Should I call my insurance company?
November 7, 2010 1:48 PM   Subscribe

I've just pulled off the incredibly suave move of sideswiping one of my cars while parking the other. Is there anything I should know before calling my insurance company?

Yeah, I did that. If the details matter, I was pulling into an on-street space to park my F250 in front of my Jetta, and I caught the car's left front bumper with the truck's right rear wheel. The result is one bent hubcap on the Ford and several broken plastic bumper parts and a small dent on the Volkswagen.

Obviously, I'm trying to weigh the costs of paying out of pocket for repairs against the costs of filing a claim, which I assume are my deductible plus any rate increase. Will my insurance company give me honest information? Could simply asking have any negative consequences? Anything else I should consider?

My insurance company is Progressive (who were actually awesome after a hit and run a few years ago, fwiw) and I have full coverage on the Jetta but only liability on the truck. The hit and run was my only claim in the five or so years I've had Progressive, and my last claim with any insurer was well over ten years ago. Finally, nothing other than a few parking tickets and a seatbelt violation in those last ten years.
posted by lost_cause to Work & Money (12 answers total)
My insured daughter recently messed up our car and it needed to be repaired; Progressive wouldn't pay it because we only have liability and only caused damage to our own car. YMMV.
posted by dzaz at 2:01 PM on November 7, 2010

First, don't communicate with the insurance company AT ALL unless you decide to file a claim. I've learned that the hard way...

If the truck is only insured for liability (and the damage sounds meaningless anyway), the only question is how much to repair the Jetta.

I'd talk to a body shop or two or three first. Couldn't hurt to mention that you're considering doing it as a cash deal - they might be willing to discount, because dealing with insurance companies is a bit of a perennial pain for body shops.

If your overall record is good and you're not otherwise in a potential high risk group (i.e. you're over 25, you don't live in the Bronx, etc. etc.), one small claim shouldn't jack up your rates. Of course, it WILL be the one small claim you've had if you then total a car... so...

I think for something like this, where you have no moral obligation to a 3rd party, prolly somewhere around $1,000 (or your deductible, whichever is more) would be my pain threshold for filing a claim. YMMV.

Unfortunately, "several broken plastic bumper parts" probably > that threshold, unless a body shop can find (and you're willing to use) parts from a junkyard or the like.
posted by randomkeystrike at 2:02 PM on November 7, 2010

My SO managed to do that to my sister's CR-V when she was pulling out from behind my Accord. A body shop was kind enough to remove the dent in the CR-V's bumper for all of $100. They were able to use a heat gun to soften it up and then push it back out from the back side. They didn't repaint it for that price, but that was easy enough to take care of with a little touch-up paint. (it was a body-colored bumper).

At first, it looked like it was going to be a big deal because the plastic snaps that hold the bumper on had become dislodged making it look like the whole molding had deformed, but a good shove got those back in place, leaving only the baseball-sized dent where the CR-V struck the Accord. As usual, the Accord had no damage from any of this. I love that old car. ;)

How bad it is really depends mostly on whether or not the snaps broke, and if so whether they're integrated into the bumper or if they're separate snap-in pieces.
posted by wierdo at 2:51 PM on November 7, 2010

Surely the insurance company will want to claim against the other driver? And the other driver is ....

Actually, if you admit to being the other driver, my money is on them refusing the claim. And if you don't, putting aside the morality of that, the legalities do not look pretty from where I sit.
posted by GeeEmm at 3:21 PM on November 7, 2010

GeeEmm wrote: "Actually, if you admit to being the other driver, my money is on them refusing the claim."

Uh, the Jetta has collision coverage according to the Asker, so it would indeed be covered, same as if the Asker drove it into a lamp post. Where it would get hairy is if the truck and car had liability only coverage or liability+uninsured motorist property damage coverage. If you damage your own car, your liability policy usually has no effect, at least here in Oklahoma.

If it's someone else's car who lives in your household, you'd probably be covered up to state minimums here in Oklahoma, because our Supreme Court has interpreted the mandatory insurance law very, very liberally. They have to pay out up to the minimums in pretty much every case where the driver didn't intentionally cause damage, regardless of what the policy states. It would probably require litigation to get the claim paid, though.

