Tiny Accident, They're Claiming Injuries, How Screwed Am I?
December 20, 2007 8:38 AM   Subscribe

Tiny Accident, They're Claiming Injuries, How Screwed Am I? Last week, I had an accident. I was waiting to turn right behind a van, also waiting to turn. He went, then jammed on brakes. I braked, but couldn't avoid hitting him. Minimal damage for him, none for me.

It was maybe at 5-10 mph. The guys in the van - who spoke no English - kept pointing accusingly at their necks and backs...while walking around freely, comfortably, and without any evident pain (and, no, they didn't need an ambulance). I, stupidly, did not photograph the back of their van, and the police report does not go into any description of how minimal he damage was to their van. I have on my to-do list purchase of an umbrella policy, but currently have $100K in insurance. So....if these guys do a number on their van to blow up the size of the accident, and manage to produce doctor's reports testifying to their utter paralysis, is there a chance this could go over $100K? I'm guessing they'll wind up settling, and that's usually $10-20K, right? I need to note that if there was even the remotest chance they were legitimately injured, I'd be really upset about it. But, no, these guys are just opportunists. I'm expecting a hugely overblown medical report.
posted by jimmyjimjim to Travel & Transportation (22 answers total)
I was in a similar accident (except that I think the guy probably *did* have legit whiplash...it wasn't a 5mph collision). He got 14k for the injury, I think.
posted by phoenixy at 8:52 AM on December 20, 2007

I'm presuming you have an insurance company, and a representative (not clear from your post). In that case, let them handle it. That's why you pay them. I had a similar case many years ago. Trust me on this, let the professionals handle it. Insurance companies would rather give up an organ than let some plaintiff snag them for a medical claim.

If you DONT have an insurance company and some crazed overpaid lawyer on their side, well, umm, that could be a problem. You may want to consult with a legal professional if you're certain you're being taken advantage of.
posted by elendil71 at 8:53 AM on December 20, 2007

YMMV, but insurance companies are good at taking care of this. You might get hit with a premium increase, I wasn't, but it is worth the piece of mind to have the insurance company's aggressive lawyers go after it. I was under the impression they are trained to sniff this kind of thing out and know how to deal with it. In any case, I would not worry about it.
posted by geoff. at 8:53 AM on December 20, 2007

Swoop and Squat.

Sorry for you. I'm sure the lawyers will chime in here in a second. FWIW, I did paralegal work for many years and we had a couple of these sorts of claims come through our office. If your case plays out like those, your insurance company will dig its heels in pretty hard and refuse to pay, or offer a token settlement far lower than a hundred grand. I'm no fan of insurance companies, but they do work pretty hard in these cases to avoid paying anything.
posted by TryTheTilapia at 8:54 AM on December 20, 2007

Response by poster: I wouldn't mind a premium increase at all (I'm with Geico, btw). I was just going to give the guy $100 for the tiny wrinkle in his hatch door (if I'd had pliers, I could have de-crimped it for him on the spot), but when they started getting nutty with the neck-pointing, I wanted police there (police were SERIOUSLY wondering why we'd report this non-incident at all). I'd MUCH rather let the insurance company face them in court than me face them, and a few hundred bucks extra premiums is, by comparison, money happily spent. Yeah, I know it's their job anyway, and I shouldn't have to pay extra premiums for it. But, man, I'm grateful for the distance. My only worry is that they get a $500k settlement or something.
posted by jimmyjimjim at 8:57 AM on December 20, 2007

Response by poster: TryTheTilapia, no, not staged, at least I don't think. If they were professionals, they wouldn't have been pointing at their necks and backs. That just frightened me into getting police involved (which they clearly didn't want). If this were professional, they'd have poo-pooed the damage, offered to send me a body shop estimate, taken my info, then woke up the next morning paralyzed. These guys were just cheesey opportunists. I drive a decent-nice car (at least to new immigrant van owners), a Camry LE.
posted by jimmyjimjim at 9:03 AM on December 20, 2007

Insurance companies would rather give up an organ than let some plaintiff snag them for a medical claim.

