Auto Accidents and Insurance Claims

Parent Q&A

  • Car accident and safety of car & carseat

    (6 replies)

    I'm in my third trimester of pregnancy and was the not-at-fault party in an accident recently. The damage was extensive enough that the car had to be towed away after the accident. Our car was a Prius we bought new barely over a year ago and had less than 10,000 miles on it. I'm already getting the sense that our insurance company is going to try to settle this quickly with the other party, and I don't have full confidence we will come out of this on par with what we had moments before the accident, not to mention the hassel and anxiety of going through the ordeal. Given that no one wants to buy cars that were previously in accidents, how do I know it will be as safe as possible to drive my children in, even once it's repaired? The insurance company doesn't want to replace the car seat because it was unoccupied (thankfully!!) at the time of the crash, unless there's "damage". How do I assess that? I'm not completely risk averse, but my children's safety is not something I'm willing to gamble a penny on. I love our car, I'm not a litigious person, and the other driver seemed like a perfectly decent human being, but I don't want to end up way behind because of something that was not my fault. I'd love to hear any advice from anyone who has gone through anything similar!

    Hi there,

    I was in a car accident when I was 39 weeks pregnant, with my toddler in the back seat. Thankfully, no one was hurt, and my healthy baby was born the following week. A truck went through a red light in an intersection, and hit us at an angle so the car’s frame was torqued.  Our car was also relatively new (a Subaru Outback, we’d had it less than a year), and we were also concerned about safety due to the torqued frame. They basically rebuilt the car, with a new frame, and gave it back. We never had any issues with it. Insurance paid for the repair, a new car seat, and a rental car stipend during the repair period. Even though we were reimbursed for everything, it was really stressful! Pregnancy is a stressful time anyway, without the added stress of a car accident and all that goes with it. We didn’t ask for any money other than reimbursement for costs because frankly, I didn’t have the energy and I was just so thankful everyone was ok. I think you should absolutely get a new car seat, and you shouldn’t have to pay for it — either the person who hit your car should pay for it directly, or their  insurance company. As for selling a car that has been in an accident: We ended up trading our car in for a Mini Cooper at the dealership 5 or 6 years later and it wasn’t an issue. I mean, we didn’t get much for it because it was very definitely The Family Car! I’m glad you’re ok! Hope this helps. 

    You must insist the insurance company replaced the car seat. I just went through this and send them the excerpt from the car seat manual and safety regulations I found online which state that if the seat is involved in an accident it must be replaced even if there is no visible damage. They reimbursed me after I sent them screenshots. 

    I was in a car accident in a car that we had owned for less than 1 month with an unoccupied car seat. The manufacturer's recommendations are always that you replace the car seat after a moderate or severe accident, even if it was unoccupied or shows no obvious signs of damage ( Your accident definitely sounds moderate or severe. Unfortunately, the car insurance company is not strictly required to pay to replace the car seat. Ours did, but they didn't pay for a rental car while we found a new car, so it really depends on how generous your insurance is. I would immediately purchase a new car seat (you can often trade in old car seats to get a discount on a new one at stores), and then submit the receipt to the car insurance company and pressure them. No guarantees they'll pay up, but it's still worth replacing. In terms of the car itself, as long as the repair is done by a reputable body shop (try to find one that issues a warranty on their work!), it should be fine. My insurance company didn't consider our car worth repairing and totaled it...

Archived Q&A and Reviews

Auto Accident - Medical Expenses Exceed Coverage

Sept 2006

I was recently in a minor car accident and am suffering from TMJ (jaw pain). I have seen a chiropractor, osteopath, dentist and now a TMJ specialist. My auto insurance has a $5,000 med pay, and shockingly, I am at the point of exhausting that but not nearly done with all the treatment. What is the normal protocol here? Would my insurance co. normally go after the other co. to collect additional $$ to cover my injuries? (I was not at fault) It turns out the other driver also has Geico, so in some ways it seems there is an inherent conflict of interest with the same company representing both parties. My claims adjuster told me that once my med pay was used up, I should start billing my medical insurance. As far as I know most of the treatment I am getting is not covered by my medical insurance. The receptionist at the TMJ specialist's office has encouraged me to get a lawyer. The idea of suing seems horrible to me, especially when I feel the other driver made an honest mistake (didn't see me coming). On the other hand, I can't afford to be financially (as well as physically) set back by this accident. Any advice would be appreciated! Out of Med Pay

