First car accident, please help!
September 27, 2010 7:03 AM   Subscribe

First car accident ever, also first in the USA. Can you explain to me what I should do?

Saturday morning I was crashed into by another car. I felt OK health wise, my SUV is destroyed. After a while, the police arrived, and so an ambulance. The police read the witnesses' statements to me (both of them said it was the other driver(TOD)'s fault) and we rode to the hospital. TOD was complaining of back pains and saying her leg was numb. We rode in the ambulance together, which I later found out is a no-no here in VA. We did not talk to each other, and she also heard the witnesses' acounts without reacting to them.

So we got to the hospital, they asked for my insurance info and a doctor checked on me and said I had only strained my muscles (back, neck and left shoulder), and told me to take painkillers and use an icebag.

The policeman arrived to my room and asked me for a statement. I told him everything (I was driving happily from the health store, green light for me, going across an intersection, and out of nowwhere I feel a huge crash on my side, the airbag goes off and I'm spinning like crazy). He leaves, and then calls me to hear TOD's statement. She said she had a green light, and she thought "I hope she stops", which I found funny, because if somebody has a red light, I don't hope they stop, I assume they will.

Anyway, the policeman takes my husband and me back to my room, and tells me he's going to declare it as TOD's fault. So far so good. He gave me TOD's insurance info and left.

I got home, called my insurance company, and told them all the details of the accident, but now I know TOD will deny everything, and also claim she was badly injured, which makes me scared. Our car is destroyed on one side (they had to force the door open for me to get out) and it looks like they aren't going to bother fixing it since it's so wrecked, which is a bummer, because we love it.

My questions are:

-Why on earth is my insurance company going to be billed for my medical expenses? If we rode the ambulance together, are they still billing me?
-Did I miss anything that is supposed to be done in this scenario?
-Should I have gotten a general exam, just to check if something else happened? (a concusion, for example) I wonder for example, if something medical comes up in the near future that is a direct or indirect result to the accident, how should I go about it?
-How do I go about renting another car and getting reimbursed for it? Should I , my insurance company, or TOD's pay for the rental?
- How is the fact that TOD is denying everything affect the outcome of all of this?
- What should I expect as the outcome of all of this?
- In case they decide to give us money instead of fixing the car, what's your experience when it comes to insurance companies valuing your car? Are we going to get screwed? could we appeal if they decided to give us less than we expect?

Thank you...
posted by Tarumba to Law & Government (23 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
Medical claims are processed separately: they are always covered by your own insurance and it does not affect the liability of the claim. In other words, yes- it can be the other person's fault and their insurance will be responsible for the vehicle, but any medical expenses will be covered by your insurance.

Don't worry about the other details about TOD denying it and whatever. The insurance company will sort that out.

If they decide to total your car, they will give you the fair market blue book value of the car. Hopefully you won't be screwed by that (that you don't still owe more on it than it's worth). But unfortunately, if you need to get a new car, it likely won't be enough for a new car of the same type as you have now.
posted by Eicats at 7:11 AM on September 27, 2010

Rentals: since it was the other person's fault, you should be able to get a rental without a problem. (If it was your fault, it would depend on what rental provisions you have in your insurance.) Call their company and have them arrange it.
posted by Eicats at 7:13 AM on September 27, 2010

How is the fact that TOD is denying everything affect the outcome of all of this?

You can safely ignore this. If the witnesses and the cop all concluded it was TOD's fault, then their denials will be rightly seen by all concerned as an attempt at arse covering.
posted by Brockles at 7:24 AM on September 27, 2010 [4 favorites]

If any new health issues come up in the next few days or weeks -- document religiously, and seek diagnosis/treatment immediately.
posted by freshwater at 7:25 AM on September 27, 2010

'Fair Market Blue Book value' is not hard-and-fast number. There are several organizations that publish such values, and they don't all agree with each other. There's also trade-in, private party and dealer retail price points, and all of those vary with the pre-accident condition of the vehicle, which is a somewhat subjective judgment call. So it is possible for the insurance company to offer you less than the car was actually worth. My mother had that experience, refused the initial offer and finally squeezed quite a bit more out of the insurer.

Also, my car insurance includes medical liability, so the idea that your insurer will be on the hook for your medical bills isn't universally true. Might vary by state?

Anyhow, try and relax. A lot of this is going to take care of itself. Call your car insurance agent and ask them to talk you through your concerns. They will be more familiar with your policy and with the laws in effect in your area.
posted by jon1270 at 7:30 AM on September 27, 2010

Oh- jon1270 is right. I forgot the medical/insurance stuff does vary by state. In i>my state, it is always covered by each person's individual insurance, but it may differ for you. And that is a valid point about the differences in blue book value. But that is basically the source for the insurance company's compensation. If you think their offer is inaccurrate, you can try to refuse and argue for a better price. But that can be difficult.
posted by Eicats at 7:35 AM on September 27, 2010

You file claims with your own insurance companies, and they will figure out how to get reimbursed from the other driver's insurance company.