Yup. My sister-in-law works for an insurance company and they have people whose purpose in life is to make sure "fake" injuries and accidents get taken care of. You don't want to be in the hole; nor does Geico want to be out $100,000. That's a clear loss on their part and will do what they can to avoid paying out medical fees up the wazoo.
posted by jmd82 at 9:04 AM on December 20, 2007

If there's next to no damage to your car, I'd think you could reasonably prove that you couldn't have totaled the back of a cargo van and gotten away with no damage, especially to a low, small car like a Camry.

Agree on the report it to your insurance company and let them deal with any fallout.
posted by Pantengliopoli at 9:06 AM on December 20, 2007

As everyone above has said, your insurer will go to almost any length not to pay. They're certainly not going to pay $500K over a 10 mph collision. It's less fun when you're the victim with a legitimate claim, but in this case, you're on the right side.
posted by Nelsormensch at 9:08 AM on December 20, 2007

Perhaps it's not terribly comforting, but maybe the police report's omission of damage details is in your favor-- if it was *really* bad, they definitely would've written something. Does the report mention your speed (5-10 mph) or the situation? I'm sure any amount of detail like "he slammed on his breaks after deciding not to turn" would indicate that it was a slow speed and thus, minimal damage.

And be thankful that you at least had a police report-- and some kind of reliable witness to back up your story.
posted by Flamingo at 9:16 AM on December 20, 2007

Response by poster: Thanks, guys

My lack of damage isn't proof....nobody examined my car, I just happened not to make a claim. And the 5-10mph story is my story. Not sure what those guys told them.

But I'm surely worrying needlessly. Worst case scenario, they make a claim and settle with Geico for $20K.

Actually, this happened once before...even more egregiously. Many years ago I was parallel parking SLOWLY on a busy street. I got out of car, and an old woman was screaming at me in Spanish, clutching her hand. I speak spanish, inquired as to the problem, but she was just ranting/raving. Hand looked fine. I figured she was a crazy street person, went into a store, came out, and 30 Dominican people were surrounding her, waiting for the return of the cruel gringo who BACKED INTO HER HAND.

Yes, backed into her hand.

She sued my insurer for several million dollars. Her husband sued, as well, for even more, including the loss of connubial relations (which apparently were somehow inextricably tied to her right hand). My deposition came after hers, and hers went on for hours. Late, late in the day they asked me why I walked away from the scene to go in the store, and I said I'd concluded she was some crazy raving woman. My lawyer nodded wearily, HER lawyer nodded wearily, the stenographer nodded wearily. It was surreal.

Anyway, it turned out that many many other people had hit her previously over the years. In fact, she was once hit by a tree. And, the thing is, she did make some money. My insurer settled, but I don't know how much for. So maybe they don't try THAT hard not to pay out....

I'm not making this up. It's all true.
posted by jimmyjimjim at 9:28 AM on December 20, 2007 [7 favorites]

Wow... that's a great, if sad, story JimmyJimJim (Can I call you James?)... I guess if you make enough noise for long enough, someone will pay you...

Good luck with this one.
posted by Pantengliopoli at 9:56 AM on December 20, 2007

Thats a nutty story Jim. Look, I'm apparently not the worlds best driver, but in that case your best friend is your insurance company. It may cost you, but believe me, these folks will go to their grave fighting - not for you - but for their right to not pay out a goddamn cent if they can help it. There are times when that actually helps you. File a claim right away. Let the suits handle it.
posted by elendil71 at 11:17 AM on December 20, 2007

Nthing letting insurance take care of it. This isn't anywhere near jimmyjimjim's story, but I once, in my stupid youth, had a similar minor accident (dude was pulling out of a parallel-parking space, didn't check traffic, pulled out in front of me, and thanks to drizzly weather I couldn't avoid hitting him without swerving and involving other cars). He acted all nice and friendly at first, which lulled me into believing that he was being serious when he said he didn't care about the superficial damage on an old car (I had a broken blinker cover, but no other damage). As such, I didn't bother calling the cops to get a report, we both drove off ... but then the next day he came up with all these extravagant "damages" to his car, trying to get me/my insurance to pay for it, claiming I'd admitted guilt, etc.

Long story ... shorter, after taking our mutual statements my insurance said he didn't have a case and didn't pay; he was apparently displeased with this, and he sued me in small claims (I was served on December 24th, Merry Fucking Christmas). He manufactured witness statements and generally faked/lied about a bunch of information, and even though he had no hard evidence whatsoever, the his-word-against-mine approach worked in court, and he ended up getting about $2-3k in settlement. The insurance paid it all, and didn't raise my premium. (IL Farmers, if anyone's curious.)