If you are injured and need more medical attention, you should seek reimbursement from the insurance company under the other person's policy, if they were at fault. You also need to keep in mind that you may incure future medical bills for the same problem -- often in car accidents you have recurring injuries. If you seek an attorney, they will initially negotiate with the insurance company and most likely will be able to settle on your behalf without having to file suit. I think you have one year from the date of accident to file a lawsuit, so there should be plenty of time to reach an agreement/settlement. You want to take care of yourself, so you can take care of your kid (s) Anonymous

Should I file a claim for hit-and-run?

Feb 2005

My husband and I have filed two claims against our auto insurance in the past three years. One claim was for someone hitting my husband's car (so not our fault) and one claim was for my husband hitting someone (so technically his fault). For the one that was his fault the police called an ambulance for x- rays for the other party. So we figure that, with the cost of the ambulance and the hospital visit, it was an expensive claim.

Now my car was hit by a hit-and-run driver while it was parked outside our house. The repair estimate is $3500. We have $1000 deductible. We don't know whether to file a claim or not. We are worried that, if we have too many claims over too short a period, our rates will shoot up or we may possibly lose our insurance. But a friend told me that, if it's not your fault, there is no affect on your insurance rates. I don't know what to believe. Does anyone have any similar experience that might help us decide what to do? Thanks!

I had two car accidents within about a month. I was not at fault with either accident, but the first was a hit and run and totaled our car. When the second happened, I was tempted not to file a claim with my insurance company, as the other driver had insurance, and the second car that was hit did not have collision insurance with our company. Our insurance broker pointed out that: (a) anything with damage $500 or greater had to be reported to the police (and what car damage isn't at that level today)--and it WOULD be reported if we were working with the other driver's insurance, and (b) if our insurance company found we had been in an accident and not reportd it, THEN they would be likely to cancel. I reported the accident, the company (Kemper) was very helpful, despite h! aving no responsibility to pay for anything, and it does not appear to have affected our rates--after all, it wasn't my fault. fellow driver

I think that filing a claim, even if you were not at fault can end up costing you in higher premiums. We filed a claim when we were not at fault and then another when we were at fault and our rates went up. And i'm pretty sure that the agent told us that it was in part due to the claim where we were not at fault. Dan

April 2002

Hi! Our car had just been hit in the back by a minivan on highway 880. The minivan took off right after the accident. We do have a 3rd party witness though. We have uninsured motorist insurance (State Farm) but we wonder if our premium will go up even if the accident was not our fault since our insurance has to pay for it. We assume it will be about $2000 to repair the damage. Our agent is very strict and we don't want to ask him since we don't really feel he is going to be ''on our side''. Anybody with similar experiences ?

I had a similar situation where I was rear ended, pushed into the car in front of me and the person who hit me then took off. I got a police report (there were witnesses) and filed with my insurance company since I was worried that the car in front of me was going to file against me - but because it was a hit and run and there was a police report I wasn't held responsible, nor did my premiums rise. stevew

We were involved in a hit and run at the end of February and are insured through AAA. In our case, I was driving on MLK in the right lane and a car in the left lane made a sudden lane shift towards me. In order to avoid being hit I was forced into the parking lane which was OK until I couldn't stop soon enough to avoid hitting a parked car. We were not able to get the license plate of the person who caused this and did not have a witness (although I'm not sure that's going to make a difference in your case.) This 'event' will cause our insurance rates to go up (I think I will lose my safe driver discount; I hope no more than that.) We also have uninsured motorist coverage---but I think that it requires that the uninsured motorist stops and takes responsibility! Our car was not drivable without repairs (which totalled around $2700) so we really had no choice but to go ahead and call AAA and proceed. Fortunately, my husband was very matter of fact about the whole thing which helped me realize we were lucky to be unhurt, we are lucky to be able to afford insurance in the first place, and in some bigger scheme of things---it's only money. sigh. Sally

We've found that in general our rates have not gone up as long as the driver on the policy was not at fault. Examples--1) my mother rolled our car; the insurance company cancelled the policy, but the next company gave us a good driver rate--my mother wasn't on our policy! 2) a babysitter was driving our car and had an accident at which she was at fault--the company didn't raise the rate, as the sitter was no longer driving the car (and had never been on the policy). 3) I was just the victim of a hit and run and it never occured to me not to report it to the insurance company. You are required to file a report with the police or DMV, I'm not sure which (as our broker sent us the form and will file it), if the damage is more than $500, so the company can learn of it anyway. The insurance company and broker have been quite sympathetic. I figure if they try to raise the rates, we'll check with other companies. Anonymous (can't embarass my mother!)

