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Dealing with Bad Insurance

I’m sure this in not an uncommon problem:

I had my car totaled by a guy with dreadful insurance. There is no doubt about fault-they admit it and the guy was written tickets. I didn’t have more than liability as I was driving a '95. The Protege DX, with all the bells and whistles, Blue Books between 2,500 and 3,500; it was in great shape. The insurance is offering me $50; claiming a salvage fee of >$250 and pre-existing damage of >$1700. They are also refusing to pay storage fees to the shop where it sat for 2 weeks before they sent an adjuster (which is illegal). They are betting that I don’t want to jump through 1.5-2 years worth of time and expense hoops to get the $2,500-$3000 that I should be getting. What can I do? How are these businesses with fraudulent practices allowed to function?

If your insurance company is not going to help you deal with these crumbs, your going to have to get a lawyer. Plain and simple. This is a legal matter now. I hope you know a pit bull of a lawyer to help you. But, the chances of getting all the $3,000 are slim, especially when it has to be split with your lawyer.

If the car had $1700 worth of pre-existing damage, you might as well just walk away from this. It’s not worth the effort to fight them…

You are NOT governed by any insurance company as to fault, or how much should be paid to you. His insurance protects HIM against legal action brought by YOU.

Take him to court (small claims?) and state your case there. You can mention how the car was in great shape before the accident, etc.

People usually let insurance companies “duke it out” as a matter of convenience to the point that drivers assume that those insurance companies have the final say. They do NOT!

Where is your insurance company? You pay them for protection in circumstances like this. They should deal with the other guy’s insurer, not you. Did you notify your insurer of the accident? If not, do it immediately. They should at least offer advice on the situation.

Pay a lawyer by the hour to write a nasty letter. Don’t pay a contingency fee of 1/3 and the lawyer will likely not want to do it that way as there is not enough money involved unless your lawyer can see to allude to some kind of personal injury. It may be too late for that if you did not have to see a doctor assuming that you were in the car when it was hit.

You could lodge a complaint with your state’s insurance commissioner but you will need adequate evidence that you sustained the loss. I traded another brand but a 96 last year that although was not at all like new and was not dented nor rusted, was very functional transportation; got $500. Are you certain that your 95 was worth $2500 using the correct condition adjustment factor? Have you checked KBB and NADA?

For next time you will want uninsured and underinsured motorist coverage.

Check with your insurance company. They may cover you, or may not, but asking will not hurt. Other than that, I would check out small claims court. I have used it several times and I have won each time.

Good Luck

The price guides often do not reflect the real world. I’m having an impossible time seeing a 95 Protege being worth 3 grand; much less one with 1700 dollars worth of pre-existing damage.

The insurance company will pay you what they feel the real world value of the car is; not what the price guides state. You should take the money because (assuming this car has high miles too) it’s worth 500 to a 1000 dollars; maybe.
Go to eBay and look up completed auctions for Proteges. That will show you what they’re really worth.

Where in the books does it say that a 2 week wait on an adjuster is illegal?

It’s how the insurance company determinies the “real world” value of a car that bothers me. I had a 1988 Ford Taurus that was totaled by another driver back in November of 1995. I looked up the book price of the car and checked prices in the newspaper and in the publications of cars for sale that were available for free at the super markets. I also called a dealer that knew my car. The figures I got for a car equivalent to mine were between $3800-$4000. My dealer said that if he were selling my car, he would not take less than $4000.
The insurance company called and said that my car was declared a total loss and that the computer printout they used showed the value at $3125. The claim was that this was the “market value” of my car. I claimed that market was what I would have to pay for a replacement. I asked the adjustor to find an equivalent car and get a guaranteed price from the dealer. I would either take the car or the money. The adjuster became indignant and told me that “he did not go shopping”. I responded that if I had to go shoppping, I would bill the insurance company for my time and at that time I was paid $100 an hour to do consulting work. The adjuster then snapped, “I don’t have to listen to this crap”, and hung up. Since we had a rental company provided by his insurance company, I didn’t worry about it. The next day he called back and said, “We have to get together on this car price”. I said to him, "Young man, I want two things from you: an apology for your conduct on the telephone yesterday and $4000 for the Taurus your insured party destroyed. The adjuster replied, “I am putting a check for $4000 in the mail today. When you get the check, return the title”. He then hung up.

IMHO, an insurance settlement should be the replacement cost of the car as determined by the prices being asked for the car in the region. I wouldn’t stiff an insurance company, because we all pay for that with increased premiums. On the other hand, I do want to be treated fairly.

My last dealing with an insurance company was a about eight years ago. I was in my 1978 Oldsmobile and a woman ran into the right rear quarter panel with her car and then sped off. She was being chased by the manager of a retail store for shoplifting. I was able to get the license number. The shoplifter clipped another car as well. The store manager called the police and I was asked to wait. The police prepared a report and I was told that I had to call my insurance company. I said that I didn’t have collision and it wouldn’t make any difference. The police officer said that I was supposed to do it anyway. I complied with the request and did call my insurance. A couple days later the insurance company called me and said that my uninsured motorist protection would cover me and that I was to take the car to a body shop to get an estimate. I indicated that I was pretty busy, but would try to do it when I had time. I would have frankly been embarrassed to take my old heap to a body shop. I must have stalled too long, because I got another call from the insurance company that its adjuster was at my house in my driveway looking at my car and asked me where I would like them to send the check. I drove right home. The adjuster was there and looked my car over and said, “We will issue you a check for $258. I had to subtract for a rust hole in the panel”. She then proceeded to print out a check on the computer and printer in the back seat of her car. She handed me the check and I told her that I would go in and get the title. “What do I want with title. I’m not buying your old heap. That’s your problem”. I guess I was $258 to the good.

swimeveryday’s price is about twice the value according to edmunds. The DX is the bottom of the line. A DX with auto transmission, AM/FM/cassette, and AC (only options available) is worth about $1260 on a dealer’s lot.

swimeveryday, where did you get your blue book value?

