How to negotiate insurance BS?
June 16, 2010 10:22 AM   Subscribe

Twilight Zone-like parking lot fender bender scenario. Anyone with previous experience with a nutcase like this?

Sorry for the small tome, but there's a lot of ridiculous details:

Woman backs into the side of my car in a parking lot. Not any drastic damage, but enough to need body work. I stop her, she gets out her car and declares, on the spot, that she "didn't do it", that the damage already existed. A lie as I could actually feel the small, dull 'crunch' as her back fender pushed into the side of my door.

The absurdity of her statement, and audacity of her denial stymies my brain. I call the police. They tell me if no one is 'hurt' they will not come out and for us to "just swap insurance info." We do this, though she then entreats me to not call insurance companies and just get a hold of her later, after I get an estimate and let her know how much it is. Yada yada.

Again my brain does a giant 'huh?': Now she's essentially acknowledging her mistake in hitting me. I agree to do the body shop estimate thing and avoid insurance hassles, possible rate increases. Blah blah.

Get home two hours later and her insurance company is on the phone, acting all concerned, claiming they want to investigate. They say that she has called and alerted them that I might be making a claim that she hit my car when she claims she didn't. I tell the guy she did hit my car.

An appraiser guy they hire comes out the following week, looks at my car (guesstimates a thousand dollars worth of work). Four days later her insurance calls and says the measurements they took indicate that her car couldn't have possibly have hit mine. Again I feel like an utter fool, what was I expecting -- that her insurance company (Progressive) would do the right thing?

I call my Allstate agent. He tells me I should have her insurance company get my car and her car together so that I can show exactly where she hit me. I call them and request this and they never call me back. I call the woman and tell her I want to do this and she says "no" she's too busy and that the matter is settled, her insurance company says she's not liable. My brain melts down with fury.

I call my insurance guy back and he says I can 1) file a claim and pay the $500 deductible (which galls me) to get my car fixed or 2) take her to small claims court, but that even a judgment against her won't necessarily guarantee that she'll pay me. I mull this over. I call police and ask if they can send me a transcript of my call, they say that they can for five bucks. Fine. That's all I've got. No witnesses. And the shitty 'rigged' report from her company.

Now what? The car's damage doesn't really bother me that much, tho should I resell my car it will certainly effect the value. It's the principle of the situation that is so f-ed up and driving me crazy.

Has anyone else here experienced something similar? And why isn't my insurance company more proactive? My agent told me they could go after hers, but it could me months or even a year before it's dragged into arbitration; I got the feeling Allstate is hoping I'll just drop it all.

Thanks Meta hive.
posted by zenpop to Law & Government (18 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
Here's a similar question that occurred not too long ago. There might be some useful info in there regarding going after Progressive. Good luck.
posted by jabberjaw at 10:27 AM on June 16, 2010

If you have your insurance company fix your car, they're going to go after her Progressive policy to get their money back (at which point they would most likely pay you back your $500 deductible). One of the things you're paying for in your premiums every six months is the fact that your insurance company is a big dog who can come to your rescue if the other insurance company is being shady. Use them.
posted by scarykarrey at 10:27 AM on June 16, 2010 [7 favorites]

Have your insurance go after hers and let them deal with it. This is what they're for. Yes, you're out the deductible, but insurance is for catastrophic things, so do (1). Dealing with this person is going to make your life a catastrophe, QED, let insurance do it.

If you really want, I believe you can take her to small claims for the deductible as well. But do you want? Ask yourself what your time is worth.
posted by zippy at 10:29 AM on June 16, 2010 [1 favorite]

Our car got hit by someone a few years ago. It was undrivable. The woman that hit her had some fly-by-night insurance company (Knight? Armor? something like that). After talking to my independent insurance agent & my insurance company, I ended up paying the $500 deductible and having my insurance pay for it.

They said much like they told you, I could take the time to take the person to court and try and force her insurance company to pay, but it would take a lot of time and wouldn't necessarily work. Later a lawyer from our insurance company called and said that they were taking Fly-by-Night insurance company to court to try to recover the cost of fixing our car. If they won, they'd refund my deductible. Ms. Ricketts made a court appearance describing the accident even.

Months go by.

Finally we get a letter from the lawyer. The insurance company received a nominal amount from Fly-By-Night...who had declared bankruptcy. Apparently this happens all the time. Enclosed was a check for nearly all my deductible. It was all they had gotten back so they were just going to give it to me.

My insurance company at the time was.....Progressive. Now you know the REST of the story.