I don't think your rates will go up immediately. I was hit broadside by a car at a T intersection and they were coming up the leg and missed a stop sign. There was no contest, it was all handled amicably (between insurance companies though I cursed at the other driver). There was no reflection on our insurance fact we got the 10% dividend for being such good drivers. My husband three years later was hit by someone pulling out of a parking space. Again, no problem our insurer handled it all with little grief on our part (AAA insurance) but then this year our premium went WAY up. I called to learn that our typical Berkeley 10 year old Volvo station wagon had been reclassified as a ''large'' car and the premiums went up. So we shopped around. For other insurers (and you might try this online) you have to list all accidents-those in which you were at fault and those you were not at fault. We both had to claim one not at fault. Later we redid the survey without claiming it and the rate was lower. I guess they try to assess the kind of person who is just in the wrong place at the wrong time. Good Luck

I've found that auto insurance rates will go up regardless of fault after an accident. I hate it, but that's apparently the way it is. You'll see this is true by looking at the questions you get when getting a quote for a new insurance policy ... any accidents within the past 5 years are applicable.

For the hit-and-run, I guess you didn't get a plate number or anything that the police can use as that is a serious offense for the other driver. If there is any way to track down the other driver, than you (or your insurance company) can sue for the damages. If you don't have anything, then you're pretty much stuck with the higher rates. Perhaps before calling your agent, call another agent with the same company (perhaps from a different city, pretend you are a new potential customer) and ask them for a rate quote, and then get them to tell you the difference in rates for one, not your fault accident. -Mike

I had a similar experience. I don't know what your policy says but I was hit on 580 and pulled over to call the Highway patrol. Frankly, they seemed disbelieving which was one issue but a report was taken. The main point is that, even though I too had uninsured motorist coverage - my claim was DENIED. The rationale was that there was no known motorist, insured or otherwise. And now that accident is on my DMV record. Again, policies may vary on this but I certainly thought it should be covered, but it wasn't. marie k.

Hi, I used to be an insurance agent. This is a pretty simple situation that will be covered by your insurance if you have collision coverage on your car.

If you were rearended you will not be seen at fault unless the witness says you backed up into the vehicle behind you. There will be no points added on your insurance premium. It will not be covered by uninsured motorists unless you can prove the person that hit you was uninsured. It would, however, be covered under collison (if you have the coverage) and your carrier may or may not charge you the deductible. I would push them since you are not at fault. and have a witness. Just so you know, if the witness was someone in your vehicle, the insurance company will not consider them such.

Your agent, is only that, because their job is to sell insurance not handle the claims. You will get better answers from the insurance adjuster after you put a claim in. The adjuster will have someone appraise the car, and is also someone who will not answer your questions. Feeling like your agent is ''not on your side'' is not good but is basically accurate. He is a State Farm employee. If you are looking for a agent to be on your side you should switch to an independent agent who represents you, not the companies who's coverages they sell.

Good luck, I suggest you submit the claim and try to get them to cover the deductible. That is the most you could be out on financially in this situation. By the way, the more you push insurance companies, the more likely they will back down. They know people are intimidated by them and use it. Applying some pressure to not have to pay the deductible is a decision usually made by a manager. Nina

We recently had 2 incidents where other drivers bashed into our auto--within a couple of months of each other! Our insurance (CSAA) was pretty good--basically we ended up paying zero, and have not yet recvd any rate increase notice. michael

I also have State Farm Insurance and have had several claims. My insurance has not gone up. I have them for home and car they are quick and they don't play. Meaning if you have unisured insurance they will fix the car, you will have to pay your deductable. In the meantime the leaving the scene of an accident is a crime. If you got the license number and the 3rd party gives info, it will not go against you. They base the negligance off the police report. Hopefully you got one. Usually in these cases State Farm will take care of you and then they will pursue if the police are able to find the individual, State Farm will go after them for damages.

