Car totaled. Bought new car. New car totaled 31 days later.
January 5, 2019 12:09 PM   Subscribe

My spouse was driving our car when it was hit by someone else and subsequently totalled last November. We bought a used car as a replacement Dec 3. Another asshole hit the new car and may have totalled it Jan 3. We were waiting on the plates so we could tell our car insurance because we (mistakenly?) believed we needed this information. Grace period is 30 days, and we were hit on day 31. How fucked are we? What do we do?

We bought the newer car outright with pretty much all our savings. We have still been paying the car insurance and our policy appears to still be open. My spouse was ruled not at fault in either incident by cops at the scene. The details are fairly inarguable on both.

I don't know what to do. It's a weekend and I can't get through to my insurance agents. (We have USAA.) I think by law and policy they might not have to cover me. My spouse and I are both on the insurance as drivers. The man who hit my spouse is insured, but his insurance hasn't gotten back to us either.

We are pretty financially thin at the best of times and I don't know if we can buy another car so soon after buying the previous one without insurance support.
posted by sciatrix to Work & Money (37 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
Please clarify to ensure you get correct answers.
  • You had an active insurance policy for "Car 1" (prior to last November). Was that insurance policy liability-only or did it include underinsured driver coverage?
  • After "Car 1" was totaled in November, you purchased "Car 2". At that time, you didn't transfer your insurance coverage from "Car 1" to "Car 2" or contact your insurance provider about the purchase of "Car 2". Is that correct?
  • You did something to get a "grace period" on your car insurance - was that temporary car insurance provided by the dealer in some way?
  • At the time of the "Car 2" collision, was "Car 2" registered in your state?
  • What insurance coverage did you show the car dealer for "Car 2" to purchase the car? Generally, car dealers won't let you take possession of a car without insurance.

posted by saeculorum at 12:26 PM on January 5, 2019 [1 favorite]

The USAA auto insurance claims number is 800-531-8722 and their website says they have Saturday hours, and even says "For urgent matters, you may call at any time to speak to a representative."
posted by belau at 12:33 PM on January 5, 2019

The policy included uninsured or underinsured driver coverage to a maximum of $50,000.

The second question is correct.

This will be a grace period from USAA, who is my auto insurer and has been since 2007. The dealership is not involved.

Yes, Car 2 was registered in Texas. The plates and registration are now available in the dealership.

I showed the dealer my existing USAA auto policy.

I have called USAA repeatedly and can't get through to anyone in the department until Monday.
posted by sciatrix at 12:35 PM on January 5, 2019

Shouldn’t you at least get a payout from car 1? Why did you have to buy car 2 with no insurance help?
posted by Weeping_angel at 12:46 PM on January 5, 2019

1. Underinsured coverage has nothing to do with this situation.
2. "Grace period" is a misnomer but many policies provide automatic coverage for the first ~30 days after acquisition of a new vehicle. You have to tell the insurer or its agent about the new car within that time.

Very likely you were uninsured for the second accident. But if the other driver was at fault you may (depending on your state) be able to get reimbursement from him. Eventually.
posted by yclipse at 12:53 PM on January 5, 2019 [3 favorites]

We did purchase Car 2 with insurance help. The potential issue is Car 3. And that delightful ~ in ~30--it's been 31 days. USAA definitely heard about the car the day of the accident.

Please do not tell me what I should have done. I know that now. This is an expensive error that happened because this is the first time my spouse and I purchased a car without help from someone with more experience. I have already learned from it, and I am scared.

This is our only car. Please give advice on how to proceed.
posted by sciatrix at 12:56 PM on January 5, 2019 [2 favorites]

USAA has a good reputation and you have been a customer for 10 years. You have an active, paid policy. You lost track of the exact days off the notification period during the holidays. It's entirely likely that this will be fine.
posted by Ausamor at 12:56 PM on January 5, 2019 [6 favorites]


I'm the other spouse. They have told me already that if it was 31 days, they will not help us.

