Insurance Claims
September 11, 2009 11:03 AM   Subscribe

My daughter was broadsided in her car by another driver last weekend. She was not significantly hurt (some minor facial lacerations) but the car is a mess. Help me navigate the treacherous insurance waters.

While it is highly unlikely that the other driver has insurance, we just don’t know. It was a hit-and-run, at least for two and a half blocks where, I assume, his car broke down (several vital-looking pieces of his car remained scattered around my daughter’s car). According to the police at the scene, he also had no driver’s license and so was escorted away before anyone could ask him about insurance.

We reported the accident to our insurance company, which has also been operating under the assumption that the other driver was not insured. They had the damage assessed, declared the car totaled (which raises all sorts of other issues about the amount of there valuation), and have offered to reimburse us for that amount . They tell us that either the amount will be covered by our uninsured motorist insurance or, if the other driver turns out to have insurance, by his insurance company. In that later case, the other insurance company will reimburse our insurance company.

My question is whether it is better to wait and see if the other driver has insurance. We should be able to find that out in about a week or so once the police report is issued, and that sort of delay is no big deal. On the other hand, we don’t want to wait for months if the other insurance company decides to drag its heels. Also, I have no idea what sort of effect have our insurance company handle it will have on our relationship with them. My daughter was clearly not at fault – the other driver turned though a boulevard to broadside her – but I have always been under the impression that any dealing with one’s insurance company is bad. Any thoughts?
posted by rtimmel to Work & Money (17 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: The valuation on your daughter's car won't change significantly, regardless of which insurance company you're dealing with. If you're only claiming damages, then either take the check or submit supporting documentation to your insurance company on which you can base a claim for a higher value.

If you're claiming any personal injury or want any money for time lost from work, or "pain and suffering" then I'd advise you to get an attorney.
posted by anastasiav at 11:13 AM on September 11, 2009

It shouldn't matter to you if the other guy has insurance. Most insurance companies will go ahead and make their customer whole minus the deductible. If they get reimbursed from another insurance company they will also refund your deductible.
posted by COD at 11:29 AM on September 11, 2009

am i missing something here? Why would you think anastasiav that we have enough info to say that the valuation on her car won't change?

Do you mean what the car would be worth had it not been in a crash vs. what it'll be worth after repaired - no matter how well repaired - after all is said and done?

I don't know what sort of insurance you have... but generally the company fixes your car (if they have no insurance, your company does it)... then when you try to sell your car they pull up the record and adjust the value down accordingly - no one pays for this unless you have a special type of insurance (different brand names).


I'm probably mis-reading... must mean the value of the cost of repairs on the vehicle... this is usually true.
posted by Jiff_and_theChoosyMuthers at 11:40 AM on September 11, 2009

Best answer: As someone frequently smacked in car accidents, let me impart this knowledge I learned: Always go through your own insurance and let them fight the other party - insured or not.

The other insurer, again in my experience, is somehow going to try to find a way to get out of paying you, even in the most 'obvious' of situations. It's a headache.

Get whole through your own insurance, you've might actually have that additional coverage in the case of an uninsured driver hitting you.

Did the police cite this guy? This is extremely important. Moreover, who hauled this guy away? Police? Is there an accident report? Was the guy drunk? You and your insurance need to know these things. Your insurance company should be tracking this down.

As far as the valuation of the car, there are a couple things you can do. To to or (both very reputable vehicle evaluation sites) and plug in the features/stats of your car. You should get a few different fair market values on that car. Beyond that, did you recently do any improvements to the car? New radiator? Brakes? Tires? Anything? Document, document, document. The car's likely disposition, despite being a total loss, is that the insurance company will take possession and in turn, it will go to auction where salvage/junk yards will have the opportunity to buy it. Salvage/junk yards will assume possession and sell it off to people for parts. The car might be undriveable, but someone will need a driver's seat, or a rear view mirror, or a glovebox, etc... If there are parts/improvements not evident to the appraiser who totaled it, it's in your best interest to identify them.

Moreover, about your daughter's facial lacerations... don't dismiss them lightly. Are they going to scar? This is her face, something she's going to be wearing for the rest of her life.
posted by jerseygirl at 11:50 AM on September 11, 2009 [4 favorites]

If the car is totalled, you don't have a lot of negotiating room. Typically they take some of the blue book type valuations (which tend to be high) along with the prices of similarly equipped used cars of the same year and model as yours and that the value of your totalled car. It will almost certainly be lower than what you'd find for a private party sale in excellent condition on KBB or Edmunds. It's accurate in the sense that it's what it would cost to replace your car with an equivalent, but it doesn't really take into account all the bullshit you have to go through to actually purchase a used car.
posted by electroboy at 11:51 AM on September 11, 2009 [1 favorite]


Seriously. The other driver probably does not have insurance - congratulations! Your insurance company just became your adversary. (I know, sucks. Sorry.)