Bascially call your agent, he will take down info and then your claim will be sent on to the claims department and you will be working with a claims adjuster. Its painless. You will take the car down to the claims office, they will take a photo of the damage then based on what they think needs to be repaired they will give you a check right then and there. If the cost lets say from the dealer is more, they will call the dealer and confirm the price and they will give you more. My volvo got hit and the new grill was more than what they stated, I told them that I had called and it was more, they confirmed with volvo and gave me the money. By the way if you don't feel comfortable with your agent I suggest that you contact State Farm and ask to be reassigned. Cindy

We had an accident recently and our usaa agent told us that in California an insurance co can raise your premiums if the claim is in excess of $500. Amy

A few years ago we were also involved in a hit-and-run. We were on I-80 and someone rear-ended us, which caused us to hit the car in front of us. We and the car in front stopped, but the driver who hit us took off. Everyone had cell phones and the folks in front got the driver's license plate, so we were all covered in that respect. But back to your question: our rates did not increase as a result of this. We have CSAA and have had it for many many years and they have always been fair. Additionally, my husband's car was rear-ended twice in three days (!) just days before our wedding (gee, that was fun!) and his insurance at the time (State Farm) didn't go up from that, either. It wasn't hit-and- run, but he was rear-ended. Lori

We want it repaired, insurance wants to total it

Feb 2004

A couple of weeks ago, our car was hit by an inattentive driver. The driver's side doors are scraped and dented and the running board is mangled. The car still drives normally, and no one was hurt. The other driver was cited and his car insurance (Farmer's) is paying for the repairs -- maybe. They sent us to a particular repair shop, and are now claiming that our car may have to be totaled because its value is so low. The adjuster laughed at our protestations of its ''blue book'' value, assuring us that they use a very different standard to arrive at a value (several thousand less than the Kelley est. trade-in value). All we want is to have our low-mileage, perfectly-running car cleaned up. Do we have any recourse, if they refuse to repair it and offer us what seems like an unreasonably low sum instead? Thanks for any tales of tangling with the insurers, or warning us off a lost cause!
Scratched and dented

Dear Scratched and Dented, I am shocked you're having this problem. I own a Farmers Insurance Agency and in my experience Farmers is extremely generous with claims. The problem may be this specific claims adjuster. Please contact me and I will help. Kai

Regarding your auto accident: You can negotiate your settlement with the insurance company. You probably had to go to their shop for an initial estimate because this shop likely takes the place of their claim adjustment via some sort of certification with the insurer. However, you are free to take your car to other shops and get additional opinions. You don't have to share these with the insurer. Then you can ask the insurer for a check for whatever they would have paid you for your ''total'' loss, minus the salvage value they would have received for selling your car for parts. Negotiate this amount based on your own careful research! You can use this money to repair your car - or not. The sum is meant to compensate you for your car's loss of market value. Now, please be sure the insurer is not totaling your car because of frame damage. In that case, you really are better off buying another car with the proceeds. Best of luck. Insurance professional

Our car was totally recently, and my husband recieved some very good advice. DO NOT TAKE THE FIRST OFFER. Hold out for what you want. The adjusters will always make it sound like it's their best offer, but they are under pressure to settle, and to settle quickly. Be polite, but firm. Don't take the first offer, and hold out for what you think is fair. On our very low- value car, the second offer was over twice the first offer, which ma! de a huge difference in being able to buy a replacement in much better condition even than the car that had been wrecked. Happy, in the end

You should contact the Department of Insurance complaint line at 800-927-4357 and file a complaint. They will contact the company and often times that is all that is needed to resolve the complaint. Lara

Do I have to repair the car if insurance pays?

