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May 17, 2010 7:16 PM   Subscribe

Accident and Car Insurance Filter - the other party is stalling, what recourse do we have?

My wife was rear-ended in a car accident. It was totally not her fault, pretty much an open and shut case. Complication: the person who rear-ended her didn't want to have the accident reported ("I have my daughter on my insurance, please can we not report this?") and offered to pay for the damage. My wife (foolishly) agreed. They exchanged info. As happens, because of where the accident took place, a federal officer came and said he'll have to make a report (he did not witness the accident, but was on duty nearby) - the next day, he called my wife and my wife told her side of the story.

We went to a body shop and got quoted $1500-$2000 at which point I called the other party and said "look it's a lot of money, I want to go through the insurance company". This seemed agreeable. We reported it to their insurance company (AAA), who took a statement from my wife, and we also filed the obligatory DMV report of "accident with damage over $750".

The insurance company (AAA) sent us to have the damage assessed. The AAA agent put it down for $1600 with more possible if damage is more extensive once the bumper is taken off. Photos were taken. We were told, that now we must wait for a call authorizing the work which should be the next day. Well, that was well over a week ago, and no call.

My wife called the insurance company (AAA) again, and was told that the other party (responsible for the accident) has not responded to their calls, and until they do, they are stuck. There was supposed to be followup with more calls, but none came.

Of course, we realize that their insurance company (AAA) is not interested in pursuing this, as it means they have to pay for the considerable damage. But on the other hand, it's now weeks and we'd like to have the car fixed. What is the procedure here? Can they stall indefinitely? What should our next move be? We're not looking to make any money on this, we simply want the damage fixed (we are not claiming anything else, like medical stuff etc.).

Btw. our insurance company is not interested in dealing with this, as we have liability only, so this is all about the other party's insurance (AAA).
posted by VikingSword to Law & Government (17 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
Foolishly. That.

If there is an accident, get a police report. Terribly sorry about your sob story, but you hit me. Period. Otherwise, it's they said/we said and the insurance companies will give you the runaround.

Sorry, but you're probably looking at small claims court now.
posted by kjs3 at 7:25 PM on May 17, 2010

the other party (responsible for the accident) has not responded to their calls, and until they do, they are stuck.

I don't think this is necessarily the case. When you call them back, ask for a time frame within which they will authorize the repairs on the car if the guy never gets back to them. Tell them something like you can't wait forever, and you need to get your car fixed ASAP as it isn't safe to drive in its current condition. If they won't give you a time frame, ask for a supervisor and explain the situation to her. Hold them to their time frame.

Have you called the other party yet? I don't think there's any reason you can't follow up with them.

I don't know how much time has passed for you, but a couple of weeks is kind of normal.
posted by jabberjaw at 7:26 PM on May 17, 2010

Best answer: IAMAL, but IANYL.

Even if you got the agreement in writing, there's little to bind you to going through personal channels. Besides, once accident occurred, your claim against the other driver arose. At that instant, you had a right to pursue it against them through the insurance company. However, the "settlement", which was your consent to avoid insurance companies was not supported by consideration from the other driver (consideration being something THEY give in exchange for YOUR consent; it appears they gave you nothing).

Besides, it is unlikely they had taken steps in relying on your promise (which can in some instances be a "back door" approach to the other party trying to enforce your promise).

If their insurer doesn't play fair and cooperate with your demands, you can threaten small claims court or even reporting them to the AG. As the victim of a car accident, YOU are the beneficiary of the other driver's insurance policy, and you have the right to claim against the insurer even if you weren't a party to the contract for coverage.
posted by holterbarbour at 7:39 PM on May 17, 2010 [1 favorite]

Maybe I'm naïve, but why haven't you contacted your own insurance company? Normally they like to be notified if there's been any loss -- that's why you pay them, right? They should be able to get your car fixed, no?
posted by Geckwoistmeinauto at 7:40 PM on May 17, 2010

Best answer: You may have to talk to a lawyer and get a demand letter sent. I (almost) had to do this because of a stalling insurance company, but they magically stopped stalling after I called and asked for their mailing address and who to send correspondence to the attention of. The lawyer I consulted with (who I have free access to, so they weren't just trying to make money) said that this is sometimes necessary with several insurance companies who like to stall, even when there is a police report and it's an open and shut case.
posted by ishotjr at 7:41 PM on May 17, 2010

Unfortunately, dealing with this kind of crap is exactly why people buy insurance in the first place. This right here is exactly the risk you take when you decide to only get liability insurance. If you had an insurance company fighting for you this would likely have been taken care of already because they have lawyers, etc, and handle things like this all the time.

