Should I file a claim with my auto insurance?
February 9, 2008 5:53 PM   Subscribe

Should I file an auto insurance claim on what appeared to be a fender bender but now involves engine overheating? The person I rear ended didn't see a need to claim since his car was fine so I don't have any info on him.

So I ended up rear ending someone but they had no damage to their car but mine on the other hand, had section of its front bumper and hood crumple. He was all cool about it and said he didn't see a need to claim anything on his part, I looked at mine and thought only cosmetic damages, so we kind of just parted ways... The problem was later when I got back on the highway and my engine overheat light came on. Smoke was coming from under the hood, but because of the way the car was hit I was unable to open up the hood. I had to call AAA to get towed.

So now I'm without a car and trying to decide if I should make a claim to get it fixed or just go and buy a new car? I asked my friend who is more mechanically inclined who said I was looking at $3000-4000 in repairs.

My car is an 02 neon, has been paid off since 06 I've never had any claims before, clean driving record, turned 25 last month, my renewal is coming up next month, and my deductible is $1000. I don't know anything about the guy and he didn't get any information from me either. I have esurance.

My friend recommended to not mention the fact that I hit another guy and that I should instead just say I hit a stationary object. His reasoning that my chances of insurance going up due to damage not related to an accident is lower than saying I hit another car.
posted by spacesbetween to Work & Money (12 answers total)
 
His reasoning is also insurance fraud, of course.

As a first step, you should get a real mechanic to give you an actual estimate.
posted by smackfu at 5:58 PM on February 9, 2008


As a second step, you should get your insurance company on the phone, and ask them what the consequences would be of the various choices now open to you in this hypothetical situation.
posted by flabdablet at 6:04 PM on February 9, 2008


Don't lie to the insurance company.

Insurance is to protect against the risk of an expense you couldn't otherwise afford. Can you afford this one?
posted by winston at 6:28 PM on February 9, 2008


pssst... hitting a stationary object is an accident
posted by white light at 6:50 PM on February 9, 2008 [1 favorite]


so you probably have some radiator/cooling system damage.
What kind of coverage do you have?
If you rear-end someone in most jusidictions, you will probably be found at fault.
posted by ArgentCorvid at 7:07 PM on February 9, 2008


Depending on the jurisdiction, it's required to report to the police any accident that results in over $ XXXX dollars in total damage, within some time frame (eg 72 hours). That's hitch #1. Number 2 is that insurance usually requires the above police report before they will process a collision claim.

So, it would seem you have to concoct some sort of situation not involving the other car in order to make a collision claim. This is the wonderful world of insurance fraud, and you do NOT want to go there.

My advice is this: you've made a mistake by not getting the other guy's info and reporting the accident if legally required. The best option at this point is to suck it up and get the car repaired yourself. This is by far preferable than trying to shakedown the insurance company, and getting caught at it.

You can do as little or as much as you can afford. For example, you can just make the repairs that will get your car back on the road. This may be just a rad or a hose, depending on what got damaged. Also, it's a fact of life that collision repairs have two prices: the price the insurance would pay, and the price if it's out of your own pocket. The latter is usually quite less, so you may find that with a helpful body shop, judicious use of used parts and a little compromise in the end result, you can have your car repaired for a more reasonable price.

I don't have a great opinion of insurance companies. I harbour a paranoid belief that the average individual pays too much for house & car insurance because the insurance companies use their "small" insurance policies to also cover the big risks they undertake in high finance and other dealings. And the whole accident thing is scary - the police investigation, the possibility of charges, the inflated costs, the likelihood that your rate will get jacked up. I've found that most people, even lawyers, prefer to avoid reporting accidents if at all possible.

Nonetheless, insurance companies are smart, and can often smell fraud quickly, and they can make your life really miserable, like make you uninsurable, if you get caught.

Consider this a life lesson. I hope it doesn't turn out to be that expensive.
posted by Artful Codger at 7:13 PM on February 9, 2008 [1 favorite]


My friend recommended to not mention the fact that I hit another guy and that I should instead just say I hit a stationary object. His reasoning that my chances of insurance going up due to damage not related to an accident is lower than saying I hit another car.

This sounds completely wrong. No matter what, you're admitting you damaged your car, you're at fault. It's going to count against you and raise your insurance rates.

Now, if you don't care about the cosmetic damage, it sounds like you either popped off a radiator hose, or (more likely) cracked your radiator, and need a new one. This is like a $300 fix. If you can live with the crinkly hood and bumper, and there are no safety issues (broken lights, etc.), then there's no reason not to fix it and keep driving.
posted by knave at 7:21 PM on February 9, 2008


if you don't care about the cosmetic damage, it sounds like you either popped off a radiator hose, or (more likely) cracked your radiator, and need a new one. This is like a $300 fix.

Second that. We can't be sure, of course, but I suspect the $3-4K estimate includes all the body work you'd need to make the car look like new. If all you need is something to carry you and yours around, a new radiator should take care of it.
posted by echo target at 8:09 PM on February 9, 2008


I feel the need to be a counter to all the "it's probably just a radiator" voices.

You crunched the front of your car hard enough to harm the radiator, and prevent your hood from opening. It's entirely reasonable to think that some other parts of the front-end got twisted and are misaligned or damaged.

No matter what, you should have somebody look at it and verify that it's all mechanically sound.
posted by Tacos Are Pretty Great at 8:19 PM on February 9, 2008


Isn't it always the case that if you rear-end someone, you're at fault? Also may depend on where you are.. here in DC I've had a similar accident (less damage) and the police wouldn't even do a report because it was a minor accident and no one injured and clearly since it was a rear end collision, well, it was my fault.

But.. an 02 Neon with a $1k deductible, I figure get an estimate first, if repairs are over $1k do you even want to pay that much rather than just buy a new car?
posted by citron at 10:54 PM on February 9, 2008


Just so you know, one overheat in a disposable car like a Neon can ruin the engine. Have it looked at carefully for warpage before you get the body and radiator fixed.
posted by M.C. Lo-Carb! at 9:09 AM on February 10, 2008



Isn't it always the case that if you rear-end someone, you're at fault?


It's always your fault from a police perspective ("failure to maintain adequate following distance"), but I think the "almost" was for no-fault states.
posted by smackfu at 9:11 AM on February 10, 2008


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