We are aware now that we should have informed them of the second car's purchase, but we were under the impression (because insurance asks for license plate number and the dealership saying 'we'll give you a call when all the paperwork you need is here') that you had to get the license plate before you could put insurance on the new car.
posted by NotATailor at 1:10 PM on January 5, 2019 [1 favorite]

Underinsured coverage has nothing to do with this situation. Why? It's not known whether the driver that totaled Car 2 has any insurance (many people will lie about their coverage to get away from the accident).

I don't think there's really much for you to do. You'll need to wait for either:
a) the at-fault driver from Car 2 to reimburse you for Car 2
b) USAA to offer you a one-day extension to reimburse you via underinsured in case the Car 2 driver doesn't have insurance.

I think that scenario a is likely - in which case you have nothing to do but wait.

I realize this is not an easy situation. You're in a crappy situation. However, there's not much your insurance company can or will do for you in this case.
posted by saeculorum at 1:12 PM on January 5, 2019 [1 favorite]

If the other car was at fault, isn't it their insurance company that should be paying out the claim anyway? I would start with contacting their insurance. Has their insurer already contacted you?

If you were driving without insurance, then that's primarily an issue between you and the Texas DMV, I think. I would talk to your insurance rep about whether you're covered (even retroactively) because that's important legally. But I would think that for this accident in particular, you'd make the actual claim with the insurance company of the person who's at fault, not your own, so as far as payouts are concerned, I don't even know if it matters whether you yourself are insured?
posted by rue72 at 1:12 PM on January 5, 2019 [3 favorites]

You may start asking Car 2's at fault driver's insurance provider to immediately start paying for rental car reimbursement during the time it takes to settle this claim. I had to do this in one case when a specific part to repair my car took too long to find. This is an appropriate ask and likely the at fault driver's insurance provider already has contracts set this up to provide to you. In my case, I got a crappy old Focus sedan... but it worked while I waited for my slightly-less crappy slightly-less old sedan to be repaired.
posted by saeculorum at 1:14 PM on January 5, 2019 [5 favorites]

You don't say anything about Car 2 driver's insurance. You should be able to make a claim against them that will make you whole on Car 2 unless either (1) you don't have driver's information or (2) the driver is uninsured.
posted by metahawk at 1:25 PM on January 5, 2019 [2 favorites]

Yes, if the other driver was 100% at fault it is THEIR insurance that pays, not yours. I presume there is a claim open with their insurance?
posted by anastasiav at 1:32 PM on January 5, 2019 [3 favorites]

First, I am glad no one is seriously injured.

Second, if it turns out you were not covered by USAA, that does not give the other insurance company a freebie. It may take a few letters on legal letterhead, but I believe that they will eventually pay.
posted by AugustWest at 2:09 PM on January 5, 2019 [1 favorite]

Other car owner's insurance won't talk to me. They said they would call yesterday morning. They didn't. They then said that they would call around 3:30 yesterday. They didn't. They asked me to text them photos from the accident site. I did so. The individual there in charge of our case is not back in the office until Tuesday and I am not holding out much hope that they will speak to me then, either. I've called many times and left many messages.

I can absolutely tell you that the other driver was at fault. They chose to come off an exit ramp prematurely and block two full lanes of traffic somewhere between 75 and 150 feet in front of my car on a 45 mph road. They had double solid lanes because the ramp had not merged yet. I was doing between 45 mph and 35 mph in the middle lane due to the fact that I was going to be making a right-hand turn in a quarter mile and I had just begun my deceleration to get behind a white car that was preventing me from getting into the right lane, which would later become the right-hand turn lane. There was absolutely nothing whatsoever that I could have done to avoid the collision. The other driver, however, claims he's going to take everything to court and contest everything because he thinks that I should have stopped before the exit lane ended to let him in. He's wrong, but I don't know how that's going to change the situation in general.
posted by NotATailor at 2:18 PM on January 5, 2019

Other car owner's insurance won't talk to me.