Seriously, i think something similar would/could happen with you. HER insurance company has a vested interest in NOT paying anything. YOUR insurance company has no reason to try and go after her company yet...I mean THEY aren't out anything. So you pay the $500 bucks (a retainer fee you can call it?) to make it their problem. They may well go after Progressive then and maybe settle on an amount and send you back the deductible later. (a situation that my independent insurance agent had said is also common place).
posted by Wink Ricketts at 10:36 AM on June 16, 2010 [2 favorites]

Response by poster: Thanks folks. What's pissing me off now is how lackadaisical my Allstate agent has been. When he went into his long story about how it could takes months, maybe even into a year to get it into arbitration I felt like he was trying to sell me on not filing a claim. I then asked him how much my policy would increase by reporting this and he said "Nothing." I have a policy that is a 'no fault' sort of arrangement. (I know, I know, I should have a better understanding of what my coverage is). But he also never offered that info to me either. And this is company I've been with for over 25 years. Jesus, you'd think there'd be some sense of loyalty.

Small claims is appealing as I'd love to see this woman confronted with her BS. But when friends confirmed that even if there's a judgment in my favor I STILL would have to collect the money from her (and knowing her lack of integrity) I figured that was unlikely...well, OY!
posted by zenpop at 10:39 AM on June 16, 2010

I never understood why mobile phones need cameras (WTF - photos??! This thing's for making phone calls!) until this happened to me. Was I glad I had a mobile with me! OK, I know: too late for this time - I apologise for being clever after the event. But should it happen again, jump out of your car and take as many pictures from as many angles as you can, and then ask the other driver if s/he really still wants to claim it never happened.

So sorry it happened to you, and the best of luck in getting it sorted out the way you deserve and have every right to see it done.
posted by aqsakal at 10:50 AM on June 16, 2010

More than likely, your agent (is he one of those independent agent dealies?) just doesn't want to deal with it. It means having to deal with lots of paperwork, and honestly, to the insurance industry, claims = lost money. By making you feel weird about filing a claim through them, he's keeping more money in the Allstate coffers, and it might even reflect poorly on his rating or status within the company. Ignore that, and make them do part of the job that you've hired them to do.
posted by scarykarrey at 10:50 AM on June 16, 2010

I had a similar experience as Wink Ricketts. My insurance (Progressive) went after the other party's insurance and we never had to pay a deductible at all. Our agent us told us NOT to talk to the other party's insurance agent but to refer them to him.

I don't know why your agent is being a dick but do file a claim; it's in his best interest to then go after her insurance. I've never been in small claims court but I can't imagine it is worth your while.

Also, I hope there is not a next time, but if there is, take pictures with your phone.
posted by desjardins at 10:52 AM on June 16, 2010

When he went into his long story about how it could takes months, maybe even into a year to get it into arbitration I felt like he was trying to sell me on not filing a claim.

This is where you mention that there's a car insurance commercial on television every 15 seconds and that changing isn't a big deal.

Small claims is appealing as I'd love to see this woman confronted with her BS.

Looking at this objectively, she could have very well panicked and not been in her best mind right after bumping into you. Insurance could have been acting sleazy without any sort of provocation from her, and this is all a giant misunderstanding.

Take it from someone who was involved in a much bigger case where a jury verdict, a reprimand by a federal judge and their own representation (which they fired) couldn't convince someone of their BS. If you're looking to change people's minds the legal system isn't the best route, though it is good at making situations right.
posted by geoff. at 10:53 AM on June 16, 2010 [1 favorite]

Sorry not to have an answer, but I'd like to echo your disappointment in your own insurance agent. All of those things he had you do? He should have been the one doing them. Every time I've been in an accident (whether I was driving or not), the insurance agents took over and did all of the work.
posted by puritycontrol at 10:54 AM on June 16, 2010 [2 favorites]

I'd call Allstate (maybe try and find a corporate number) and just keep going up the chain expressing disappointment in how your Allstate agent is handling things to date. He's the one that should be doing everything you're doing. You shouldn't need to talk to her insurance at all. As geoff. mentioned your card is mentioning switching insurance to one of the dozens of others out there if you can't find someone to escalate your call to higher level.
posted by 6550 at 11:04 AM on June 16, 2010 [3 favorites]

Did you take pictures? Anytime something seems odd or weird or concerning, start taking pictures like a tourist. Do not care if you are offending someone.

Your insurance company going after hers for damages is called subrogation. Insist upon it. I swear your experience, and others, is why I stick with the small Massachusetts insurance company I have. It's a bit more expensive, but my god, I don't get these apathetic agents who don't know who you are.

