What do I need to know about filing a car insurance claim?
December 12, 2013 10:43 AM   Subscribe

In November I purchased a 1985 Volkswagen Vanagon. Two days ago it was hit in the middle of the night. They drove off at the time, but came back the next morning and gave their insurance information.

I have liability only on my the van, and my insurance (Farmers) told me to file a claim with the other person's insurance; I need to deal directly with them. This is kind of a bummer, because I'd hoped my insurance would get together with their insurance and I wouldn't really have to do that much.

Three of the four steel wheels are bent, the bumper's damaged, and there's body damage. Something is up with the front tires as well; one is at an extreme angle, the other is parallel to the body. Plus two of the tires are flat. New wheels and tires would likely be at/over $1,000, plus the rods or whatever is going on in the front, plus the bumper...

I want to be made whole. To me, that means I get a check for what I paid for the vehicle less than a month ago or it gets fully repaired. What I don't want is for them to value the van incorrectly and give me a small check while totalling the vehicle. A running Vanagon in decent shape is worth around $4,000; ones in really good condition are $10,000 plus. Non-running Vanagons with no rust still have value. I could see them deciding the value on an almost 30-year-old van using an algorithm that completely ignores reality, and me getting completely screwed.

What do I need to say or do when I talk with the other person's insurance adjuster? I've already filed the claim with their insurance. Their adjuster will be contacting me within 48 hours.

I'm in Fresno, California.
posted by jsturgill to Law & Government (7 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
If you bought it around a month ago, I would have a copy of your bill of sale. Tell him what you told us, you wish to have it fixed or be made whole and show him what the van in worth.
posted by JohnnyGunn at 10:50 AM on December 12, 2013 [2 favorites]

Tell the adjuster flat out that you will be taking your car to the repair shop/s of YOUR choice. Then find a repair/body shop that specializes in that type of car. Don't ask for a set amount up front or take a settlement because you might get screwed either way. I was in a wreck recently and the other party was at fault and the adjuster met me at my chosen repair shop AND paid the full price of repair without without any push back. What's more, my repair shop made sure to be EXTRA THOROUGH because they knew the insurance company would be fronting the bill (can we say "complimentary washing and shampooing"). Hopefully you will have the same positive experience.
posted by Young Kullervo at 10:55 AM on December 12, 2013

This is kind of a bummer, because I'd hoped my insurance would get together with their insurance and I wouldn't really have to do that much.

For future reference, this is only the case with comprehensive or collision insurance.

Otherwise, JohnnyGunn has the answer here - the bill of sale is all you need in this case. They won't actually believe any valuation you suggest to them anyway without evidence, so don't go any further than your exact vehicle and what you paid for it.

Further advice: talk as little as possible. Insurance adjusters are great at using anything you say against you.
posted by saeculorum at 11:16 AM on December 12, 2013

Tell the adjuster flat out that you will be taking your car to the repair shop/s of YOUR choice.

Do not let the adjuster railroad to their "preferred" repair shop.

As for the value of the car...It makes little matter what people/collectors/fans are willing to pay for a Vanagon on the open market. It will be valued strictly based on a depreciation schedule. An '85 Vanagon is probably booked at a lot less than $4000.
posted by Thorzdad at 11:21 AM on December 12, 2013

You are in luck. NADA actually bears out your valuation.

Here's the link on NADA.

Simply call the insurance claims office and make your claim. I have State Farm, and I've been hit by people with Progressive, so if the guy has that insurance, you shouldn't have a hassle.

If they want to total it, they have to pay you what it's worth, they may prefer to fix it. State Farm's preferred body shop is my Honda Dealer. How convenient.

You may find that the Vanagon can get fixed at the dealer, which could be a good thing. If it can't be fixed, you have your Bill of Sale and the NADA values to work with.

This should work out for you.

Sometimes you have to buy special insurance for "classic cars". My sister has it for her '67 Mustang Convertable. If you don't, you're at the mercy of the "Blue Book" and the adjuster.

If you do get it fixed up, you may want to look into some of that "classic car" insurance.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 11:48 AM on December 12, 2013

Sounds like a total situation. Show your receipt for payment to the adjuster, and they should either offer you that amount or pay to repair the vehicle.
posted by valkyryn at 12:57 PM on December 12, 2013

Sounds like your hit-and-run-and-return-in-the-morning driver was probably hammered and fled the scene to avoid getting popped by the popo. Pretty sure leaving the scene of an accident where property damage occurred is a bit of a no-no, law-wise. Might be an angle you can work if they start dickering too much over the final tab.

One thing to keep in mind: based on the damage you've described, you might anticipate structural issues with the van that might not crop up till you've put some miles on her, post-repair. Also, having that damage/repair on the CarFax might lower her resale value down the line.

I would be inclined to push for replacement value (what you paid for it), and get yourself another vanagon. Plus maybe tack on some pain-and-suffering for having to rent a car, etc. The latter is where you might be able to kick up a fuss with the hit-and-run thing. (Though it was ultimately cool of the driver to return and fess up, so I'm kind of on the fence about that.)
posted by nacho fries at 4:57 PM on December 12, 2013 [1 favorite]

« Older What shall I have for dinner tonight?   |   Transferring Gmail data to a new account Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.