car insurance and claims
June 19, 2015 8:22 AM   Subscribe

I was in a mild fender bender yesterday. I have never been in an accident before. I have a couple questions, mostly about what happens with insurance, payments, and the fact that I didn't report it immediately.

what happenedYesterday afternoon I was backing out of a parking spot, turned my wheel too sharp, and the driver side door brushed against their bumper. No dents, only scratches. My car, its barely noticeable. Their car has a smudged looking spot with a few scratches covering about 6"x10".

my problems/questions:I took pictures and personal information (name/address/phone), but stupidly forgot to get their insurance info. How bad is this?

It happened on my lunch break. I worked til 6, had an event to attend immediately afterward that lasted til midnight. I have not filed a claim yet. I'm at work now, but have received a voicemail from my insurance, asking to discuss a claim someone has filed.
How bad is it that I didn't call immediately?
Also, what should I tell the insurance people? Do I admit fault?

Last question: I'm a broke college student. Will I most likely have to pay out of pocket? How soon? (I'm currently looking for a 2nd job). What happens if I can't pay? Do they cancel my insurance? If I get a bill that I feel is way high, what recourse do I have?

All of these questions are regarding the damage to the other car. The damage to mine is inconsequential, I hate the car anyway, and didn't plan on doing anything to fix it.
Thanks everyone!
posted by FirstMateKate to Law & Government (6 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
I mean, check your policy, but I think that notification within 24 hours is usually sufficient. I'd call them back ASAP.

You will probably be on the hook for the other driver's deductible (often ~$500), but probably not much beyond that immediately. You'll probably pay more eventually in insurance costs when you renew your policy.
posted by Betelgeuse at 8:36 AM on June 19, 2015 [1 favorite]

Previously "I scratched another person's car bumper. What happens next?" This thread has some good points.

On what you asked though, most insurance policy's have an excess amount. This is max you should be liable for, regardless ofwhat the other party is claiming the damage is.

Also good for taking the pics, if the others are claiming $2500(whatever) and you have pics to show your insurer that it's no more than a scratch, this will help.
posted by MarvinJ at 8:38 AM on June 19, 2015

IANAIA, but I've been a driver and been in a few accidents. You did fine. Insurance generally means that they will pay for it (minus whatever your deductible is, you can have them explain deductibles) and then your rates may go up in the future. Since the other party made a claim, it doesn't matter that you didn't get their information though generally it's good practice to get it in case you wanted to counterclaim. Since you hit a parked car, there's not really much of an "at fault" determination here, that sort of thing might matter if there was a moving violation/accident or if you were both making claims. If this was a moving violation/accident in addition to swapping insurance info it's often a good idea to file a police report so that there is a record of the accident.

In short: call the insurance people, they will talk you through it. There's probably not a lot of wiggle room here since you were at fault (assuming only you were moving) but your photos will help determine the extent of the damage and what your insurance would have to pay up.
posted by jessamyn at 8:39 AM on June 19, 2015

Best answer: There is never any deductible for liability.
posted by ftm at 8:39 AM on June 19, 2015 [2 favorites]

stupidly forgot to get their insurance info. How bad is this?

From the description, it sounds like you are at fault. Hence, their insurance information is irrelevant to you (you are liable; the other party's insurance company doesn't care about you).

How bad is it that I didn't call immediately?

You need to report incidents like this to your insurance company promptly. However, you're only a day late - that's not nearly problematic. The other party just happened to get to their insurance company first.

Also, what should I tell the insurance people?

You should tell your insurance company the truth about what happened; anything else is insurance fraud. The other party's insurance company shouldn't even talk to you, and if you do, you should question why.

Do I admit fault?

I think this is an academic question - based on your description, it's clear you're at fault. It doesn't really matter to your insurance company whether you admit or not that you're at fault because they'll consider you liable regardless. I think the only thing that could happen if you deny fault is a mild annoyance on the part of your insurance agent, who will then promptly decide that you are liable regardless.

Will I most likely have to pay out of pocket?

Your insurance has a liability portion that covers incidents like these. It is common that your state will require you to have at least $25,000 in liability insurance, which is likely sufficient to cover this sort of accident. That liability policy will have a deductible, which you will have to pay. After you pay the deductible, the insurance will cover the rest. So, for instance, if you had a $500 deductible and a $25,000 policy, and the repairs to the other party's car cost $2,000, you would pay $500, and your insurance company would pay $1,500.

How soon?

This is a matter between you and your insurance company, since you will be paying your insurance company a deductible. This is a matter of your insurance company's policy; they will likely be somewhat lenient (because they know they will get paid). I would think weeks is likely, months is not likely.

What happens if I can't pay?

Your insurance company will sue you and/or send you to collections.

Do they cancel my insurance?

Your insurance company will almost definitely not renew your insurance policy if there is an outstanding claim that you have not paid (unless for instance the renewal coincidentally happened immediately after the accident such that there is no reasonable way for you to pay). Your current insurance contract is contingent on paying your deductible, so it's an interesting question that depends on your insurance contract whether or not your current insurance contract can be voided if you do not pay your deductible.

If I get a bill that I feel is way high, what recourse do I have?

Not much - your insurance company has an incentive to pay as little as possible to the other party, so they will be working as much as possible to reduce that number. When they decide it's as low as possible, it probably is. Your insurance company has a fiduciary duty to you to not have you pay more than you need to. They have a financial interest in themselves to not have to pay more to other companies than they have to. If you feel the bill is too high - you're probably wrong.

You will probably be on the hook for the other driver's deductible (often ~$500)

This is incorrect - the other driver's deductible is irrelevant, because the OP is 100% liable for the accident.
posted by saeculorum at 8:41 AM on June 19, 2015 [3 favorites]

As ftm said, there is no deductible for liability. If your car is financed then you are obligated to get it fixed and then your collision/comprehensive deductible applies. If you own the car free and clear you are under no obligation to fix it.
posted by Grumpy old geek at 8:41 AM on June 19, 2015

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