I never, as a rule, deal with people outside of insurance. There's too much wiggle room for me getting screwed and I don't have the time, inclination or enough Lorazepam to deal with it. And if the other insurance company sends a post-card or calls, I call them back after hours, give them my agent's number and tell them all the info they want is with my agent. That I learned when I was 18 and naive, and the other party's insurance tried to coerce me into saying (on tape) that sitting still in traffic for several minutes and getting rear ended by someone not paying attention, could have been my fault too.

As you are undoubtedly aware now, there are some real douchebags in the insurance field.

I was in a somewhat similar incident about 4 months ago where the other party denied being on this planet when the accident happened. Parked on a side street, came outside and the truck behind me was hitting my car and parked, driver was gone. I snapped a photo, just in case. Then I moved the car a bit, and there was damage. I called the cops and while I was waiting, started taking pictures from all angles, and made sure to include the other car's plates in them. I was absolutely astonished that someone hit my car and stayed there. Ballsy. (sidenote: If ever in that situation again, the cop said for me to not move my car.)

The cop ran her plates, took down her info and mine, and wrote up a report. He told me to have my insurance agent pull the report if I decided to make a claim.

I did. I called my agent and gave her the plate number (since I had that) and the accident report number. Emailed her pictures. My agent started in on the other person's insurance. I stated that I was absolutely refusing to pay my deductible as I had pictures of the other car hitting mine and the police report.

Now the claims adjuster assigned to me gets in touch with the other party. The other driver initially denied even being in that town or the area, had no idea of anything, said I was lying, etc. Her husband is screaming like a jerk in the background, as the story was told to me. And then the claims agent gleefully sent them the photos... They couldn't fight it.

It went to subrogation, but that's the last I heard of it. I got a check for the full amount for repair, didn't pay deductible.
posted by jerseygirl at 11:14 AM on June 16, 2010 [1 favorite]

Call the toll free claims number for Allstate and file your claim. Your agent is a salesperson, and he makes most of his income off you on the initial policy. The renewals aren't worth a whole lot to him, thus is lack of interest in customer service. The claims people, however, are paid to deal with claims.
posted by COD at 11:55 AM on June 16, 2010 [2 favorites]

Not sure if anyone's mentioned this or not, but did the parking lot you were in have security cameras? I would pursue that next. We were hit in a mall parking lot about 5 years ago by a woman who also told her agent that she didn't do it. At the time of the offense, mall security came, took a statement and pictures. After she denied it, our insurance company researched it and got parking lot security tapes which proved she had done it. Case closed.
posted by fresh-rn at 12:12 PM on June 16, 2010

Response by poster: COD, you're exactly right. I just got off the phone with the claims people at Allstate and they were awesome -- genuinely so. I feel like moving my policy to another agent though, after the crappy way my guy handled this.
posted by zenpop at 12:19 PM on June 16, 2010 [1 favorite]

Seconding Aqsakl: "jump out of your car and take as many pictures from as many angles as you can"

It's AMAZING what kind of a preventative a bunch of pictures can be. I've been on the other side of this (I hit something, Did The Right Thing, and the person decided they'd won the lottery & my company would re-design their car). Thank goodness I took ones of the undamaged areas too --4 nice shots of the scene plus some closeups didn't cure everything, but sure saved my neck at work!
posted by Ys at 6:21 PM on June 16, 2010

Ys: It's AMAZING what kind of a preventative a bunch of pictures can be. I've been on the other side of this (I hit something, Did The Right Thing, and the person decided they'd won the lottery & my company would re-design their car). Thank goodness I took ones of the undamaged areas too --4 nice shots of the scene plus some closeups didn't cure everything, but sure saved my neck at work!

This is what happened to us, except the guy originally told us $3k to fix (but he'd sell us the car for $5k), then when we said no, we'll take the insurance hit, he tried it on the insurance company. It didn't work because our insurance company actually takes a bunch of high res photos with rulers and stuff which proved the ridiculous amount of damage this twit was trying to claim couldn't possible have been caused by my car (no matter how fast we were going or what angle we hit it at).
posted by geek anachronism at 8:35 PM on June 16, 2010

yeah, your agent dropped the ball. good on you to report to the actual claims dept, which is who really should handle it. FWIW, pretty much what claims people do is try to make each other blink. I love my own State Farm insurance but when I handled claims (for somebody else) I hated going against State Farm because those guys would LIE LIE LIE to get out of paying my (clients') legitimate claims.

anyway, once your claim goes to arb (a matter of a couple months), your rep will almost certainly win if the wreck happened like you say, and they will recover your deductible too.
posted by toodleydoodley at 9:27 PM on June 16, 2010

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