What's the return on investment
February 24, 2012 1:19 PM   Subscribe

A motor vehicle accident occurs in which one driver makes a left turn while another car is in the intersection, not giving the other car enough time to stop. The left-turn maker is cited at the scene and apologizes. His insurance company offers a certain amount as a settlement, minus 25% (~$1,000) for "comparable negligence", meaning the not-left-turn-maker was 25% responsible. Is it worth it to get a lawyer to argue/negotiate on the basis that 25% is a unfairly high determination of responsibility?

It's been challenging to even find a lawyer who will deal with this kind of case because there were no injuries (except for a growing phobia of driving on the part of the driver..which should be claimable because it's really hard to get by in this world without driving) and also, this needs to be done today or Monday (tall order, yes.)

So the question is, is it worth the time and effort of engaging a lawyer over less than $1000.
posted by bleep to Law & Government (19 answers total)
Call them, pester them, have a lawyer friend draft a letter or even write an official sounding one yourself. You'd be surprised at what you can get out of auto insurance settlements even without the consult of a lawyer. I've done it myself. What about your insurance? If you have collision coverage, usually your insurance will take care of you while they duke it out with the counterparty.

How can an insurance company determine fault like that, anyways?
posted by speedgraphic at 1:27 PM on February 24, 2012

Response by poster: The driver didn't have collision coverage, only liability, and the other ins co is refusing to negotiate.
posted by bleep at 1:35 PM on February 24, 2012

Do *you* have collision coverage? If so, pay the deductible (or sue the other driver for it in small claims court) and let them handle it.
posted by speedgraphic at 1:41 PM on February 24, 2012

The insurance company's job is to get you to settle for as little as possible, and they will make up anything that you might fall for.

I was once rear-ended at full speed (35 mph) from a diver who just simply wasn't paying attention that traffic in her lane was stopped as people were waiting for clearance to turn left. Her insurance rep tried to lowball me by saying it was partly my fault because I "shouldn't have been stopped at a green light." (Behind a dozen other stopped cars.) Obviously I told him this was ridiculous and refused to settle for his offer.

Can I ask: why the rush to settle?

If I were in the not-at-fault driver's shoes, I would refuse to settle for anything less than the full amount of what it takes to make things right. That's what the at-fault driver's liability insurance is for. The not-at-fault driver is due the cost of repairs, plus loss of use of the vehicle (a rental car during repairs) and any other incidental expenses caused by the actions of the at-fault driver.

Without injuries, it can be tough to get a lawyer, but if they won't settle for a reasonable amount, you can go to small claims court. But sometimes, threatening to have it handled through a lawyer can move things along.
posted by The Deej at 1:44 PM on February 24, 2012

Response by poster: It's not about me, the driver who wasn't in the wrong didn't have collision, only liability. That ins co has bowed out.
posted by bleep at 1:44 PM on February 24, 2012

Keep telling them they're nuts if they want to ascribe fault to you at all. Any amount is unacceptable. Furthermore, 25% = $1000 means you're probably under the limit for small claims court in your state. Just ask the ins co if they prefer to handle it that way, i.e. where they aren't allowed to send lawyers.

Who is making the "Monday" demand? It's not clear how many ins co's are mixed up here, and who is making what demands.
posted by rhizome at 1:58 PM on February 24, 2012

So the question is, is it worth the time and effort of engaging a lawyer over less than $1000.

Haven't you already answered that by your failure to find a lawyer that will even consider taking the case?
posted by COD at 2:01 PM on February 24, 2012 [1 favorite]

The driver should take the settlement and then insure his/her car properly. Carrying only liability coverage for a car one cant afford to repair is irresponsible, and this situation is the result of that.
posted by twblalock at 2:09 PM on February 24, 2012

Bleep, how much are you willing to pay a lawyer up front, to help you with this?
posted by jayder at 2:23 PM on February 24, 2012

"Worth it" can only be decided by you, er, the driver in question.

I can say that the driver who was hit while going straight through an intersection is 0.0% liable. I had it happen to me, in fact, many years ago. The LEO who attend the little post-collision party spent a great deal of time and all of his patience trying to 'splain it to the turning driver. Unsuccessfully.

So, somebody has to decide what they are willing to do for (at least) $1000.
posted by trinity8-director at 3:44 PM on February 24, 2012

I can say that the driver who was hit while going straight through an intersection is 0.0% liable.

This is what I don't understand. If you're travelling straight through an intersection, you don't have to yield to someone turning across your path. How can you be 25% responsible for someone turning in front of you at an intersection?