Your daughter was in an accident and the car was totaled? Trust me, she needs ongoing care. Your lawyer will get her in with the right doctors. I recommend acupuncture and therapeutic massage, but most insurance won't pay out on that unless the treatments are overseen by another doctor. The lawyer will help you navigate this - don't worry. (I know from experience on this, it is vital she gets this even if she thinks she feels "ok". Trust me on personal experience. I can't repeat enough.)

Ditto on the facial lacerations - doctor, plastic surgeon. Again - lawyer will direct all of this.

The lawyer will get you paid out (eventually,) will argue for the best price on car reimbursement, will get your daughter to the right doctors (the impact she sustained hurt her even if there are no bruises. it is a physics thing - two heavy moving objects collided - your daughter was fully involved in the impact. again, personal experience here.)

You will not regret getting yourself a decent ambulance chaser. You will regret letting your insurance company "drive the car" in this situation. They will not tell you what is in your best interest, they will only tell what is in their best interests.


My best to your daughter. I sympathize.
posted by jbenben at 12:00 PM on September 11, 2009

In my experience, the main difference between getting hit by an insured and an uninsured driver was that I had to pay the deductible when the other party was uninsured. In theory the insurance company tries to get it back from them but good luck. They even sent me a letter saying "don't get your hopes up". Uninsured drivers aren't exactly rolling in money, and the insurance company also wants the money they paid for repairs back, and you rank after them in their minds.
posted by smackfu at 12:00 PM on September 11, 2009

Best answer: I want to tell you a lawyer for this shouldn't cost anything out of pocket. Ask friends for a recommendation.

This is a "better safe than sorry" situation. It's worth the peace of mind - you won't have to worry about getting the best reimbursement for the value of your vehicle, and you won't have to worry if in a few weeks your daughter's wounds don't heal or she starts experiencing neck or shoulder pain - it will all be taken care of.

posted by jbenben at 12:06 PM on September 11, 2009

I pay my insurance company (in Michigan...location is important here) to cover MY car and MY liability. Other people have insurance to cover THEIR cars and THEIR liability. In any accident, my insurance pays me directly. That's why I have them. I don't have to deal with some other jackass's insurance company. There's no waiting around for anything. The only time fault enters the equation is when it comes time to pay for my insurance deductible. If the other guy is at fault, sometimes you need to sue to get that $500. My insurance company even handles that legal process.

I suppose it's too late here, but this is why you should have an insurance agent and not use a company where they save a few bucks by signing you up through some faceless web page. A good agent is an advocate for you within the bureaucracy of your insurance company and stuff should be happening behind the scenes. He/she should make sure no one is screwing you over, 'cause that's their job. A local agent as a reputation to ruin if you're dissatisfied.

No matter what, if there are injuries, get a lawyer. Backs, necks, etc are weird things and problems can show up YEARS down the road.
posted by paanta at 12:34 PM on September 11, 2009 [1 favorite]

My wife was in a similar accident last year with our then 12-year-old Saturn. Our car was "totaled" (repair cost would be more than 70% of its market value) by an uninsured driver. Our agent said if we kept the car and had it repaired ourselves, the title would have to be marked "salvage," meaning future buyers would know it had been totaled. We decided to let them buy it from us. They sent an agent to estimate its value, then compared that with the values of similar cars in the area. We had taken extra-good care of it so we received a (surprisingly) good settlement. The insurance company said they'd sue the other driver to recover our deductible but a few months later wrote to say they'd decided not to.
posted by davcoo at 12:41 PM on September 11, 2009

Similar situation here, though the other driver was insured in our situation. We just settled our total loss on the car with our company, and honestly, feel like we got pretty screwed. Our agent seemed to agree, but was unable to influence final payment.

We did get an attorney for personal injury-no one was seriously injured, but I was 6 mos pregnant and my 3 year old was also in the car, and it was a serious collision (50 mph, teen driver turned in front of us and we hit her broadside-yay Prius and airbags and britax carseats). I still have neck and back pain-and have had the enormous hassle of having to schedule 5 additional medical appts a week-PT and chiro and massage-for my last trimester of pregnancy. I think it's fair to want some compensation for that time. I would not hire an attorney on the car value issue, as if they took 1/3 off the top of that it would not help me at all.