August 2003

My car recently was hit by a falling tree limb. The tree was on University property. I have begun the process of getting estimates to submit to UC's insurance, but several shops have said that the estimate is very preliminary, as the damage is to the roof and the roof must be cut out and replaced. The damage does not affect the drivability of the car. Is there any law that states that I HAVE to repair the car? Can the insurance company pay me directly for the damage to the car and allow me to act as I see fit? I think that I can personally take care of much of the dents without cutting up the roof, and then have the car painted. But I do want compensation for the loss of sale-ability of my vehicle. anon

In the past I have done just that but I don't know if there was any 'law' that I was breaking. It certainly seems to be something that's done - especially if the owner is mechanically savvy. I think it might be a don't ask, don't tell kind of thing - but you might want to read the fine print on your contract. Of course, you would never go into it with the intention of defrauding the insurance company. Anon

Our old car was hit while parked a few years ago and the man that hit it kindly left a note. It was only a smasked light and some dents, but it was a Volvo, so everything was pricey. We took it for an estimate and they gave us a high one, but told us we didn't have to fix it. The adjuster came out and looked at the car, took the estimate and cut us a check then and there. Our car was 10 years old and on its last legs so we just deposited the cash. Lucky for us we never fixed it, because a couple of months later it was hit on the street again, no note this time, and COMPLETELY TOTALLED! Just sheared it off the axle. We used the other insurence money toward our new car. No more accidents!

If you don't have a car loan, you don't HAVE to get the car repaired. You can just take that check from the insurance company and spend it on whatever you want. If you do have a car loan, it is likely you are required to have the repair done, so you should check the terms of your loan. Even if you are not required to, you might wish to have it done while it is still covered by insurance. In my sadly not-that- limited experience, the insurance company adjusters often estimate pretty low, compared to what it really costs in the end after the body shop does the work. My insurance adjuster actually tried to talk me into walking away with the check and not doing the repair, and when I found out how much the seemingly minor repair actually cost, I was really glad I didn't. anon

Appealing an auto insurance claim

Jan 2003

My car just got hit in a parking lot. I was stopped in the lane and a man backed into me. While we were exchanging information, he kept saying how minor the damage was, and how it wasn't worth reporting to the insurance company. I told him I would think about it.

But then I got a call from AAA (we both had AAA policies), saying HE had reported it. AAA says that the other driver claims we were both moving, and since he doesn't admit fault, they can't assign it to him. That doesn't make sense to me.

I have several concerns. I'm pretty sure the damage is less than $500 (the deductible). I'm concerned that since we're both insured by AAA, the adjuster is trying to make it a ''no-fault'' situation so they won't have to pay because the damage is below the deductible. Does anybody have any experience with problems with claims with AAA?

Secondly, I'm afraid this will appear on MY record and increase MY rates.

I'm ignorant of the process here. Can I appeal this? How? Thanks!

My experience with AAA was that I rear-ended someone, but they were at fault (which is unusual and hard to prove). I went to AAA and explained my case, and they agreed with me enough to hire a lawyer and pursue it for a year of hearings, depositions and arbitration. I don't know what they'd do if both people were AAA clients, but I had an excellent experience with them. They took me seriously and defended me extensively. Good luck. Judith

As the Executive Director of a trial lawyer organization I have come to realize that Insurance companies aren't necessarily on your side- especially if it's going to cost them money. I would suggest that you not let this go as it may very well affect your rates and driving record- squeaky wheels get the oil. And shame on the guy who rammed you! I asked a group of attorneys who deal with AAA and here's what they had to say: if the person has any witnesses to show the other guy is lying that would help, let AAA take their statement. AAA has to consider other witnesses statements. if not, consider filing a small claims action against the other guy (the liar), and have him served with it. that will shake him up. then either negotiate with AAA, after their insured has been served by you with a lawsuit. they may be more willing to negotiate. however, since it's under the deductible, yours and his, maybe the best bet is to file the small claims case and then tell AAA to close the claim, since it's under their deductible amt, that you will pursue their driver directly for reimb. they may then close the file and not hold anyone at fault.

take the driver to small claims and win. he won't do well lying in court. Juliette

I used to have CSAA insurance and at the time their policy was if both drivers involved in an accident were CSAA insureds, they waived the deductible.

