So much for the car and vacation
August 8, 2009 11:22 PM   Subscribe

I was in a pretty crappy head-on collision with another car tonight. Advice on what to do?

My husband was driving and I was in the passenger seat. The 16 year old girl that crashed into us (found 100% at fault by police and was cited) gave me all of her insurance information and when I asked her if she was ok she said she was fine; obviously she was pretty shaken up, but looked like she suffered no injuries.

My husband was taken from the scene to an emergency room, they checked his neck (the headrest snapped back towards him and jabbed him pretty hard in the neck upon impact). I'm fine except a minor scratch.

We had both taken the entire upcoming week as vacation, which we will now have to spend at home.

Our car was towed and I assume is pretty totaled. I took 2 photos, but it was pretty dark and I was more worried about my husband than about being a good photographer.

What are our options? I know you are not my lawyer, I doubt I need a lawyer.

I'm not looking to sue for injuries, pain, suffering, or any other bs like that.

I want to know if I am entitled to a rental car, how long can I hold on to the rental car? How long do I have to find a replacement car? Is there anything else I should know about being 100% not at fault and yet having my car smashed, my vacation ruined, and my husband on pain pills?
posted by icarus to Law & Government (32 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
a) remember that it coulda been worse
b) call your agent
posted by @troy at 11:33 PM on August 8, 2009

I'm sorry to hear about your misfortune. Car accidents can be surprisingly emotionally jarring, even if there's no serious injury involved, so be sure to take very good care of yourselves in the upcoming weeks.

Having said that, your specific questions (re: rental cars, how long you have to find a replacement car, medical costs, etc.) can really only be answered by your insurance agent and the particulars of your policy. Have you called them yet?
posted by scody at 11:34 PM on August 8, 2009

Call your insurance. I was in an accident lately and I had to give a phone testimonial to my and the other partiesl insurance. The at-fault party's insurance was dragging its feet, so my insurance suggested that I use my deductable (which I got back) and everything was neat and tidy because liability was established.

BUT go to urgent care within 24 hours. I got that covered. My insurance covered my rental car too.

But call them NOW. This is what they do.
posted by k8t at 11:45 PM on August 8, 2009

Why are you asking us and not talking to your insurance company?
posted by wfrgms at 11:45 PM on August 8, 2009 [2 favorites]

>I want to know if I am entitled to a rental car,

Who knows. Call you insurance company already, they give out the cars, not the state.
posted by damn dirty ape at 11:47 PM on August 8, 2009

PS, I had whiplash the next day but not the day of, so be on the lookout.
posted by k8t at 11:50 PM on August 8, 2009 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Been in one of these myself and it sucks.

Your first task tomorrow should be to call the girl's insurance company to make a claim. (A large enough insurer will have their call center open 7 days a week). When the same happened to me, I got a rental a day or two later. You should of course insist that you get one immediately. The only reason I didn't was because I had some alternate transportation in the interim. I don't know how much wiggle room you have on the actual rental itself. I got a crappy Dodge Neon from Enterprise.

I kept the rental for 2.5 or 3 weeks, which really pissed off the insurance company. I had a reason for biding my time (I was closing on my house about a week after the accident and had enough on my plate without having to go car shopping); I told them my situation and they were semi-understanding about it but nevertheless gave me a date certain when I had to be done with the rental.

You can pretty much count on your reimbursement from her insurance to be the average book value for the same condition, year, make and model as your car in your general geographic area. When I got the valuation for my own totaled car, the insurance company of the driver that caused the accident provided me with a list of the exact 6 or 7 cars they used to come up with the value. I tried to argue them up from the settlement they offered me but they stood firm. YMMV. (no pun intended

OH! Also, when you do talk to the insurance company, don't make any hard and fast statements about your physical condition after the accident because you WILL be asked. If they ask if you were injured, or how you are feeling right now, or any kind of cue to go on the record as to how you're physically doing, do not fall for this. Your reply should be along the lines of "I really can't be sure yet, I'm still in shock," or "I probably won't really know how I'm doing for a few days." You might feel OK tonight, but in a day or two you might not. This isn't about pulling some whiplash scam; you really really can't tell how your body has absorbed that kind of impact right away. So, admit nothing.

Last, although you didn't ask this, you might check with work to see if you can exchange some of your planned vacation time for sick-time. It seems a shame to lose out on that if you don't have to. This assumes your employer keeps the different kinds of leave in separate pots.