In answer to your question, what happens if you just say no, I do not accept the settlement? Eventually they would withdraw the settlement and you would have to take the insurance company to court to get anything. Probably not worth it for $1000.
posted by dave99 at 5:07 PM on February 24, 2012

jayder is spot on. Look at this as what are you or the driver willing to do to earn the $1,000 difference in the bid ask. How much time and effort would the driver be willing to put in, or how much of that 1k would the driver be willing to forego by hiring someone to try to get it? When you answer those questions and then determine the probability of getting the $1k for the efforts you will arrive at an answer.

My guess is you have a 60% chance of getting the insurance company to come up half way and it will take about 3 to 4 hours of either phone calls, letters and/or research to make it happen. Figure that at a high of 4 hours and an expected return of $300, whomever does the work will be getting paid $75 an hour. I doubt a lawyer would take this on for less than $500 flat fee. My advice is to spend an hour drafting a strong and clear letter insisting they pay the entire 100% as there is no legal basis for assigning any blame to a driver proceeding straight through a green light at an intersection.
posted by JohnnyGunn at 5:21 PM on February 24, 2012

Just my opinion, but at these dollar amounts the money isn't that important, it's that they're trying to make you accept blame for someone else's actions! You aren't the one at fault, and should NOT accept any of the blame, as that would probably affect your future insurance rates far more than being 100% legally innocent.
posted by easily confused at 5:22 PM on February 24, 2012 [1 favorite]

Will admitting to any amount of fault, when there actually is none, cause repercussions to the non-turning driver? Driver recordThat's something else you'd want to explore.

Also, as pointed out, it's their insurance company's job to get you to accept the lowest amount of money possible AND to get you to accept some amount of fault for the accident. If they're the ones putting pressure on the driver and trying to limit the window for compensation, don't let them get away with it. Be firm. Tell them that the driver will not accept ANY responsibility for an accident that they did not cause.
posted by i feel possessed at 5:24 PM on February 24, 2012

Was going to say: Driver's records hold this information for a long time, if not forever.
posted by i feel possessed at 5:25 PM on February 24, 2012

I can say that the driver who was hit while going straight through an intersection is 0.0% liable.

Usually incorrect. Just following all the traffic signs and regulations is not enough. You are required to operate your vehicle such that you will not have a collision. Period. Even if the other person is an idiot.

There ARE actually cases where there is absolutely nothing you could have done differently, but much more frequently that is not the case. Not to insult the non-turning driver here, but technically a prudent, 0.0% fault speed would be one where the non-turning driver could recognize that the turning driver was doing something unexpected and take evasive action. The insurance companies will accept some amount of assigned fault because it's easier (and more likely anyway) than proving zero percent.

I'm going to say let the insurance company do what it thinks is best. You'd need some really compelling reason to NEED to not be assigned any fault, other than your pride, to make the lawyer worth it. That's my opinion.
posted by ctmf at 10:24 PM on February 24, 2012

Response by poster: No one is claiming 0% liability just because that's apparently not going to happen in a "comparable negligence state" such as Illinois, just something closer to 10% (although every driver has a responsibility to avoid accidents, from the way the cars collided it's clear that the non-turning driver did everything possible to avoid this one). It's not about pride (although yeah it may sting a little), it's 100% about getting the maximum amount of compensation. Although from these answers it sounds like pursuing it isn't going to be worth it. That's what I was looking for.
posted by bleep at 3:35 AM on February 25, 2012

What does the police report say? It should assign fault to someone. Go off that. Even if the police report says you're at fault, never ever ever admit fault.

In my experience, the car turning left is considered at fault, at normal speeds and situations. Yes, you are expected to be driving defensively, but if some jackass decides they can beat you and guesses wrong, no amount of driving defensively will be able to violate the laws of physics trying to be bent by some moron.

Turning traffic never has the right of way in my state unless explicitly provided for by a priority signal (green arrow) or after waiting their turn at a four way stop.
posted by Geckwoistmeinauto at 5:15 AM on February 25, 2012 [1 favorite]

No one is claiming 0% liability just because that's apparently not going to happen in a "comparable negligence state" such as Illinois..

My wife got 0% liability in an accident in VA, which is also a comparable negligence state. In her case, the big break was that the other driver was ticketed, fought the ticket, and lost. Had she just paid the ticket without admitting guilt, her insurance company would have most certainly tried to shift some blame to my wife. In our case, there were injuries involved to my wife, (it turned out not to be serious) so we did have a personal injury attorney who told the other insurer to pound sand when they tried bring my wife's diabetes into play.
posted by COD at 1:28 PM on February 25, 2012

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