Car Insurance- Get them involved or Don't get them involved?
November 5, 2013 10:25 AM   Subscribe

3 years ago my husband backed into a concrete pole in a parking garage while away on business. It has rendered the hatch back useless. We are now moving and need the hatch back more than ever. For many reasons we never informed our insurance company and never fixed it. This is what our insurance is for; right?

Things for you to know:

We live in CA. This is our first accident. Our insurance is with Geico. We don't want to pay for the repairs out of pocket and also don't want our insurance rates to go up come crazy amount. We are not interested in lying but don't know if the truth will screw us (eg. we claim the accident truthfully, the accident is too old so we don't get coverage and our rates go up any way because now they know). Even if we did decide to lie we don't know which lies would set things in our favor (eg. saying the accident was 3 months ago not 3 years- or dose it not even matter since it was an at fault accident in which only our property was damaged).

The other piece is that we just got back into the country and are in our home for about 8 more days before we have to move and get to where we are going to start a new job. Do we bite the bullet and truthfully tell the insurance co. about the accident and hope for the best? Do we bite the other bullet and shell out the bucks or; do we lie lies we don't even know will help us knowing there is a possibility of getting caught and the definite out come of feeling like moral slime balls?
posted by m. says: to Grab Bag (19 answers total)
Pro tip: if you're idly contemplating committing insurance fraud on a public web forum (and I don't think you should), you should probably do it anonymously. But again, don't commit insurance fraud.
posted by Admiral Haddock at 10:36 AM on November 5, 2013 [10 favorites]

Whatever you do, you should probably ask the mods to make this question anonymous, given that you have what looks like your real name on your profile.

on preview: Yeah, what Admiral Haddock said.
posted by Narrative Priorities at 10:36 AM on November 5, 2013

Ethics aside, what's the deductible on your car insurance? Take the car into a well-reviewed body shop, ask them for an estimate for fixing the hatch, tell them you'll be paying cash to fix it (some shops offer a lower price for cash work vs insurance work).

I would not be surprised to discover that the fix is less than or similar to the cost to pay off your deductible which means you'll be paying cash out of pocket anyway and might as well not involve your insurance co.
posted by jamaro at 10:39 AM on November 5, 2013

Do. Not. Lie. to the insurance company. You will almost certainly get caught and the penalties for doing so are significantly higher than whatever you hope to save.

They have professional accident assessors whose job it is to look at car accidents and who know way better than you or I what a three-month-old accident looks like vs. a three-year-old one. Either you take the hit on your insurance or you pay for it out of pocket.
posted by gauche at 10:39 AM on November 5, 2013 [5 favorites]

This is not a morality question, it is a (partly) criminal question. Lying about the accident is insurance fraud, period. I hope that the discussion about that possibility ends here. Do not go down that path.

We don't want to pay for the repairs out of pocket and also don't want our insurance rates to go up come crazy amount.

These options are not compatible. Insurance providers must recover the costs of repairs some way or another. They do so by either denying coverage (so they don't incur costs) or by increasing the cost of your coverage to compensate or by increasing the costs of their entire pool of covered members. The likely result is some combination of the three options, with the first two options dominating. Insurance companies don't like to increase the rates of the entire pool because it makes their rates less competitive.

The short version of this is: don't expect to insure risks that you can pay out of pocket. You should be able to pay this out of pocket or if you can't, to be able to rent a truck instead of using the hatchback.

Do we bite the other bullet and shell out the bucks

Yep, that's my opinion. The insurance contracts I've read require you to notify the insurer promptly of any damage. You didn't do that. As a result, I suspect your insurer would have no requirement to cover you, so they will correspondingly decline to cover you. Insurance companies don't make money by providing free coverage. Again, it goes back to the fact that someone has to pay for the coverage, and it's to the insurer's benefit to make that person be you.

The reason I'm suggesting not telling your insurer is that I believe the chances of your insurer covering you are so close to zero that the definite likelihood of your insurer using this accident against you outweighs the chance of coverage. The insurer keeps track of all accidents regardless of what the insurer does about them, so the accident would possibly be used as negative information indicating to your insurer that you are a poor risk. As a result, your insurance rates might go up without any corresponding benefit to you.
posted by saeculorum at 10:40 AM on November 5, 2013 [1 favorite]

You should probably wrap your mind around the fact that you will have to pay for this yourself, out of pocket.

Even if you have the sort of insurance that would cover this damage (and not every policy would, i.e. the basic "PL & PD" policies wouldn't, you'd need to have comprehensive, I believe, or possibly collision), there are almost always time limits on filing claims. The time limit should be expressly written into the small print of your policy, so dig it out and take a look. Spoiler alert: 3 years is almost always over the limit.