I hate to say this, but waiting for days is typical for insurance companies. That isn't right, but it is the case. Expect this to go slowly and that you'll have to contact them repeatedly. What I found more productive is to not wait for the insurance agents' call, but simply to call the insurance agent continuously whenever you need to get ahold of them. For me, this meant literally calling every 30 minutes, and simply retrying 30 minutes later if there's no answer.
posted by saeculorum at 2:22 PM on January 5, 2019 [9 favorites]

Yeah, I had a minor accident a year ago where the other driver was 100% at fault and their insurance were complete assholes about it. I finally had to get my insurance involved to go after them. Keep calling USAA until you get through and sic USAA on the other driver's insurance. Have the police report on hand.
posted by TwoStride at 2:22 PM on January 5, 2019 [3 favorites]

I called every 30 minutes for hours. Progressive didn't call back, they didn't pick up, they don't work Mondays and we have no additional car. I'm stuck at the house and I don't have a lot of faith that I will be able to speak to anyone Tuesday because I'm betting that 'the person demanding money' goes at the bottom of the list when they're dealing with the backlog of calls that they got over a 3 day weekend.
posted by NotATailor at 2:24 PM on January 5, 2019

Progressive is probably listening to their client who's claiming they're not at fault and will drag their feet on this. You need USAA's help to expedite things.

Also something that happened to me was that I had to pay for a rental out of pocket for a bit and my insurance then tried to go after the at-fault driver's insurance to reimburse me later. So that might be something to think of as well.
posted by TwoStride at 2:28 PM on January 5, 2019 [3 favorites]

USAA says we don't have coverage so they will do nothing. We have zero money because we just blew all of our savings replacing the last car because insurance didn't cover enough of the last car for us to replace it. They gave us 8500 dollars on a car that cost 12 grand to replace with a like car. We cannot pay for a rental.
posted by NotATailor at 2:33 PM on January 5, 2019

It does not matter who you think is at fault or who the other driver thinks is at fault ... all that matters is what does the police report say??

Do you have a copy of the police report? (It may not be final yet, and that’s ok). It is the police report that the insurance company will use to determine who pays.

Listen, I know you’re freaking out, but even in a best case scenario this is going to take a week of more to get sorted out. Take a deep breath and spend tonight and tomorrow figuring out some short term fixes to immediate problems. Post on social media - does a friend have a car you can borrow for a few days?

Accept that it is unlikely that anything else will move in this until Monday. It is hard, but if the police report reflects what the cops said at the scene, the other driver’s insurance will, eventually, pay.
posted by anastasiav at 2:47 PM on January 5, 2019 [4 favorites]

Also, why do you think they aren’t working Monday? Monday is not a holiday in the US...
posted by anastasiav at 2:49 PM on January 5, 2019 [1 favorite]

Progressive caves, in my experience as an insurance defense lawyer. It will take time to resolve this. Get a lawyer. Getting 2/3 of what a lawyer gets you is more than getting zero.
posted by kerf at 3:46 PM on January 5, 2019 [4 favorites]

If USAA says that you did not have coverage, for whatever reason it is and whether or not it was a misunderstanding and completely unintentional, you were technically driving uninsured. If the other driver does pursue this in a court, this could get bad. Please talk to a lawyer ASAP. Try the Texas Legal Services Center, if you're still in Austin. It does seem that if you are convicted, for the first offense of driving without insurance in Texas it is a simple fine between $175-350.

For general insurance information, try the Texas Department of Insurance (auto insurance info page), the help line is 1-800-252-3439 (contact page). But while they do help with claim and benefit disputes and they have a lot of information, they explicitly don't help with "Forcing insurance companies to pay a disputed claim or make a policy exception when no insurance laws were broken." Which would probably be the case here, as the state's legal grace period for informing your insurance company when you buy another vehicle is only 20 days.

The money stuff is bad in a more urgent way, but I don't think that there's anything else you can do about the sunk cost until Progressive gets back to you. They have 15 days to respond when you file a claim, according to the TDI. This is probably going to take an uncomfortably long time. As others mention, if you don't have your own insurance company to go at Progressive, a lawyer is going to get you a lot further than calling them yourself.
posted by monopas at 3:59 PM on January 5, 2019 [2 favorites]

This is probably going to take an uncomfortably long time.

That was the case when I had to make a claim against someone else's insurance on my own. It probably took about a month in total, but it felt like forever and it was really stressful since they played around with deliberate delays, then a lowball offer (expecting people to be desperate, I assume), then finally the real settlement after a bunch more back and forth and more delays.