Liability insurance is what you carry to pay for damages you cause. So in this case, if TOD is at fault, his liability insurance is on the hook. It has two components, property damage and bodily injury. Your auto insurance company will try to get paid by the property damage portion of the insurance, and your medical insurance will try to get paid by the bodily injury portion of the insurance.

- Yes, you should have gotten an exam. Probably should get one asap, just to be sure. But don't feel bad, I would have done the same thing.

- If you NEED a car, rent one and worry about getting reimbursed later. If you would just prefer to have one, wait until you know it will be covered.

- Payout on the car: generally this is the blue book retail value of the car. Or, what you would pay to buy the same car, used, right now. If you own the vehicle outright, awesome, you are financially where you started. (IE, you owned a 2001 Explorer, and now you have enough money to buy another 2001 Explorer.) If you owe a lot of money on the car, you might be slightly screwed.

- TOD denials. Probably not at all. In the first place, your own insurance will take care of your losses regardless of what the other guy says. Secondly, the general rule of thumb that is used in the US is that the person who hit the other person is at fault. Because almost no matter what, it is a driver's responsibility to not hit other drivers. So, unless it can be proven that you were operating your vehicle in such a negligent and dangerous manner that caused this other person to hit you, you are fine. Probably the worst you'd have to do is maybe testify in court if TOD is a nut and starts suing everyone.
posted by gjc at 7:51 AM on September 27, 2010

Thank you so much for your replies.

So right now I should call TOD's insurance to see whether I can get another car throught them to use these days?

We bought our car in January and it was valued at 19K. It's a 2007 RAV4 4WD SPORT, looked like new. Where can I find the approximate value of this car? We'd like to start looking so we don't have to be carless for too long.

We owe about 13K on it...
posted by Tarumba at 8:06 AM on September 27, 2010

I just went through this, albeit in Florida. You need to call TOD's insurance NOW (for future reference, you need to call them a lot sooner, essentially right after you get the police report). They should be paying for the rental, and will appraise your car. If you disagree with anything they offer you, call your own insurance company for advice.
posted by Wossname at 8:18 AM on September 27, 2010

I think I wasn't clear when talking about insurance.

They are billing my health insurance company for my medical bills...not my car insurance!
posted by Tarumba at 8:20 AM on September 27, 2010

"You file claims with your own insurance companies, and they will figure out how to get reimbursed from the other driver's insurance company."

To followup on this - you file a claim through your own insurance company, but you will also be on the claim for TOD's insurance. For the value of my car, I dealt 100% with TOD insurance - they picked up the car for appraisal and issued me the final check, not my own insurance company.

For health, it looks like I have to go through my insurance, first, but am in negotiation with TOD insurance to get a payout for lost wages + general pain and suffering.
posted by Wossname at 8:21 AM on September 27, 2010

Call a car rental place, tell them that you were hit and need a car rental; ask them what you need to bring to get the rental covered. You probably don't need to contact TOD's insurance directly; the car rental place will do that.

They'll want to total it out (pay you for its value and keep the car, either fixing it or selling it for parts) if the damages exceed its value; if there's frame damage, you definitely don't want to be driving it anymore.

I wonder if there's a way you can get the car appraised in case your insurance doesn't want to pay its real value. It may not be a problem; perhaps you can call them and ask what they are planning to do, and you may find they're being fair. You'll almost certainly need to wait until a body shop has evaluated the damage and written up an estimate, so the insurance company knows whether it's more cost effective to fix it or total it.
posted by galadriel at 8:23 AM on September 27, 2010

Call your insurance company, and talk to them about this. (Obviously, health questions should be directed to your health insurer, car questions to the car insurer, etc.). Some companies are better than others, although I had good luck in the past.

I had a "completely my fault, but very-minor" fender-bender in a parking lot last year. A month later, I got a rude surprise when TOD filed a $5,000 insurance claim against me. I spent about 5 minutes on the phone with the insurance company before we both came to the conclusion that TOD was trying to claim quite a few unrelated (and physically-impossible) damages to her car as part of the accident.

The insurance company took up the lead from there, and that was the last I heard.
posted by schmod at 8:24 AM on September 27, 2010

Tarumba: Where can I find the approximate value of this car?

Kelly Blue Book is the most familiar (to me) source for information -- it will give you all kinds of details. As others have said earlier, different blue books may be used but it will give you an idea.
posted by MCMikeNamara at 8:25 AM on September 27, 2010

They are billing my health insurance company for my medical bills...not my car insurance!