Hopefully some former claims adjusters will pop in and opine on whether you can call your insurance company to ask about the potential effect / impact of making a claim, without that inquiry itself affecting your rates. I think generally yes but there may be some subtleties to how that works.
posted by Joey Buttafoucault at 10:43 AM on November 5, 2013

A friend once neglected to tell his insurance company about bottoming out or backing over a large hump or similar. Something on the order of $1000 in body work. He reported it a few months later, when the weather turned nice. They were super suspicious and called me to be like "do you remember this happening?" And I was like "I totally do, but don't remember exactly when. One to three months ago sounds right". They paid. Your time frame is a lot longer, and I would be surprised if they paid.

As above, I strongly recommend not committing insurance fraud. That is a bad idea.
posted by Phredward at 10:43 AM on November 5, 2013

It sounds like you don't have a firm grasp on what your policy covers. I suggest you start there, and maybe get a repair quote (and a quote on a moving truck, too).
posted by sm1tten at 11:00 AM on November 5, 2013

I wouldn't necessarily do this, but if money is a big issue, it is possible to get the hatch door fixed without it looking perfect. You're probably going to have to ask around to find a guy that someone knows and hope he doesn't completely screw it up, but it is an option.

Also, you shouldn't do this anyway, but it's too late to anonymize this post and lie to the insurance company now. It's already been indexed and cached on the Internet, and you wouldn't necessarily be able to find and remove it from every place an insurance company might find it.
posted by cnc at 11:00 AM on November 5, 2013

Bite the other bullet and shell out the bucks.

You can ask the repair shop to do the minimum to make the door work without worrying what it looks like. Also, if they can get it open but not fix the latch/lock, can you make do using bungee cords while you move? You could then tie it down with regular rope after you move when you don't need to open and close it very often.
posted by soelo at 11:03 AM on November 5, 2013

Response by poster: Thanks for all the quick advice. Let's me be clear: I'm not planing on committing insurance fraud!! No way!! I like my life more than my dollars and I am aware of how I am asking my question; in the utmost public forum. Just trying to wrap my head around the whole thing. This is our first accident.
posted by m. says: at 11:07 AM on November 5, 2013

Just to be clear, lying to the insurance company = insurance fraud. So by asking if you should lie, you were asking about committing fraud.
posted by jshort at 12:12 PM on November 5, 2013 [6 favorites]

Between finding a body shop, scheduling a time for them to look at the damage, getting an estimate and then finding an opening in their schedule to have the work performed, I think it's unlikely this will all be done inside of 8 days. Hoping to handle it through insurance (even setting aside the delay and fraud issues) inside of that time frame seems extremely improbable. It may feel like an emergency to you because you're about to move, but it's not an emergency to anyone else. So, my guess is you devise a Plan B for the move and deal with the car damage some other time or not at all.
posted by jon1270 at 12:19 PM on November 5, 2013 [2 favorites]

1. You can call Geico and say "I just want to understand my policy better. How long do I have after an accident to report a claim" If they ask questions, repeat, "I just want to understand my policy" They should be able to give a straightforward answer and then you won't have to guess.

2. Agree with jon1270 that having your car fixed in less than a week is optimistic - I would try to get into a body shop today to find out what it would cost and how soon it can get done. Again, better to ask and know than to guess.
posted by metahawk at 12:37 PM on November 5, 2013 [1 favorite]

You don't want to lie to your insurance company. They have lawyers, claims adjusters and other people who will look into anything fishy with the likely result being either your claim is denied, your policy cancelled or the possibility of insurance fraud charges being brought against you. I would run a hypothetical situation by your agent before submitting a claim, ie, "Hey, what if a person had a claim that is a few years old? What would be the results? Would their policy be cancelled? Would the claim be covered?"

More than likely, if you don't have proof of when the accident occurred/didn't seek help at the time, your insurance company will not consider the claim valid.
posted by Issithe at 3:55 PM on November 5, 2013

renting a car, van, or truck may be cheaper than getting your car fixed.
posted by cupcake1337 at 5:39 PM on November 5, 2013


I'm not planing on committing insurance fraud!! No way!!

Does not compute with this:

Even if we did decide to lie we don't know which lies would set things in our favor

Lying = insurance fraud.
posted by MaryDellamorte at 5:59 PM on November 5, 2013 [1 favorite]

If you don't have comprehensive, it won't be covered anyhow. Read your policy to find out how long you have to report an accident.

Trying to get a claim through your insurance company and get body work done on your car before you move in 8 days is madness. Madness! You could well end up spending 10 hours dealing with this.

Between the deductible and the likely increase in rates you'd have if you were able to claim this, it's likely to be FAR cheaper to rent a car with a working hatchback, or to not move anything that won't fit through the car doors. Another option would be to have your larger items shipped freight.

If you have comprehensive, it's probably a waste of money on a car more than 3 years old with body damage, you might be able to save thousands a year by dropping it.
posted by yohko at 9:12 PM on November 5, 2013

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