If you can afford an attorney, I am sure it is a much better option than DIYing it. Hopefully your experience is faster and smoother than mine was.
posted by Dip Flash at 5:29 PM on January 5, 2019

I'm also glad no one was seriously injured, and I'm sorry you're going through this.

Agreeing that you'll want your own copy of the police report. Yes, you'll want to speak with a lawyer. In Texas, a first-time uninsured driver owes the simple $175-350 fine monopas mentions (Sec. 601.191 of the Texas Motor Vehicle Safety Responsibility Act), but there is additional surcharge of $125 to $250 added to your driver's license fee renewal for each of the next three years. Please look at section 708.1003 at that link, because qualifying for that reduced annual penalty is tied to certain insurance paperwork.

In the short term, you have no ready cash for a new car purchase or an ongoing rental. If either of you have a regular income and a decent credit score, is a no-money-down auto lease an option? Can either of you access a small down-payment loan through a credit union, or a no-interest-for-x-months credit card loan?

Going into debt for a car is not ideal, but you've exhausted your savings and this is an unusual situation. If Progressive pays out for the totaled car, you could apply those funds to exiting the lease early (read the contract closely for penalties for exercising that option).

Also, if either of you graduated university within the last two years, or expect to graduate a program within the next six months, some auto companies have specific rebates and programs for purchases and leases. Example. Leasing a new car instead of buying a used one will change your insurance rates, so you might want to get a quote from USAA for budgeting purposes.

And definitely put the word out to your social networks that you're car-less, due to this accident, and will be without transportation for the forseeable future. Once in a while, someone's got a hardly-used beater, languishing in their garage, to loan to a friend in need. Or they might offer to carpool, for work or for errands.

(In the event of this sort of loan, you'd still need to be well-insured drivers. And, gently and respectfully: given the recent accident history, the person loaning the vehicle might express a preference for sciatrix in the driver's seat. You would want to dispassionately discuss the feasibility of any such conditions with one another, in private.)
posted by Iris Gambol at 5:38 PM on January 5, 2019 [3 favorites]

It's highly unlikely you were driving uninsured in the sense that the law cares about. Your paid policy in every state I've been in would cover any liability regardless of what car you're driving, so long as you didn't intentionally steal it (and even then, in one state). What they may be able to weasel out of is your comprehensive and collision coverage.

You'll need to read your policy language carefully. Not the summary, but the actual 50-100 pages you should have gotten in the mail when you initially got coverage. (And any updates since, of course)

What you need to find out is what the precise language used in the notification requirement is and what exact language that triggers that invalidates the coverage. It obviously matters very much whether you have 30 days, "a month," or 30 business days to notify them of your purchase and get the policy adjusted. Were there actually more than 30 24 hour periods since you actually took possession of the vehicle?

You may find an attorney very helpful if the other driver's insurance company isn't responsive.
posted by wierdo at 5:50 PM on January 5, 2019 [5 favorites]

Progressive didn't call back, they didn't pick up, they don't work Mondays

Wait, what? Are you calling the Progressive corporate number, or are you calling some local third-party office? I’ve been with Progressive for over 20 years, and they’re open 24/7. From the footer of their claims web page:

“We're Here 24/7. Call 1-800-PROGRESSIVE.”

They even have a specific webpage on their site for tracking your claim if you’re not a Progressive customer. I would call their 1-800 number and see what’s up. It sounds like a local office is giving you the runaround.
posted by MexicanYenta at 12:04 AM on January 6, 2019 [1 favorite]

Did USAA tell you 30 *calendar* days or 30 *business* days? You need to get them to clarify that with you, because if it's 30 business days, you're under the wire due to Christmas and New Year's.

