How to get rid of an exploitive insurance company?
March 23, 2010 5:23 AM   Subscribe

I cannot get my license because a car insurance company is exploiting me with a safety claim. Can someone help me find a lawyer or offer some advice?

A few years back, I got into an accident that wasn't my fault. My car was practically totaled and I didn't have insurance. Because I was naive and the woman in the other car was freaking out about getting her children to school, we left the scene of the accident and no police report was filed. The other people in the accident got a hold of my information and gave it to their insurance company, blaming the accident on me.

The insurance company mailed me threatening letters saying I had to pay them somewhere around $12K. They said they would sue me if I didn't take responsibility and I would have to pay all sorts of extra fees if I tried to fight and lost. They intimidated me with their big money and threats and I took responsibility. I was paying off the debt at $100 a month until I fell upon difficult times.

About two years ago, I went through what I call a transient period of my life. I was hitching rides to work and sleeping on couches. I wasn't able to pay the insurance company and I didn't. They sent a safety claim to the dmv and the dmv revoked my license.

Now I'm doing better and trying to get my life on track. I managed to get a place to live, a better job and enrolled back in school. I can afford a car now, but when I went to see the dmv about where my license stood they said I had to talk to the lawyers for the insurance company to get the safety claim release. The lawyers for the insurance company said that with extra fees, the new amount that I owed was $16K. They also said I would have to pay ten percent of that ($1,600) just to get started.

I feel very taken advantage of. I'd like to at least speak with a lawyer to have someone representing me, but I don't know where to get started. What type of lawyer to call, what I'm asking for them to do. I've called some lawyers already and they usually just brush me off. I think maybe I'm not calling the right kind of lawyer or explaining myself to them wrong.
posted by justflux to Law & Government (9 answers total)
Does your school offer legal help to students? Consulting with your institution's student legal services office can be a great way to get good, affordable (sometimes even free) legal assistance.

Good luck.
posted by mmmbacon at 5:28 AM on March 23, 2010

You drove without insurance, assumed fault in the accident and agreed to a payment schedule? And then defaulted on it? You're not going to get out of the mess you're in without a lawyer. Talking with student services would be an excellent place to start.
posted by wkearney99 at 5:40 AM on March 23, 2010 [2 favorites]

I can afford a car now

No, you can't. You have money because you are avoiding your financial obligations. The money you've saved has been saved in part because you aren't paying what you owe.

Your story here relies almost completely on subjective testimony that the accident was not your fault; you didn't file a police report and you assumed responsibility for the accident and on top of that, you defaulted on your payment schedule.

I would approach a lawyer, not with the "I'm innocent and feel taken advantage of" story (because, to be honest, the facts don't at all look like that) and instead with the "I want to negotiate a fair settlement" route. You'll probably find that they're a lot more likely to help you that way. Good luck.
posted by Hiker at 6:25 AM on March 23, 2010 [6 favorites]

You are neither innocent nor were you taken advantage of.

You were naive, to be sure, but that is not exculpatory.

Man up, pay your debts, and get on with your life.

No competent lawyer will tell you anything other than "maybe we can negotiate a settlement with the company."
posted by dfriedman at 7:01 AM on March 23, 2010

Agree with the previous replies. You assumed faut for the accident, even if you were not actually guilty. This means you took full responsibility for it, which includes the debts to the insurance company.

Since there is no police record, I can assume there are also no photos of your car, the accident site, the other person's car, or a written statement of what happened.

All you have is your subjective memory of what happened, which at this point, is not worth very much form a lawyer's perspective. Especially since you already admitted responsibility.

If I were in your shoes I would chalk this up as an expensive life lesson and mistake, pay the debt off, get the safety claim revoked, and move on with your life.

Playing the victim, years after the fact, is probably not in your best interests.
posted by camworld at 7:05 AM on March 23, 2010

It sounds like a pretty horrible insurance company if they were threatening you like that back then. ('Back then' would have been a good time to talk to a lawyer too.)

As it is now, see if your school has legal aid for students. At best, they can force the insurance company to admit that is has no evidence against you other than your own browbeaten agreement. At worst, they can help you negotiate a settlement.

You definitely made some mistakes back then, but that is no reason to continue letting them call all the shots. Good luck.
posted by SLC Mom at 7:50 AM on March 23, 2010

You might try talking to a personal injury lawyer, if you don't have good luck with contacts at school. The ones who have experience with auto accidents are who you're looking for because they're used to negotiating with insurance companies. Avoid the ones who advertise on tv. Check out your local bar association website for recommendations.

Here's what I would ask (while leaving your feelings about the insurance company's behavior to the side): 1) Is there any way to remove the safety claim short of paying the insurance company? (the answer to this may well be no, and if so, ) 2) What is the best settlement I can get so I don't have to pay all $16,000.

Sometimes, just having someone call from a law firm or write a letter on law firm letterhead can help at least knock off the fees/interest. The lawyer can advise you about whether the insurance company's claim might expire someday or how much they are really entitled to. Don't talk to anyone at the insurance company, in case they try to get you to reassert responsibility for the accident or the amount owed. They have proved themselves to be jerkfaces, but now you may be stuck. Take the money you have for the car and get this squared away because it could affect you down the road in ways you'd prefer not to think about.
posted by *s at 10:36 AM on March 23, 2010

You say you had no insurance, but you did. You were self insured. You owe. I add to the others that your best course of action is to negotiate a settlement. UNLESS you can prove you were not at fault. Then i would pursue an insurance fraud angle against the other driver.
posted by JohnnyGunn at 10:16 PM on March 23, 2010

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