YANML, parking lot car accident advice and help needed
January 15, 2019 5:12 PM   Subscribe

On Sunday night my wife was at our local grocery store and while driving down the lane to park, another driver backed out of a space and hit the front of my wife's (fairly new) car. My wife had stopped moving and honked but the other driver continued backing out and hit her. The other driver apologized, including for causing my wife the annoyance of having to deal with insurance/repair, etc. She also called her own insurer to start the claim and explained that she'd backed into my wife's car. My wife explained she was stopped and honked. The other driver did not take my wife's insurance information nor did her insurer request it. My wife has the other driver's information.

The insurance company requested pictures of the damage from my wife and after consulting with our insurance company we sent the pictures over. They sent her an email today with a repair estimate of $500 (which I believe is low) and then this evening called her and told her she was 20% liable for the accident for "failure to notify the other driver of her presence." My wife disputed the account, just as she'd similarly described it on the night of the accident to the insurance company, which is that she honked as the other driver backed out. The insurance company agent told my wife the other driver claimed my wife only honked after she was hit, and was what accounted for her being 20% liable. My wife again disputed this and the agent told her that they "take the word of their insured."

I talked to our insurance company tonight and the woman I spoke with said that my wife had the right of way and it sounded very odd that they'd claim she had any liability at all. That said, our deductible coverage would be $1000, and so we're currently not sure what to do. If we file with our own company (who is quite good and have always dealt with us fairly and generously) and they don't win arbitration, we're out $1000. Even if we don't file with our insurance company and the repairs come to under $1000, it feels like an injustice that we have to pay a dime, on top of the time and inconvenience of this whole process.

My wife is extremely upset, frustrated and angry, as am I. In fact, we're both livid. What would you advise we do here, in the sense of, is there anything you think we can say to the other insurance company to change that 80/20 determination? Does "failure to honk" sound at all like a real thing, in the case of a non-moving vehicle in a parking lot who has the right of way? Should we trust that arbitration would result in us getting that deductible back, given the circumstance? Even video footage would fail to have the audio of a honk! Thanks for any help or advice you can provide.
posted by rbf1138 to Law & Government (15 answers total)
For that amount of money, would the other driver either pay you out in cash, or at least pay the 20% that the insurance company is refusing to pay?

Also, maybe get a few independent estimates before you decide if you want to get your insurance company involved in fighting on your behalf.
posted by vignettist at 5:23 PM on January 15, 2019

This type of situation happened to two family members of mine -- where the person who caused the accident immediately admitted fault at the scene, but then completely changed their tune when telling the story to their own insurance company, presumably to avoid being 100% liable and having their rates go up as a result. Family member X had AAA insurance, who seemed to not do anything except make a call and then quickly agreed with the other person's insurance company! Family member X had to pay out of pocket for an accident they didn't cause and is still salty about it to this day. They no longer have AAA insurance (former customer of 20+ years).

Family member Y had Amica. When the other person tried to change their story, Amica called Y back and recorded their version of the event again, asked for a few additional pictures of the car and the area where the accident happened, and said, "We'll handle this." A few weeks later, Y had a check for the full amount of damages from the other person's insurance company without having had to talk to anyone else. That's the way insurance is supposed to work. Don't talk to the other party or their insurance company again (unless your insurance company tells you to); it'll just make you angry. I'm sorry you have to go through this stress; I know it's irritating, but just give your insurance company all the info they need and let them do their work. Hopefully it'll all work out, but if not, change insurers.

This kind of thing seems to be pretty common after car accidents, so in the future, you might want to consider getting a dashcam or recording the person admitting fault at the scene of the accident with your phone immediately. Even if the voice recording isn't admissible in court, I'd still rather have it than not when it comes time to talk with my insurance company.
posted by LuckySeven~ at 5:45 PM on January 15, 2019 [4 favorites]

I think what happens if yo use your insurance is that you will pay out of pocket for the first $1000 of repair costs. The insurance will then work on getting the money back from the other company. Once they do, they will repay you for the deductible.Since you were already offered 80%, you should be able to get at least that amount with the possibility of the getting the full 100%. This is very little work on your part so it seems worth it unless you can't handle paying for the repairs and getting reimbursed later.
posted by metahawk at 5:48 PM on January 15, 2019 [2 favorites]