I would also verify with the car dealer that they didn't contact USAA about your insurance. That just sounds kind of odd that they're letting a car off the lot with temporary registration and not verifying insurance. Every dealership I've ever dealt with has actually contacted my insurance company while I'm sitting there to verify that I'm up to date on my policy (I've got GEICO, but regardless).
posted by dancinglamb at 1:52 AM on January 6, 2019 [1 favorite]

Fifthing lawyer. That is all the advice you need. You mistakenly believed that you needed license plates to insure a car (you don't). You were an uninsured driver during accident #2. Progressive will eat you alive when they find out you were driving an uninsured car if you don't have a lawyer.
posted by hwyengr at 6:25 AM on January 6, 2019 [1 favorite]

Dancinglamb, it's not unusual at all. Every car I've bought (and because of an addiction I buy a lot of cars), the dealership is only required to verify that you have insurance now because of the 30-day window. It's the buyer's responsibility to open or transfer a policy to the new car.
posted by hwyengr at 6:28 AM on January 6, 2019

And for the triple post, to be the bearer of bad news, if you hit a stationary car you're going to have some of the liability for the incident. Insurance companies can assign a percentage of liability to all parties in a crash. Traffic laws don't supersede the responsibility of being aware of your surroundings and avoiding obstacles.
posted by hwyengr at 6:33 AM on January 6, 2019

Other car owner's insurance won't talk to me. They said they would call yesterday morning. They didn't. They then said that they would call around 3:30 yesterday. They didn't.

It can't hurt to confirm all the phone calls and unanswered phone calls in writing. A simple email saying "As agreed, I called you back on the 19th at 11am, but there was no answer" should do it. It's especially important to confirm in writing if any actual information is exchanged.
posted by JimN2TAW at 8:43 AM on January 6, 2019 [1 favorite]

if you hit a stationary car you're going to have some of the liability for the incident.

This. It does not matter what a cop told you at the scene. Was either party cited?

In any case the bare facts as you describe them do not excuse you from liability. Almost certainly if you rear-ended or t-boned* a stationary car (he could have been stalled out, for example) you also have liability and your uninsured condition will get more problematic immediately.

N’thing lawyer.

*(From your diagram, it implies you ran into the side of the stopped car? Was his car totaled too?)
posted by spitbull at 10:56 AM on January 6, 2019

What are the key words OP needs to get USAA to open a claim for their driver liability (if not comprehensive/collision) coverage? Isn't that the way to get USAA to arrange and pay for the lawyer, as opposed to finding a lawyer on their own?
posted by perdhapley at 4:53 PM on January 6, 2019

Late to the party so hopefully this morning you have had some success.

Do you have an agent for your insurance or did you purchase online? I would call my agent for help if i had one, not the 800 number.

Not clear on who you are calling for progressive? if you are not calling their agent, i would start with that and escalate as needed. If that is who is not calling you back, then call the 800 number and tell them you are calling an agent and getting no where.

Uninsured/underinsured may only be for bodily injury - not sure on texas rules. There are two types i think but most of the time it is for medical payments not property damage. If you have insurance it would be filed to your collision coverage in that case. I agree you may have some fault here if i am understanding correctly, but get a copy of the police report so you have it. And keep after both insurances until you get some answers.

If you are determined to be insured, and you file with USAA because Progressive is giving you the run around, here is what will happen. USAA will settle the claim for your replacement vehicle according to the coverage that is applicable in your policy. If they have to use your collison coverage you will pay your deductible at this time. If you are not at fault or are only say 25% at fault, they will then subrogate your claim with progressive. (meaning they will go after them for money - this is what people mean when they say USAA will have the lawyer). If the other party was totally at fault and you had to pay a deductible, you will get it all back when they collect. If you were 25% at fault, you will get 25% of your deductible back.

If progressive is giving you the run around, and you determine you are insured it will go faster if you start with your insurance. If you are not insured, you will probably need to follow the get a lawyer advice.
posted by domino at 8:30 AM on January 7, 2019 [1 favorite]

Okay, we were able to get in contact with USAA today, and our adjuster told us that because we are change-averse people who went out and bought the exact make, model, and year (and color, irrelevantly) of car we'd previously had, and were continuing to pay on the same policy, that we could get the transition backdated and get the new car on our insurance at the time the accident happened.

We should be okay from here, I think. We'll be moving forward through USAA, which is where we're most comfortable. This is one terrifying mistake during a run of sadly not uncharacteristic shitty luck that neither of us will ever be making again.

I love USAA so much oh my god.
posted by sciatrix at 10:07 AM on January 7, 2019 [30 favorites]

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