My best to you; hope you all are feeling better.
posted by contessa at 11:50 PM on August 8, 2009 [5 favorites]

Remember that your insurance company is your advocate with the other party's insurance. I'd call them first for advice.
posted by k8t at 11:54 PM on August 8, 2009

Yes, call YOUR insurance company before you call the girl's insurance company. You need to report it to them anyway, and tell them what the police said about fault.
posted by so_gracefully at 12:02 AM on August 9, 2009

Best answer: Your first task tomorrow should be to call the girl's insurance company to make a claim.

I think this is quite bad advice.

You should not talk to her insurance company. Repeat: You should not talk, ever, to her insurance company unless instructed to do so by YOUR insurance company. Talking to her insurance company is like talking to the police without a lawyer. No good can come of it.

As to your questions; You pay your insurance company to handle this for you. Let them do their job. All of your questions are things your insurance company will be able to give you the answers to and, in fact, are the only ones who can give you the answers as things like rental car coverage depend on your policy. In this case I would guess that the other driver's insurance will actually be what pays for your rental car (that's what happened for me when someone else hit me and was found 100% at fault), but only your insurance agent can say for sure.

My guess is you're still pretty shook up so you probably want to call them after you get some sleep and find out all the info you need.
posted by Justinian at 12:51 AM on August 9, 2009 [10 favorites]

you're querying the hive mind to find out what your auto insurance policy covers?

A couple people have said things like this and I don't think it is fair. Icarus and her husband were in a major accident. When I got hit I was completely uninjured... except when the other party asked for my insurance card I gave them the card that had the date for my next dentist's appointment on it. When handed that back I proceeded to search my wallet and give them my HEALTH insurance card. It took me three tries to actually come up with the auto insurance card.

And this accident sounds a lot worse.
posted by Justinian at 12:53 AM on August 9, 2009 [3 favorites]

Best answer: I've had a number of cars totaled in not-my-fault accidents; here's what I've picked up from talking to insurance guys and tow truck drivers along the way:

1) Rental reimbursement generally only covers $25 a day; you'll be responsible for paying the difference so even if you do have coverage, you'll probably still owe money for that. The arrangements are made by the insurance agency and are set up with a contracted rental car company (usually Enterprise). I think that even if you don't have rental coverage, you may be able to negotiate the insurance rate with the rental company. It takes about a week or two to determine if it's a total loss, plus maybe one additional day to get the check cut, after which they'll pay for three more days on the rental.

2) If the initial repair estimate is greater than the low blue book estimate (regardless of the actual blue book value of the car), they'll total it.

3) If you bought something new for the car (tires, radiator, etc) recently, notify your insurance company. That should bump up your payout amount.

4) Physically, you are going to feel like dogshit within 48 hours. Even minor accidents have made me feel like an old woman. I'd recommend starting a bath and ibuprofen regimen now, then seeing a doctor in about four days. By then you'll have a good idea of what hurts and what doesn't, so you'll have something to talk about while your doctor checks you over.

5) Keep track of all of the medical records related to this. Even if you don't sue (and this seems like it might grow into a large enough issue that you may want a lawyer on your side just to keep things honest), your medical expenses will be reimbursed, along with a "thanks for not suing and by the way can you sign this thing saying that you are fine now and you waive your rights to make a claim for any medical issue that may arise in the future" bonus (about twice your medical expenses, as I recall)

6) Keep in touch with your insurance company. You pay them premiums so they will help you when things like this happen. Ask them for a copy of the police report, or find out how you can get a copy; you probably won't actually need it but it's good to check and make sure it's accurate.
posted by stefanie at 1:07 AM on August 9, 2009 [4 favorites]

I was rear-ended a few years ago, it wasn't too bad, but I was pretty rattled and not thinking all that straight.

My doctor's advice was to go to the emergency room and get checked out so that the other driver's insurance couldn't try to wheedle out of anything.

My aches and pains didn't really show up for a couple of days, and even so, I discounted the efficacy of the muscle relaxants and heavy doses of ibuprofen I'd been prescribed, at least until I tried ramping down and quickly felt a lot worse. It took a few weeks until my spine and whatnot started feeling like it was working right again.
posted by Good Brain at 1:42 AM on August 9, 2009

1) Rental reimbursement generally only covers $25 a day;

I don't think this is so "generally" true. It depends on your policy. It's been a few years for me, but last time I was in a situation like this the rental was fully covered (albeit through the insurance company's choice of rental agency).
posted by fourcheesemac at 2:22 AM on August 9, 2009

Best answer: My policy paid me $25/day towards a rental, even if I didn't rent a car, it was just a reimbursement for whatever expenses I incurred getting myself around without a car (e.g., bus, subway, taxi, etc.).

Once my car was deemed totaled and they sent me a check, they said that they would stop paying $25/day since I had been "made whole" after the loss.