It could also get more confusing if there was more than one insurance company involved, but if not, it's pretty clear the collision coverage would cover the Jetta barring circumstances the Asker has not provided.

Either way, if it was a low speed collision, chances are it can be fixed easily.
posted by wierdo at 3:51 PM on November 7, 2010

Response by poster: "First, don't communicate with the insurance company AT ALL unless you decide to file a claim. I've learned that the hard way..."

Care to elaborate on that, randomkeystike? It's kinda one of my concerns. Alternately, do I stand to lose anything by waiting to call them while I talk to a few shops? You've nailed my $1K pain threshold exactly, and like you, I have a feeling the busted plastic will probably cost more than that to repair/replace.

On preview, weirdo, I'm curious where the claim is, with the truck's liability or collision on the Jetta. And as for "a low speed collision, chances are it can be fixed easily," I was coming in pretty hot, and there are at least four different plastic parts with broken attachment points.
posted by lost_cause at 4:12 PM on November 7, 2010

Care to elaborate on that

Unless you are extremely careful in your wording, talking anonymously (in which case you might not get an answer anyway) then any discussion with you insurer regarding an incident may get logged as an incident (whether you claim or not). I certainly wouldn't risk it, and I'd get a quote to fix the Jetta before even mentioning anything at all to the insurance company.

Personally, for something as small as a bumper and a dent, I'd no way claim. After all, you could get a second hand bumper from a junkyard (if you get it yourself you can get the clips too) and get a paintshop to spray it on the car if need be. However, you may be surprised how much fixing can be done to a plastic bumper these days. Talk to the repair shop first.
posted by Brockles at 4:32 PM on November 7, 2010

Best answer: On the policies I've seen, it would be the Jetta's collision that would pay for the repair, presuming you own both cars and you don't have any weirdness regarding certain household drivers being restricted to certain cars. Your liability insurance is third party liability insurance.

If, for example, I was riding with my SO (we live in the same household) in her car and she crashed into a pole, causing me injury, the liability policy wouldn't pay me a dime. She has med pay (called PIP in some states), so I'd get up to $10,000 to mend my injuries, but not the $100,000 a third party would get.

That said, if you live in a no-fault state, things are wildly different and my statement is probably completely wrong.

In any event, take the thing to a reputable body shop and get it checked out before talking to your insurance company about it. I used to have Progressive, but never had any claims, so I really don't know whether they will raise your rates after a single claim. Best not to take the risk if it turns out all they need to do is (re)attach a couple of clips and pop out a dent.
posted by wierdo at 5:25 PM on November 7, 2010

Best answer: former auto insurance claims monkey here:

weirdo has it.

your truck policy won't help at all (provided it's on the same household policy as the Jetta) because you cannot be liable to yourself.

so, decide if you want to deal with the collision deductible on the Jetta and either file or don't. If you don't file, don't report it to your insurer because if you do, underwriting will hear about it eventually and your rates will go up, because this accident will become part of your "character".
posted by toodleydoodley at 5:59 PM on November 7, 2010

Someone just did this exact thing to my parked car (while he was being pulled over by the police funnily enough).

I've got an Acura MDX and for what looks like just scratches the independent appraisal for the claim is $1400. So talk to the body shop for an estimate before deciding whether to call. It could be cheap, but it could be surprisingly costly too. I was surprised.
posted by cecic at 8:01 PM on November 7, 2010

Did something similar many years ago. My insurance agent volunteered that under the terms of my policy (Allstate) if two cars insured under the same policy collide, the deductible is waived. This was many years ago (1984?)
posted by Raybun at 10:18 AM on November 8, 2010

I pulled off the equally smooth move of forgetting to put my truck in park when I hopped out for a second and it rolled itself into a dumpster... A little bit of searching on eBay and $600 later I had a new bumper and a custom painted fender panel, both of which were pretty easily installed myself (Ram 1500)
posted by LarrenD at 11:13 AM on November 8, 2010

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