AAA knows that you don't. They know that you have only a limited amount of time and resources to devote to the situation. Most of all they know that getting a lawyer to handle it would probably cost more than what they owe you in the first place, so they figure you don't really want to do that. If they stall long enough you might simply write off the cost. Failing that, if your wife keeps giving statements to them she might mess up and accidentally make an error in recollection or small contradiction which could be problematic later.

At some point you may have to do exactly what they expect you to do; choose between lawyering up and writing off the costs. Lawyering up might cost more than the cost of repairs and you'll have to decide whether to pursue it further. Like I said, these situations are exactly why people buy insurance beyond liability.
posted by Justinian at 7:43 PM on May 17, 2010

I had a similar situation. The cop asked if I wanted a report since it was such an obvious deal. I said 'it's his fault, he's admitting it, I have your details and will save you some paperwork unless he stalls'. He stalled. I could have gone through my insurance company and paid my deductible then let them fight it out and eventually give me my deductible back. I didn't really want to do that. I called the guy who hit me and was stalling and said 'look, right now you're paying storage charges at the body shop and the cost of a replacement rental car. I've been nice and rented a car that's a class smaller than my car, but if I have to call the cop and get a report it's going to take weeks, you'll pay more storage and I'm going up a size in rental car.' He authorized payment that day and I had my car back 5 days later.
posted by IanMorr at 7:57 PM on May 17, 2010

This happened to me last year.

One of the reasons you have insurance is so they deal with this.

In my case, Geico (mine) told me that if I didn't want to wait for the other person's insurance to kick in, they'd cover it and go after the other person's insurance for me. They did.
posted by k8t at 8:48 PM on May 17, 2010 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Thank you to all who responded.


That's what one gets for being considerate (as I keep telling my wife "no good deed goes unpunished")... if we have to get a lawyer, and 30% of the settlement goes to that, we're out a few hundred at a minimum. Years ago, a friend told me to always claim medical injuries in situations like this, to cover any such trouble. As is, we are getting absolutely nothing out of it, but trouble and time wasted just trying to get the car to its former condition. Sucks to be honest sometimes.

Anyhow, we'll wait a bit longer, and if nothing happens, call AAA and ask them if they want us to go the legal route. If they refuse to give us any firm time frame, I guess we'll have to go to small claims court.
posted by VikingSword at 10:29 PM on May 17, 2010

1. You have to realize that every state has different rules. In my state, for example, you simply cannot claim property damage over $500 against the other guy's insurance, even if it was his fault. So any answer given above is going to be no more than possibly helpful.

2. All insurance companies require that their driver be the one who invokes coverage by filing an application. They are right; until their insured applies for benefits, they cannot do anything on a first-party (direct coverage) basis.

3. A lawsuit, however, including a small claims case, invokes liability coverage, which does not require the cooperation of the insured.
posted by megatherium at 3:03 AM on May 18, 2010

You need to call YOUR insurance agent and get them talking to AAA. That's part of what you pay them for. AAA has no incentive to treat you as anything but a nuisance until you get some muscle behind you. Your insurance agent will make sure you don't get hosed in the repair process.
posted by Thorzdad at 4:41 AM on May 18, 2010 [1 favorite]

Best answer: This happened to me a couple of years ago when my motorcycle was hit while parked, and I only had liability coverage on the bike. Hate to say it, but it's a pain in the ass.

1) Everything you do with AAA, even if there are phone calls, make sure you have written correspondence (email or fax/snailmail). If you have phone calls, re-iterate phone call in the letter.

2) DOCUMENT EVERYTHING. Keep records of every single letter, damage photos, estimates from the mechanic, etc.