I had a similar situation a number of years back... a person backed out of their driveway in to me as I was proceeding down the road, I honked as I passed by them but they failed to stop and struck the side of my car outside of my field of vision. The other insurance company was horrible, claimed that I was speeding (including lying to me about my "speeding" being 'in the police report' which was impossible- the police arrived after the accident and ticketed the other driver for failure to yield, and obviously the police would have no first hand knowledge about what my speed was at the time of the accident as they weren't present!) The other insurer also claimed that the fact that I honked indicated that I anticipated the accident and failed to take evasive action, etc. etc. Long story short, they offered various fault splitting deals, I told them to pound sand, it was an open and shut right of way case. Turned it over to my insurance co, the other driver's insurance co pushed back, it eventually went to arbitration and was settled 100% in my favor. I think you have pretty good odds of this case going your way. I suspect that in arbitration settings the known facts of the case will trump any witness testimony... the other driver was backing out of the space, your wife had the right of way, there's really nothing complicated about it. Post facto, dishonest people and or insurers are going to say things to cast their driving in a better light and any arbitration board is going to be well aware of that and discount it. If there's security cam video showing that your wife's car was stationary at the time of the impact, that makes her case even stronger. Good luck!
posted by Larry David Syndrome at 6:37 PM on January 15, 2019 [4 favorites]

The other insurance is BS. It's called a moving violation because the car that is moving is the one at fault. It's not called a honking violation, after all. The only way you could have partial fault is if both cars were backing up, which isn't the case here.

This looks like your same situation; you might find the answers helpful.

I would stick with your insurance company and let it go to arbitration. And/or take the other guy to small claims for the cost of repairs.
posted by basalganglia at 7:16 PM on January 15, 2019 [7 favorites]

This is exactly why you always deal with your own insurer rather than the other party's, and also why you find a better insurer if the prospect of dealing with your own insurer gives you any trepidation or proves to be unsatisfactory after the fact.

One of the things that my own insurer allows me to do is submit a "report only" claim after an incident of this kind. This gets my side of the story documented early, and if it all turns ugly and I do end up needing to get my insurer to go in to bat for me, it reduces the other side's wiggle room by quite a lot.
posted by flabdablet at 10:37 PM on January 15, 2019 [1 favorite]

Similar thing happened to me, twice actually. I paid my deductible and eventually my lizard-loving insurance company got the money back for me. One time, nearly a year later, but they got it.
posted by I_Love_Bananas at 2:02 AM on January 16, 2019

oh and also I filed an official police report online which in my state you are allowed to do. So my version of events and my statement was part of at least some form of public record.
posted by I_Love_Bananas at 2:03 AM on January 16, 2019

As everyone has said, deal with your insurance. I had a similar accident recently where the other driver was 100% at fault, like yours, and my insurance "subrogated" the claim -- they initially paid for the repairs, I had to pay my deductible. Then they dealt with the other party's insurance and I got my deductible back.
posted by not that mimi at 5:50 AM on January 16, 2019 [2 favorites]

Thanks for all the advice. We actually have Amica, who have always done right by us and we've had them for 15 years. Gonna just pay the $1000 and hope that they get it back for us. I guess at least this way we can get the repairs going with our own company so I know it'll get done right and they wont cheap out on us like the other insurer could. Worst case sounds like we only get 80% back and we eat a few hundred bucks.

The injustice of paying a dime due to this other person's mistake and lie or the insurance company's dishonesty is infuriating and feels so violating.
posted by rbf1138 at 6:33 AM on January 16, 2019 [2 favorites]

"failure to notify the other driver of her presence" is so stupid and is not A Thing. Proving you weren't moving might be difficult, but no one is ever allowed to just run in to a stationary object, even that thing is illegally parked or otherwise not "notifying" others. Also, generally, accidents involving someone pulling out of a spot and hitting someone not in a spot is the fault of the former. I don't blame you for being livid.
posted by Pig Tail Orchestra at 6:46 AM on January 16, 2019 [1 favorite]