Check your policy for details.
posted by Brian Puccio at 5:49 AM on August 9, 2009

Do NOT call the other insurance company, do NOT call the other insurance company! (twice for emphasis)

Do NOT call your own insurance company, call your agent first, let him/her guide you through the process.

Do NOT make any statement to the other party or the other party's insurance company, have them work directly with your agent/insurance company.

And, you might want to consider contacting an attorney.
posted by HuronBob at 5:55 AM on August 9, 2009

First thing to determine is are you in a no fault state? If not, the person at fault or their insurance company, will be responsible for all your expenses including time lost from work and costs over the daily rental allowance. As noted above keep records of everything. This isn't your fault and you and your husband should be compensated for everything. If you are in a no fault state YMMV.
posted by Xurando at 6:22 AM on August 9, 2009

Rent a car and go on a trip; don't let this become a major focus of your life. It sounds like you both came through this without serious injury and the only issue is letting the insurance companies sort out the property damages; there is plenty of advice on that above.
posted by TedW at 6:23 AM on August 9, 2009

I'm so sorry this happened to you, and while I'm relieved to hear that both you and your husband are going to be ok, it still sucks to have to deal with this.

You should think of your insurance company as your lawyer in your situation. You should not make contact with the other party without consulting them, and you should actually avoid dealing directly with the other driver's insurance company and allow yours to act as your proxy. Think of it this way: the other driver's insurance company wants to get out of this by paying as little as possible to settle this claim. Anything you say -- including, as others have noted, that you feel ok right now-- can be used against you. This is what you've been paying your insurance premiums for: call your company, figure out what you're entitled to, and let them advocate on your behalf.

I know you feel ok right now, but please schedule an exam to make sure there's nothing going on like internal injuries, etc. And as others have said, you might start to feel achy days after the fact.

Part of your question seems to be about how to cope with having your vacation ruined by someone else -- a week of pleasure and relaxation has turned into a week of haggling, inconvenience, and a husband in pain. There's no way to make this ok, but do some strategic thinking to think about how to make it bearable and better, and how not to let the stress and anger get to you and make your return to work in worse shape. Don't try to deal with any projects or errands or obligations other than what's absolutely necessary to get yourself a rental car and deal with the bare bones of the situation. Sleep in. Try to plan some fun things that don't require a lot of planning. Focus on taking care of yourself and your husband.

Good luck, and again, I'm so sorry you have to have this on your plate instead of your vacation.
posted by foxy_hedgehog at 6:49 AM on August 9, 2009

Umpteenthing that you call YOUR insurance agent before anyone else. Part of what you pay your premiums for is their assistance in times like this. Have them make the contact with the girl's insurer. Your person will be a much needed buffer to make sure you don't get hosed, which the girl's insurer will try with all their might to do. Eventually, though, you will probably have to work directly with an adjuster from the girl's insurer.

Just don't sign anything dealing with medical expenses right away. Secondary injuries can take a bit of time to manifest. You may feel fine now, but you may start developing pain/stiffness/tenderness after awhile.
posted by Thorzdad at 7:27 AM on August 9, 2009

Did you leave anything of value in your car when it was towed? In the hubbub of the accident aftermath, you may not have remembered to get your laptop out of the trunk or your extra house key out of the glove box, or whatever. Find out where they took your car, and go there Monday and retrieve any valuables, and take pictures in the daylight.

Also - re your vacation plans. Most of what will happen next can happen on the phone. Unless you were planning a trek up the Himalayas or something, go on your vacation. Some pampering and R&R is exactly what you need now anyway.

I'm sorry this happened to you, and I second the good advice about waiting a day or two before you assume you made it through physically unscathed.
posted by SuperSquirrel at 7:36 AM on August 9, 2009

I agree with everyone else telling you to talk to your insurance company, but I also think you should start asking friends, colleagues, etc. if they know of a good attorney. Then, go have a chat with that attorney sometime soon...doesn't have to be this week, but sometime. You may not need to use them but sometimes these medical issues get tricky, and a lawyer can get those bills paid. I speak from experience; my boyfriend was rear-ended by a drunk driver (so, not at fault) and our insurance company put us through the ringer over "soft tissue injuries." We'd still be paying off those bills if our lawyer hadn't worked things out.
posted by cabingirl at 7:45 AM on August 9, 2009

Best answer: Her insurance company should cover your rental car up to the point your car is repaired or they pay you out. My wife's car was rear-ended last year, had a rental until the garage repaired the car. I rejected the first set of repairs as not being good enough, so at that point the insurance stopped paying for the rental car and the garage took up the car payments, total of about 6 weeks rental paid out.
I'd also get a 3rd party insurance adjuster to look at the car for repairs and for the "diminished value" of the car if you do get it back. Cost me $250 and I got an extra $1000 out of the insurance company.
First thing first - get checked out and make sure you're all OK, money is a secondary concern right now compared to your health.
posted by arcticseal at 8:00 AM on August 9, 2009

Pretty much what Contessa said except you don't need to speak to the other insurance carrier. Your insurance company is your advocate, that's what you pay premiums for.