(Unintended moral of the story: always get a police report.)
posted by the luke parker fiasco at 12:23 PM on December 20, 2007

I had someone do this to me. I believe it was intentional, although of course I was (and you are) at fault for hitting someone from behind. 5mph or less, in my case. She needed a new bumper cover, totalling $400. Sued me for $85k in personal injury claims, ended up getting a settlement of $14k from my insurance company.
posted by knave at 12:40 PM on December 20, 2007

One rule of litigation: there is always a chance that the claim will go over $100K. But your insurance company and the lawyer they hire will based their decisions on probabilities, not the extreme outlier possibilities.
posted by yclipse at 2:00 PM on December 20, 2007

Insurance will handle it. Deal with your insurance, not their insurance, if possible. I've been hit a several times, and never deal with other insurance companies.

From personal experience being legitimately injured, 20k seems high to me for a soft tissue injury. I suppose if they want to milk it out for a couple years with regular doctors and specialists appointments, of course by lawyering up... 10k might seem reasonable. If they are out for a quick buck and are not legitimately seriously hurt, I can't imagine they'll want to keep up the act for that long.
posted by jerseygirl at 2:34 PM on December 20, 2007

Relax. This is exactly why insurance is a good deal, even though most years you pay thousands in premiums and never get in an accident. While not impossible, it's extremely unlikely you'll have any problems that exceed some minor inconvenience and potential premium increase. Don't spend your holidays worrying about an incredibly unlikely negative consequence. Everyone else has explained why, but I just wanted to throw in some more reassurance. I work in the insurance industry, loosely linked on the defense side of cases like this.
posted by bunnycup at 2:40 PM on December 20, 2007

Former claims adjuster here. I handled personal injury claims just like what is described above. All auto insurance companies are quite familiar with low impact-high medical damage claims and know how to deal with them. I wouldn't panic about one accident. It's quite possible that once the claimants learn how much work it is to prove they were hurt, they will go away. Especially if there is a possibility that they do not have authentic green cards and don't need the extra attention of a court case. I wouldn't worry or lose sleep over this. I do recommend that you get more insurance, though, especially if you have assets that may make you attractive to plaintiff attorneys. Umbrella insurance is cheap.
posted by daneflute at 8:34 PM on December 20, 2007

I have nothing to add except this: People, if you are ever in an accident on a public roadway, no matter how minor, ALWAYS GET A POLICE REPORT.

It may take time, time that you may think you don't have sometimes, but it will protect you from all sorts of unspeakable things. If you do not get a police report, you can get rung up for leaving the scene of an accident. This has happened, and if it does, you're royally screwed on all fronts. And of course there's that little bit of having the cops make everything official, which will make things difficult on someone trying to extort damages. If someone offers to "not get the insurance company involved," you can sort that out later. Get the police report before anything else.
posted by azpenguin at 7:13 AM on December 21, 2007

Response by poster: Ok, just called geico about umbrella insurance. He tells me that, because I'm a freelance writer working at home, I need a business endorsement on my renter's policy. So I need to go back to that other company and pay to add that (I'd have thought common sense would make a distinction between running a real biz at home and writing, but....). Also, he won't sell me umbrella until they know more about the accident described above. So it'll have to wait a month or two.

But you're right, it's CHEAP. My God. I think he said like $150 for a million dollars of home/car extra coverage. It's a no-brainer.
posted by jimmyjimjim at 7:44 AM on December 21, 2007

Jimmy, make sure to check what the umbrella policy EXCLUDES. It's cheap for a reason. Maybe that reason is you're an easily-insurable person, but do your homework first.

As for the accident ... unless there's some evidence that you're independently wealthy, a competent plaintiff's lawyer is just gonna go after the $100k in the policy. If the insurance company settles, it will obviously be for at or below the policy limits (MUCH more likely to be in the $10 to $50k ballpark.)

So yeah, talk with your insurance company, especially the adjuster, to see what's going to be done about this. But it's probably not something to worry about. (This is not legal advice. I despise personal injury law.)
posted by Happydaz at 1:33 PM on December 21, 2007

« Older Help me with my Toshiba   |   Where is the jewelry in OKC? Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.