I had an identical situation three years ago, all the way down to the size of the repair estimate. The other driver's insurance called me directly and told me they were only 80% liable for my failure to alert the other driver of my presence. I handed it off to my insurance, which took the other company to subrogation. A few months later, with no fuss and no further involvement on my part, they won a judgment of 100% liability. Seemed pretty routine. Shortly afterward I received a check for all of the money I'd paid up front for the repair via my deductible. Meanwhile, the repair shop seemed to understand how much leeway they had with my insurer and fixed as many unrelated dings as they could find/charge for. So I came out ahead.
posted by chimpsonfilm at 9:04 AM on January 16, 2019 [1 favorite]

Even if the repairs cost less than the deductible and we win arbitration, we get everything back right? So if we pay the $1000 deductible and repairs end up at $800, we’d recoup that $200 from our insurance?
posted by rbf1138 at 2:06 PM on January 16, 2019

Even if the repairs cost less than the deductible and we win arbitration, we get everything back right? So if we pay the $1000 deductible and repairs end up at $800, we’d recoup that $200 from our insurance?
First, if repairs cost $800, you just pay $800 - you don't have to pay the full deductible if the total is less than that. Then the deductible only applies to your share. What ever the other driver pays, his deductible will apply to how much of that comes from him and how much from his insurance but it will all go to you. If he isn't 100% at fault then your deductible applies to whether you or your insurance company pay the difference.

So, case A1: repairs cost $800, the other driver is 100% at fault, he or his insurance company pays you $800.
Case A2: repairs cost $800, the other driver is 80% at fault, he or his insurance company pays you $640. Since the remaining $160 is less than your deductible, you pay it yourself.
Case B1: repairs cost $6000, the other driver is 100% at fault, he or his insurance company pays you $6000.
Case B2: repairs cost $6000, the other driver is 80% at fault, he or his insurance company pays you $4800. Of the remaining $1200, your deductible is $1000 so you pay $1000 and your insurance pays you $200.
posted by metahawk at 5:30 PM on January 16, 2019 [1 favorite]

Case B2(i): repairs cost $6000, the other driver's insurer says they're 80% at fault, they pay you $4800. Of the remaining $1200, your deductible is $1000 so you pay $1000 and your insurer pays you $200. Then with no further involvement from you, your insurer (being completely confident on the basis of your report that your alleged 20% contributory negligence is bullshit) instigates the lengthy process of making the other insurer pay them the $1200 they should have paid you in the first place, eventually succeeds, refunds you your $1000 deductible, and restores your no-claim bonus.

Another possible pathway to success involves ignoring all insurers and directing all claims for restitution directly to the other driver. After all it is they, not their insurer, who injured you; and you have no business relationship with their insurer and no immediate incentive to get involved in one.

My car's hood was badly damaged when an overhead advertising sign fell on it after I'd parked it in the street before going shopping. I don't have comprehensive car insurance, so I just found the address of the fallen sign's owner and sent them a letter and photos documenting the incident, and demanding that they pay for repair at my choice of repairer, fund car hire for the week that my own car would be tied up in the body shop (though damaged, it was fortunately still driveable before being repaired), and pay me an additional $500 for the time it would cost me to deal with this.

Their insurer tried to contact me to organize a time for their assessor to inspect the damage to my car. Having already got a firm quote from my repairer (whom I'd fully informed about who was going to end up paying) and costed a week's car hire, I refused to let them do that and posted another letter of demand to the sign's owner detailing the exact amount I expected to be paid, supported by copies of the written quotes for repair and car hire, and including a deadline for payment beyond which I would seek to have the matter dealt with in small claims court.

A week later their insurer caved and sent me an offer for everything I'd asked for on condition that I would sign a letter indemnifying the sign owner against any further claims arising from this incident. I was happy with that, and signed, and they sent me a cheque.

You can be enough of a hardass to win against another party's insurer. The key is not asking for more than you'd actually be fairly sure to be awarded by any reasonable court judgement plus a few hours of their insurer's staff time. Insurers really don't want to get involved in court proceedings because lawyers cost even more than they do.
posted by flabdablet at 7:17 PM on January 16, 2019

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