I’m in total agreement with you on this issue. The insurance company’s perceived value is generally far less than what the cars are actually selling for and I’ve been through this dog and pony show several times myself.

While I’m not sure, I believe the adjusters use the little yellow/black/blue book of values that the car dealers use when figuring real value. This is different from the books that the consumer may buy at the bookstore or wherever and is part of a dealer only/subscription service. On the cover they look the same; inside it’s completely different.

While I won’t lump all of them together, my opinion of the majority of adjusters is not very high. They’re paid to get the ins. company off the hook as cheaply as possible and a fair number of them will lie through their teeth if that’s what it takes.

Blue Book is likely KBB and an asking price not going price. Edmunds is more realistic of prices paid.

Basically you have been given an offer to settle. Of course they low ball it. Counter offer it will back of why your claim is legit(print outs of , kbb etc) along with why their fees are not legitimate.

The real value is between what they offered and what you thin you are entitled to. This is normal insurance practice. This is why I carry high deductible collision/comprehensive insurance beyond liability personally. My insurance takes care of the hassle instead of myself.

As soon as the insurance co. gets a letter that starts off with “This office has been retained by Mr. Swim to represent him in his multiple claims for damages against joe the underinsured …” the settlement value goes up considerably. As any good lawyer will tell you, the initial offers from ins. cos are lowball at best, insulting at worst. It’s not a fraudulent practice so much as it is just a common business practice among insurance companies which have ethics that fall far below lawyers AND politicians.

A lawyer will help you calculate your actual damages, compensatory damages and any incidental expenses. Retain a lawyer and then don’t discuss the matter online or with anyone else unless your lawyer says ok. If you can’t get a recommendation for one from a friend or family member, call the lawyer referral service of your local county bar association. Ask for a few names of guys who do insurance work for plaintiffs and personal injury. Oh, and a good personal injury lawyer will probably take the case on a contingency since there seems to be your insurance company and the other guy.

Now, how’s your neck feeling? Sit down, you look a bit pale.

A lot of you had some good ideas and some good questions. So let me clarify some of the details:

  1. I got the value of the car directly off the blue book site. But that doesn’t matter much because the scamming insurance company freely admits that it is about a $2500 car.
  2. A letter from an attorney will do no good. This company gets literally thousands of them. And I cannot find a lawyer who will take the case because the numbers are not high enough to make it worth their time. Which is what the insurance company banks on.
  3. The $1,700 + in ‘pre-existing’ damage is to areas of the car that were smashed in the crash. There wasn’t any damage there at all pre-crash. So they invented ‘pre-existing’ damage and then sent me pictures of the areas that were smashed as if to prove it.
  4. The insurance company, American Access Casualty, does not belong to the BBB, even though the BBB has literally thousands of complaints against it. As does the state office of professional standards that governs auto insurance.
  5. Several posts talk about the lack of effort from my insurance company. They are not to blame. I didn’t have anything but liability coverage because I never anticipated this situation. Not so smart in hindsight.
  6. A 2 week wait on an adjuster is not illegal. But the law here in IL says that the at-fault party is responsible for storage fees at a garage as long as I make a good faith effort to minimize them. It’s black and white. And I had the car removed as soon as I learned that the adjuster had seen it.

So now what do you think?

Yes–I gave it to my son and he brought it back. A fellow in an old car club was going to take it, but his wife nixed the idea. I do use the car to go to receptions that administrators hold at the university where I teach. It’s always important as a faculty member to go looking poor.

I went through something with Hartford many years ago on my totalled out Corvette. They (agent, not adjuster) offered 1/3 of what it worth and after several days of back and forth they told me (bluntly) to take it or leave it, or take a hike.

Now I’m pxxxxx. A friend steered me to a lawyer friend of his who handed me his card and suggested I contact Hartford, mention his name, and also mention some slight headaches and neck pain I didn’t know I was having.

The agent was very sarcastic and did not believe I had talked to a lawyer. When he snidely asked “just who is this lawyer that you ALLEGEDLY talked to” I gave him the name and phone number of the attorney. Just like a light switch the attitude changed instantly.

The agent said that I “must have misunderstood what they were offering and there would be no problem with giving me triple the offer”. Drop by any time and pick up the check, he says. When I told him I’d be by there at 2 that afternoon the check was present but the agent “had to step out for a while for personal reasons”.
Maybe you need to get that neck examined and have that blurred vision tested… :slight_smile:

This is exactly why I carry full coverage on my old car. Been there. Done that.

How much money did you save by only carrying liability insurance? Was it more than $3,000?

When you drop all coverage except what is required by law, this is exactly what can happen. In accidents that are someone else’s fault, you are on your own.

There were so many answers. I didn’t bother to read them, although I am sure there are a lot of opinions that might help your situation.
It is cheap enough to add to your own insurance a provision to protect yourself from under-insured and uninsured drivers. This provision should be asked for as part of a basic insurance package. It is not required. You must add this coverage. It costs less than comprehensive insurance, which I also recommend as part of a basic auto insurance plan.