Aha! No, that's wrong. You'll want to go talk to their billing dept and give them the auto insurance information. If your health insurance company knows it's car-accident related, they'll reject the claim.
posted by galadriel at 8:25 AM on September 27, 2010

You file claims with your own insurance companies, and they will figure out how to get reimbursed from the other driver's insurance company.

I thought that was only true in no-fault states?

They are billing my health insurance company for my medical bills...

Your health insurance will go after the other driver one way or another. It's called "subrogation." Or, as noted, will deny the claim and pass it along to one of the car insurance firms.

One thing to remember: if you're speaking to an insurance adjuster and they conversationally ask how you're feeling, resist the impulse to automatically reply "Fine." You're probably still ouchy and sore and you're worried there may be other things wrong inside you that you don't feel yet, so say so. The adjuster is Not Your Friend.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 8:29 AM on September 27, 2010

In MN, the way it works is: Your claim is paid by your insurance company [IC], who then goes after the other IC for the amount of the claim in the event TOD is found at fault. This process is called "subrogation".

Example: I was nearly t-boned at an intersection a few years ago. My car was totalled. My IC wrote me a check for $bluebook - $500 [my collision deductible]. Some time later, after they had recovered the amount of the claim from TOD's ins. co., my IC sent me a check for $500, covering my deductible.

IMO, you should be running all this through your insurance agent. This is what she is there for. I don't think you should be dealing with TOD's IC yourself at all. I've been involved in 3 or 4 two-car accidents in the last 30 years, and I have never done anything other than tell my agent about it and let the IC take it from there. This is why you are paying them.
posted by chazlarson at 8:30 AM on September 27, 2010 [2 favorites]

Yes, call your insurance agent. It's quite common to deal with TOD's insurance directly, but I personally don't ever. I always have my insurer deal with their insurer. (My husband litigates some of these cases between two insurers over accidents. I'm not shy about using my insurer as my advocate.)

Your insurance agent can walk you through the process and help you with the rental and all that other stuff. That's what they're there for. If it goes to court, the insurance company hires you a lawyer and handles it all; you'd only have to show up to testify.

You've been paying for all of this all along, so make actual use of your insurance agency now and have them help you and explain to you and hold your hand.

I've always found car insurers reasonably easy to deal with (unlike health insurance in the US!) ... clients are gained and lost based on claims handling, so most are pretty diligent and helpful in the claims handling. There's probably an 800 number you can call on your insurance card if you don't have an agent, or if your agent is sales-only.
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 10:08 AM on September 27, 2010

I *need* a car ASAP. Their insurance agent is not picking up the font. Should I simply rent and save receipts? should I rent and give tell them to bill TOD's insurance?
posted by Tarumba at 1:43 PM on September 27, 2010

*phone, not font
posted by Tarumba at 1:43 PM on September 27, 2010

Call YOUR insurance agent or your insurance company directly. Most likely THEY will provide you with a rental car. Maybe even first thing tomorrow. Then the rest of the situation will unfold and TOD's insurance will most likely end up paying for everything. Don't get the rental car yourself. For one thing, insurance companies have pre-negotiated rates for these things, and they get very good deals from the car companies, given the large numbers of cars they rent all year long for their customers who've been in accidents.

We just went through this situation in CA. OUR insurance company arranged the rental. Had it been Monday - Saturday, they would also have arranged for the car to be delivered to our home. Since it was Sunday, we did have to go to the car rental office ourselves. The guy at the desk gave us a choice of cars -- several models that would be within the pre-negotiated insurance company rate. At the end of the rental, which in our case wasn't till about 2.5 weeks later, we simply returned the car and walked away. Everything was taken care of via insurance.
posted by BlahLaLa at 9:33 PM on September 27, 2010

Having recently been in a similar accident not my fault accident which did total my car, you may not get the full Blue Book value of your car. In my policy, and apparently many other people's, is a stipulation that I could only dispute the offered amount if it differed by more than $2000 from the Blue Book value. They offered me $1800 less than Blue Book. And there wasn't a thing I could do about it because of that clause in my policy. Plus I still owed some money on the loan. I ended up with a check big enough for a decent down payment, but nowhere near enough to even buy a decent car, let alone replace the one that was totaled. Wow, that all happened in April/May/June and I'm really still pissed about it.
posted by hydropsyche at 2:57 PM on September 29, 2010

For future reference:

We did not have rental coverage, so we're using a friend's car. We decided to pay our 250.00 deductuble to put our collision coverage to work. Once the other party accepts liability, our insurance company will receive a refund, and we'll be able to file a claim for health bills, inconvenience, etc. Right now we're just waiting for them to finish repairs (they are not going to total the car) and for TOD's insurance to accept liability.

Thank you so much for your help!
posted by Tarumba at 9:05 AM on October 6, 2010

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