Rear-end collision (3 cars, second driver fled), am I screwed?
December 26, 2014 8:27 AM   Subscribe

Hi MeFi, I was on the receiving end of a car accident which occurred last week during rush-hour. I was traveling home from work on a very busy Charlestown Ave when I got had another car smash into mine. I had a bad case of whiplash and went sorta blank for a second but after I came out of the car I noticed a busted BMW behind with a driver still sitting there. The girl from the second car fled the scene. My suspicion was that she didn't have a license or didn't own the car or both. So in short, BMW (Car A) > smashes into grey vehicle with (Car B) which in turn smashes into me (Car C). My insurance adjustor is saying this is a complicated case because of how 'many impacts' I felt or heard. What the hell does this even mean? It felt like someone hit me with a hammer. He said the first party which caused the scene hasn't yet accepted responsibility and they have 30 days to do it or not. I'm sorta left broken and had two trips to ER and two MRIs taken which showed I have an upper disc injury in neck and shoulders. The back side of my car is completely damaged with me being unable to shut my trunk. It is still drivable but it looks like hell. I don't want to dish out $500 for a rental since I'm already drowning in bills. Insurance is telling me that I can't get reimbursed for the rental until someone accepts responsibility. Is this how it usually goes with insurance companies in USA? I'm flabbergasted. Should I get an attorney?
posted by cheero to Law & Government (14 answers total)
Best answer: Nope, that's a bunch of bullshit. Yes, get an attorney, a Personal Injury lawyer. Your insurance should kick in right now, for everything. Negotiate with the body shop for the deductible, if any. Ask if they'll do the job for the rate quoted without the deductible, or if they'll wait on it, chances are they'll jump at it. I negotiated this at the Mazda dealership.

I've been in this wreck, in fact I was the only insured person in this wreck. Mine was a 5 car smash-up. There was a fist fight at the scene, a fist fight at the hospital, etc.

I turned it over to my insurance and that was that.

Start keeping records of everything, get a loose-leaf notebook with pockets and start saving every piece of paper. One for your medical bills, another for out of pocket OTC meds, keep a log of hours you miss from work to make PT appointments, Dr appointments, etc.

Get a copy of the police report.

There are special negotiated rates for rentals, so even if they won't pay right now this second, it'll only be about $14.99 per day (decline CDW, you have insurance.)

So take your car to an authorized body shop, get your rental, and save your receipts.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 8:42 AM on December 26, 2014 [6 favorites]

Oh yeah, you have insurance called "Uninsured Motorist" and this should cover you for the chick who bolted.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 8:42 AM on December 26, 2014

If you have an insurance agent -- not the adjustor, but the person who sold you your insurance policy -- call them and ask to speak to someone about the situation. They may be able to guide you through the situation better than the claims adjustor. (If you don't have an insurance agent, you could also ask your work HR folks about their insurance agents -- sometimes the company insurance agent will talk to employees about this kind of situation as a favor.)

If you have health insurance, they may also get involved as they will try to get the other driver's insurance to cover your care.

I'm not saying not to get a lawyer -- it may end up being the way to go -- but I'd do a little more research with your insurance folks (both car and health) first.

Also, leaving the scene of an accident is a crime in some jurisdictions, although the specifics vary by state and by scenario. Is there a police report about the accident?
posted by pie ninja at 8:46 AM on December 26, 2014

Response by poster: @Pie Ninja, yes a Massachusetts state trooper came to the scene of the crime and filled out the report.
posted by cheero at 9:03 AM on December 26, 2014

I am not a lawyer, which is why I'm suggesting (from personal experience) that since this is a case where you were injured by somebody else's action, you should get a lawyer. A lawyer will know how to navigate this process, will be able to vigorously advocate for you through it, and (importantly) will know what questions to ask about it.

In my case, my lawyer rewrote the medical release form the other party's insurance company wanted me to sign (as written, it would have given them access to all my medical history ever, whether related to the injury or not) and got my health insurance to knock $1,000 off the medical lien they'd placed on my account (as is standard practice in a case like this) just by asking. Would I have even known what a medical lien was before this? No, I would not have, and that money would have gone to my health insurance instead of to me.

Given the situation you describe, you probably will have no trouble at all getting an attorney to take your case on a contingency basis.
posted by Lexica at 9:18 AM on December 26, 2014 [3 favorites]

The "can't get reimbursed until someone accepts responsibility" thing sounds absurd to me. I'm not a lawyer or an insurance expert, but we've had two incidents in which our cars were hit and the other person effectively fled (in one case he gave us outdated personal information, and when he was finally tracked down, he refused to return calls from his own insurance company, etc.). In both cases, our insurance company covered our damages and expenses immediately, without question.
posted by primethyme at 10:00 AM on December 26, 2014 [1 favorite]

Best answer: I was car two in a three car accident once. I managed to stop and got hit from behind and pushed into the car in front of me, thus it was car three's fault and they paid for car two (me) and car one (the person in front of me). Car one only felt one bump.