3) KEEP ALL RECEIPTS. Anything related to the accident. Tow fees? Replacement car? Estimates? Medical care (copays or anything else)? Anything and everything.

4) Get a copy of the police report.

5) Don't give up.

The deal is this - AAA has zero motivation to pay you, so they will drag it out as long as possible. They will lowball your estimate with their mechanic. They will take days/weeks to respond to requests. They will lowball you again.

Get estimates from two different mechanics. For *everything*. Any damage, no matter how small, that results from the accident, AAA is obligated to repair. Scratches on a quarter panel? crease in the trunk lid? Add it to the estimate.

The reason why? It's all a game. Seriously, you will keep your sanity if you keep that perspective. AAA lowballs you? You highball 'em back. It's all a big negotiation, nothing personal. The person you're talking to right now? They have no authority to make a deal. AAA is hoping that you simply take their first offer. Basic negotiations - you never get what you want by starting with what you want. You start with more, and meet in the middle.

Get your damage repair estimates. Get your expenses resulting from the accident. Get your police report. Put it all together in a nice spreadsheet, total it all up, and send copies to AAA, telling them that you will not settle for anything less than that amount. Period. That amount will still be reasonable - it's not like you're claiming replacement for the destruction of the antique collectible teddy bears that perished in an inferno in your trunk.

Call them every day. Demand to know what the status is of your claim. If it's not ready, demand to know what day it will be ready. Be polite, but annoying. They don't want to hear from you, they want you to go away. Eventually, they will pay you to go away.

And finally, your two big points of leverage, if they refuse to cooperate or deal fairly:

1) Complain to your state department of insurance. Insurance companies do not like hearing from regulators.

2) Don't sue the insurance company, sue the insured party - the driver. The amount is low enough that you can do it w/o a lawyer, in small claims court. You bring in all your documentation, estimates, costs, correspondence with insurance company, etc, and you tell the judge that AAA isn't cooperating, and it's the insured's responsibility. Insurance companies don't like that either.

Good luck. It took me 6 months to get paid by shady, fly-by-night company. You shouldn't have to take that long, but make sure they know you're not messing around. If they think you're a pushover, they'll ignore you. It's not about yelling on the phone, it's about being extremely polite while pointing out to them that it's time for them to pay up.
posted by swngnmonk at 7:06 AM on May 18, 2010 [2 favorites]

I'm guessing the accident took place in California based upon your profile information.

You can file a complaint against AAA with the CA Department of Insurance. I'd call the hotline listed on their site.
posted by schmod at 8:24 AM on May 18, 2010

I don't understand why you're not calling your own insurance!?!?!!?
posted by k8t at 8:30 AM on May 18, 2010

Response by poster: Thank you again.

Yes, we are in Los Angeles, CA. To those who ask "why don't you call your insurance co." - we have liability only, so the insurance co. is not interested in dealing with car/property damages as the car is not insured for that - it's the price you pay for having liability only (actually we elected to pay for a bigger amount than "minimum" liability, in case of more serious claims, but still it covers only liability).
posted by VikingSword at 9:52 AM on May 18, 2010

Response by poster: UPDATE: things have gone to hell.

AAA finally called and are telling us that the person responsible is disputing the claim - and saying that it was my wife who backed into them! Outrageous. This is what happens when you try to be nice to people in accidents. Never again. From now on, I don't care how sad the sob story is - it's cops and shark lawyers all the way.

So it looks like we'll have to go the lawyer route.

Lesson for all in the future: never ever take pity on people who are responsible for accidents on the road - they'll turn and bite you as soon as they can.
posted by VikingSword at 12:03 PM on May 19, 2010

The hell? That argument never works! AAA doesn't need a lawyer to tell them their client is full of shit. If you couldn't tell, when the claims rep from AAA talked to you, that claim rep knew it was full of shit too.

Note that now, you have to get your insurance involved; if he's claiming his car was damaged because your wife backed into him, then it becomes your liability insurance problem. Time to call them back and explain everything. Sorry.

I'll be referring this thread to friends that need this kind of info (I'm also in L.A.).

Good luck.
posted by jabberjaw at 11:18 AM on May 20, 2010

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