 AM on March 7, 2009

fermion, I have a friend who is a legal assistant at a law office on the east side (seattle) who told me once about a similar situation. The client got rear ended twice in separate incidents. They ended up telling the whole story to both insurance companies while claiming equal damages on both sides and then made the two insurance companies fight with each other over that. Message me if you want more info on that and I'll find out more about what happened...
posted by sammich at 4:19 PM on March 7, 2009

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