Consider an alternate scenario where, I hit car one and then car three hits me after I hit car one. In that situation car one feels two bumps and now liability changes; car two pays for car one and car three pays for car two.

So that's what this is about. They have to get everyone's story and assign fault between car two and car three (who fled). It may get split between the two if you can't remember and they both tell different stories. But since they don't know who the third insurance company is or what that drivers story is, they may just try to make up a percentage. Which is where you want to sign nothing and lawyer up if it's anything less than 80 to 100 %, or whatever your tolerance is. You have to consider the cost of an attorney.

When this happened to me, my insurance, Geico at the time, paid everything right away except my deductible, up front, and went after the other insurance company and eventually I got a check for the deductible many weeks later. There were no medical issues in my case, however.
posted by jeffamaphone at 10:08 AM on December 26, 2014 [1 favorite]

Best answer: I've been exactly in your shoes--I was the end of a rear-ending wreck myself. Completely not at fault.

Here's what I did:

1. Filed a claim with my own insurance. You have collision and uninsured motorist for a reason. My insurance company adjusted the claim, and then subrogated it out to the other guy's insurance company. I got a reimbursement check from my insurance carrier for the deductible I paid the body shop. I just had to ask.

2. Retained a personal injury attorney. I recommend you do the same. I got a referral from a community contact of mine. My attorney was fantastic; I turned over all of the legwork I would have been doing, since it was very complicated (there were four vehicles in my wreck) and focused on getting better.

In most situations, and in most locations in the US, a personal injury attorney will work on contingency, which means you will not pay unless and until your case is settled. Your attorney will take his/her fee as a percentage of your settlement (usually, 30-40% is standard).

My case seemed to drag on for some time. It took over 6 months to settle. Part of that was the repairs to my car took for-ev-er. My car was a new model year and there was trouble getting parts for it to do the repairs, since the manufacturer was still using them on the assembly line. My attorney went to bat for me and negotiated extra rental car time with the other guy's insurance company, even though no one legally had to do that. (I was in a rental for about 8 weeks!) Could I have done that? Probably, but attorneys negotiate for a living--I don't. I have my regular job to do. Plus, he knew a heck of a lot more about what should happen as a case is settling I did. He also guided me through a diminished value claim on my vehicle from my own insurance company--they estimated my car with just 9000 miles on it was worth exactly the same after the accident as it was before the accident, which is absolutely false. He helped me get a nice check in consideration of that. I also had a tricky medical finding as a result of the tests I needed after my accident, and he guided me through that, too. These are just some of the reasons I am really glad I retained an attorney.

Sounds like you were in a complicated wreck and have sustained a pretty painful injury. I wouldn't hesitate in getting an attorney to protect your own interests. I hope you feel better soon.

I would also recommend you do not give any recorded or written statements to any insurance company until you have a PI attorney selected. You can just ignore their calls for now.
posted by FergieBelle at 10:31 AM on December 26, 2014 [6 favorites]

I was in a hit and run, and my insurance company wouldn't cover any property damage/rental fees under uninsured motorist coverage because the policy said uninsured motorist coverage only applies if I can prove the other driver was actually uninsured. But they were more than willing to pay all my medical bills. Point: get a lawyer, because the ins and outs of policies are tricky as hell and not always intuitive. This is also a complicated accident. Lawyer, definitely.
posted by coast99 at 11:37 AM on December 26, 2014 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Thank You all very much for your replies!
posted by cheero at 1:58 PM on December 26, 2014

IAL - seek out a personal injury lawyer in your area. Contact your state TLA (Trial Lawyer's Association). In Massachusetts that is MATA:

If you need a referral. Other answers are right - what you are being told is bull.

Good luck
posted by BrooksCooper at 5:36 PM on December 26, 2014

The good news is that in a more severe collision it is harder for the hit and run party to claim nothing happened when their front bumper is caved in.
posted by wnissen at 8:12 PM on December 26, 2014

The insurance company has a lawyer. (Several, actually.) If you try to deal with them yourself, you're bringing a knife to a gunfight. Get a lawyer and put the odds closer to your side.
posted by azpenguin at 9:31 PM on December 26, 2014

Response by poster: Took your advice as suggested. Got a personal injury lawyer on the case. Thank You all!
posted by cheero at 9:41 PM on December 26, 2014 [5 favorites]

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