Went through kinda the same thing earlier this year, and getting reimbursed by the other insurance company for my rental car was honestly the least exasperating part of the whole deal.
posted by Lucinda at 8:27 AM on August 9, 2009

About the suing part: you won't have to make that decision for a while. Eventually the other insurance company will call you with a settlement offer. You can try to negotiate it higher, but if you're unsuccessful then you have to make the decision to sue. Your gamble will be this: will hiring an attorney and suing (and possibly going to trial) increase the settlement amount by at least 33% (the usual atty fee)?
posted by lockestockbarrel at 8:30 AM on August 9, 2009

Response by poster: Guys, thank you for all the advice.

We're going to go look at our car and take some photos at tow place this afternoon.

I spoke with our insurance agent this morning, we only have liability insurance (we're broke students who cannot afford much beyond that) so he said there's really nothing HE can do for us, aside from giving us the number to the injuring party's insurance company. He also advised me that if we were to rent a car we would have to pay for comprehensive insurance on it that probably wouldn't be reimbursed. But we still have to wait until we have a claim number from the responsible party's insurance company.

Again, thank you for the advice.
posted by icarus at 9:41 AM on August 9, 2009

Best answer: Your agent sounds like a piece of shit. You may want to reconsider a lawyer.
posted by peep at 10:09 AM on August 9, 2009 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Whiplash can take a day or two to kick in, I found out (the hard way) last year. You might not actually be fine. Take it easy. And don't be surprised if you're emotionally shaken up by it, either.

Expect it to take a week or two to find out if your car is totaled, if it's not obvious. When my car was rear-ended it was towed to a garage, and the mechanics there came up with an estimate for repairs. If their estimate had been over $10,000, which is the amount my car was officially worth, my insurance company would've sent someone over to check that that was reasonable before declaring it totaled.

We ended up needing a rental for three months while parts were ordered from Japan. My insurance paid $30 a day for it, up to a maximum (90 days, maybe). After that it was up to us to pay for it.
posted by The corpse in the library at 10:17 AM on August 9, 2009

Oh, and one more thing: this is a slooow process. The person who hit us turned out not to have insurance (although he had a card that said he did), and our company is trying to get their money for fixing our car -- and our deductible -- back. This was a year and a half ago, and it still isn't resolved.
posted by The corpse in the library at 10:21 AM on August 9, 2009

Response by poster: @ The corpse in the library:

I know that the father of the girl has insurance, and he sounds like a pretty nice guy. He called my cellphone yesterday while we were in the ER, left a voicemail, and he apologized profusely, said he will do anything that is needed on his end to make this a quick process for us, and all the other right stuff that people say when they think they've encountered a shitstorm.

What kills me is that, where I'm from, 16 year olds have to have an adult passenger accompanying them if they (the 16 year old) are driving themselves. She had another 16 year old accompanying her.

I feel really awful for the father; I know I would hate, hate, hate being in his shoes.
posted by icarus at 10:35 AM on August 9, 2009

Okay, so if your insurance sucks, here's what you need to do:

- Try to talk to someone else at your insurance company. What your agent said sounds like BS to me. (And in the future, I would recommend Geico - I don't pay that much but they are really nice and helpful.)

If that doesn't work...

- Call her insurance company and file a claim. You'll probably need to give an oral statement, send the police report, etc.

- They'll send a representative to the tow yard to check out your car and assess the damage and how much it is worth. You are going to want to get a 2nd and a 3rd opinion on this, but you may have to pay for this yourself.

- Ask her insurance company if they reimburse for a rental, medical bills, etc.
posted by k8t at 6:26 PM on August 9, 2009

What kills me is that, where I'm from, 16 year olds have to have an adult passenger accompanying them if they (the 16 year old) are driving themselves. She had another 16 year old accompanying her.

Don't let this bother you. She could have still done this with an adult in the car. Don't get hinged on the what-ifs, rather focus on the future and getting things resolved. Be polite with her father, but be careful. You don't want to get too cozy when you may have to be opposed to each other later.
posted by k8t at 6:27 PM on August 9, 2009 [2 favorites]

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