Anyway, your first step is simply to tell your side of the story to the insurance adjuster. That is likely enough to prevent them from simply assigning fault to you. It *is* possible for them to assign fault 50-50, but that shouldn't affect your rates. You should also find out whether the other driver *has* claimed damages of more than $500, because if he has, you are obligated to file an accident report with the DMV. Holly

I had almost exactly the same situtation (someone backed into me, admitted it to me and then later lied to the insurance company about what happened). We both also had AAA. I told them over and over that the man was lying and suck by my story. I told them that I simply would not accept anything less than assigning him full responsibility and having all my expenses paid,including the deductible. Eventually they saw it my way (maybe they just wanted to close the case and they knew I wouldn't let it go). My advice is stick to your guns and continue to pursue it as long as necessary. It is always a good idea to speak to a higher level person if you don't get satisfaction from the person you are dealing with. Good Luck! Gen

When I backed up and hit another car (whose driver in my opinion was actually at fault) the collilsion was ruled 100% my fault simply because I was the one in reverse. I don't know if this applies to parking lots, but it might be worth checking out. anonymous, but a good driver!!

Teen car accident - report or not?

Aug 2002

My 18-yr-old just rear-ended someone. These are the issues we're contending with and perhaps someone has some advice for us, particularly in dealing with our insurance company:

Our car is a 1986 Volvo worth about $1500 according to the blue book. Damage seems to be $2900. To fix it with used parts would be $2300. I imagine if we make a claim to the insurance, after we paid the $500 deductable, they'd total the car and give us about $1000. Then they'd raise our insurance costs $750/year for 3 years. The other party had only minor damage (says the teen), but they're making a claim so the insurance co. WILL be involved.

Note: I had planned to keep the Volvo until all children were out of the house (3 more years.)

Does anyone have any experience or advice about things we need to think of when making decisions? If WE don't make a claim to our ins. co., will that reduce future rate increases? Thanks for your help. Teen's Mom

If the other party is filing a claim, your insurance company WILL know about it and may raise your rates anyway. Being upfront with them might save your insurance rate in the long run.

State law requires all accidents of $500 or more in damages be reported to the DMV. You have only 10 or 20 days to file the form. You must provide insurance info on the form. You can get the form from the DMV or your insurance company. If you decide to keep a car that the insurance company deems totaled, you can register the car under a salvage certificate (go to the DMV web site for details). Just my two cents, despite the possibility that your rates may go up, there may be a valuable lesson in honesty and responsibility for actions in reporting the accident. --Liz

Insurance companies are businesses and as such will take advantage when ever they can. If the party your teenager hit reports the accident, and your insurance company determines that it was his/her fault, your insurance company will charge your policy with the accident...even if they do not pay anything to you or the other party. As you probably know, in rear end accidents, it is almost always the fault of the car in the back. Consequently, future rate increases will be applied to your policy according to your insurance company's business practices. Some companies do not charge for the first accident, moving violation, etc. but cumulative occurrences will cost you. Some companies charge for each occurrence. This depends on your insurance company. Find out by calling them and asking (without mentioning the accident). Just say you are curious.

The best bet for you appears to be to try and get the other party NOT to report it and to pay their repair cost yourself. This would not be a good choice if the other party is injured (back, neck, ect.). The medical costs can run very high and it would be better for you to let the insurance company handle it. Some medical problems can be resolved quickly while other require months and months of therapy. They can even become open ended. George

Report the accident for the following reasons: 1) If you are involved in an accident causing $500+ worth of damage, you are required to report it to the DMV. 2) Your son did the rear-ending, and is probably at fault; the other party is reporting the accident to their insurance company, which will almost certainly contact your company. 3) What looks like minor damage on another car, unfortunately, can easily be several hundred dollars worth of damage. 4) There seem to be very strict laws governing insurance compensation in California. We actually got well over blue book value for damage to our 1984 Volvo that someone rear-ended, because advertised prices to replace the car were higher than listed blue-book value. (They then wanted to total out a completely drivable car, which becomes a pain in terms of registration--but that's a whole other story). Your company will learn of the accident anyway, but will not be happy that you did not inform them. They'll probably raise your rates, but they will be much less likely to cancel your insurance if you have been diligent and have reported the accident to them. And finally, it's probably a good lesson for your teen to see the consequences of an accident--you could insist that he contribute to the added insurance cost if he wants to remain on the policy as a driver of your cars. When our Volvo was hit (and we didn't have it covered for collision), I asked the insurance broker if we should report it to our insurance company, and they recommended that we do so, even though there would be no cost to the company. (The generous payment we got was from the insurance company of the other driver). Cynthia