If they do have insurance, avoid giving the other company any statements, or signing medical releases for them.

I'm so glad your daughter is largely OK. This is very scary.
posted by purenitrous at 1:11 PM on September 11, 2009

Response by poster: My daughter seems fine, though she is complaining about some residual neck pain. I hadn't thought that getting a lawyer would be necessary ffor that, but I am starting to think better safe than sorry.

It is not worth getting a lawyer involved as the car isn't worth much. However, the valuation lists a lot of comparable sales that seem significantly lower, about $2,000 than Kelly BlueBook, Edmund or Carmax prices. I figure I will argue about that myself, no lawyer is going t want to deal with such a small amount.
posted by rtimmel at 4:08 PM on September 11, 2009

We should be able to find that out in about a week or so once the police report is issued, and that sort of delay is no big deal.

There you go. I mean, what's the rush? I think you'd be foolish to sign anything without showing it to a lawyer first, but more importantly, any pressure from *any* side to sign something quickly should be at least a little bit of a red flag.

It is not worth getting a lawyer involved as the car isn't worth much.

Huh? Free consult! Call around, talk to a lawyer or two and describe the situation, then ask for their opinion of your options. Many, many traffic lawyers offer free first consultations without an obligation to hire them. It's good general business practice. Seriously, you owe your daughter and yourself at least a few phone calls to friends to find a sharp traffic lawyer who'll chat with you about this before you make any serious moves.
posted by mediareport at 4:15 PM on September 11, 2009

My lawyer did deal with that - the small amount the car was worth. He didn't get much, but he did get more than I could. You're over-thinking because I'm pretty sure the lawyer handles the entire claim. Mine did.

Excellent to hear you will find an attorney!

You need the lawyer and your daughter needs the doctor. Someone above mentioned sometimes it takes years for the pain from the trauma to show up. This is true. And every once in a blue moon when that little spot on my shoulder hurts, I am very appreciative for the 8 months of physical therapy I received courtesy of my attorney's good sense. I can't even imagine what I might be feeling all these years later if I hadn't gotten treatment.

My roommate gave me this exact advice (to get an attorney) when I had my accident with an uninsured driver. He explained that my insurance company was no longer working for me, they were working for themselves and that I should proceed accordingly. It was the best advice I ever implemented.
posted by jbenben at 4:30 PM on September 11, 2009 [1 favorite]

My biggest advice to anyone in a car accident is to go to the hospital (you don't have to take an ambulance ($$$), have a friend drive you if your car is totaled), or at least urgent care, and get checked out even if you think your injuries are minor. Some injuries like seat belt bruising, internal bleeding, nerve damage, and head injuries (to name a few) don't show up right away. Going to the hospital sets a base line of your condition that can be used in court later to prove injury/damages (loss of work, loss of consortion, pain & suffering, Physical therapy).

We were t-boned by a drunk driver back in 2001 (he didn't make it 30 ft from the bar before hitting us). My wife, then my fiance, hit her head and right arm against the door in the collision. If she had told me she had a potential head injury I would have insisted we go to the hospital that night. My injuries did not show up until the next day and I went to the doctor after that.

The driver that hit us is lucky we didn't go to the hospital. If we had, the District Attorney would have been forced to file "accident under the influence with injury", a class two felony. That would have meant the driver would lose his green card and be deported. Since his home country was not repatriating citizens from the US at the time, that would have meant an indefinite detention until another country could be found to would accept him (at the time there were none).

Since my fiance did not see the doctor immediately that night we were never able to prove that the head injury and nerve damage was a result of the accident and had to settle for a lot less money than we eventually lost in current and future income.
posted by IndigoSkye at 7:10 PM on September 11, 2009

Response by poster: Thanks all. Anyone konw a good lawyer in southeast Wisconsin?
posted by rtimmel at 8:45 PM on September 11, 2009

It is not worth getting a lawyer involved as the car isn't worth much. However, the valuation lists a lot of comparable sales that seem significantly lower, about $2,000 than Kelly BlueBook, Edmund or Carmax prices.

So, the way I've heard it explained is thusly:

Lawyers don't really care about the personal property. It is what it is, and it's not very negotiable because you can figure out what a 10 year old Saturn is worth from the classified ads. The personal injury part, however, is profitable for the attorney, and allows him to take your case on contingency. You go to their doctor/chiropractor for a few weeks of physical therapy for your injuries and they settle with the insurance company for $X. 1/3 goes to the attorney, 1/3 goes to the chiropractor and 1/3 goes to you. X is almost always greater than the value of the car, usually significantly so.
posted by electroboy at 8:51 PM on September 11, 2009

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