Auto Insurance Claims/Rear Bumper Damage
QUESTION: While sitting in city traffic, I was struck in my rear bumper on the night of December 2nd, 2015 in clear weather. The female driver had an insurance certificate but later I found it had expired in Oct., 2015. Due to no injuries to self or the female driver and her two other passengers and only minor damage, I (mistakenly), did not call in the police for an accident report. The girl asked if she could pay for damages herself and I told her I'd get two estimates. She agreed to an estimate but is still trying to come up with the money. My own insurance adjuster emailed me late last week that the girl had told him she was still trying to get the funds for my rear bumper repair, ($684). He stated I could use my Uninsured Motorist Property Insurance Damage coverage to have my rear bumper repaired or wait and let the girl pay for it. I have no idea how long it might take for the girl to come up with the funds for repair and I am concerned if I use my Uninsured Motorist Property Insurance Damage coverage, it may possibly cause my future insurance premiums to escalate, even though the accident was not my fault. A representative from my insurance company told me using my Uninsured Motorist Property Insurance Damage coverage "might possibly" increase my auto insurance premiums but only underwriting" would know. Problem there would seem that I can't find out from underwriting if there is going to be a premium increase until after I file the Uninsured Motorist Property Insurance Damage claim and have the repairs done. Then it is too late to undo the repair and have my premiums remain the same. That sounds like a crock.
Should I just 1. go ahead and file a claim using my Uninsured Motorist Property Insurance Damage coverage,(regardless of how it might affect my future insurance premiums, 2. wait for the girl to pay me from her own funds in her own time, or 3. take her to small claims court so the court might pressure her to pay within a reasonable and fair amount of time? Can I take her to small claims court for her hitting my car with hers, even in Tennessee, a "no-fault" car insurance state?
I would greatly appreciate any help on this.
Thank you for the question and the information.
First off I am not an attorney and no longer a licensed adjuster and cannot and do not provide legal counsel nor am I intimately familiar with the laws in TN. I can however provide you my personal opinion based upon 3+ decades in the collision repair and insurance claims industries.
Based upon the information you provided, it appears liability and the admission of liability is not a problem and she has stepped up to her responsibility (some get amnesia when it comes time to pay).
For that she should get the benefit of the doubt that she will pay for your damages. I would however get her to agree to paying the damages, in writing, and set a specific time-line for same.
Because the damages are not rendering the vehicle inoperable you still have the use of it until the funds are saved and provided to you for repairs.
What you should also know is that you will need a comparable vehicle for the time your vehicle is under repair. This is a cost she should bare.
Furthermore, if your vehicle is a late model with substantial value, you may have suffered a loss or Diminution in Value of which she would be responsible for as well. If your vehicle was 5 years or older and not an exotic or Corvette etc., because of the minimal damages the loss would be minimal and likely not worth pursuing.
If it were I, I'd refrain from making a claim against my insurer because I believe they will, when they can, raise your rates simply because they can and it benefits them.
Furthermore I would make sure the estimate of damages is thorough and that no surprises arise once repairs are actually undertaken! Get the proper amount before preparing the following:
1. Get her to admit liability..in writing, dated with a witness's signature
2. In the same written agreement, get her to agree to a payment arrangement whereas the full amount owed (including rental) is paid within a certain time and if not, you would either agree to an extension or seek recovery through small claims where a judgment would be rendered against her.
Note: I believe in TN, as it is in Florida, "No Fault" is in reference to injury claims where each person goes against their own insurance for medical bills and such and it has nothing to do with property damage claims.
I hope this information is found helpful and that everything works out for you. if you would like information on Diminished Value see our website at www.AutoDamageExperts.com.
Thanks again for your question!
---------- FOLLOW-UP ----------
QUESTION: Thank you greatly for your initial reply.
As far as getting her to "admit liability..in writing, dated with a witness's signature", does that refer to the mother or the daughter?:
Does the Mother,(owner of the vehicle) or her daughter, (the driver of the vehicle involved in the crash) each have to sign a document admitting liability, or just the driver involved?
And do both mother and daughter or whichever individual needs to admit liability in writing, need to do so by writing it out in a sentence in their own handwriting such as a sentence saying I admit to causing this accident (and just signing their signature on a blank line at the end of their handwritten admission),..or can they just sign their signature on a blank line at the ending of some text which I have previously typed in the document such as, I admit to being liable in this accident?
Can the witness's signature be signed by anyone of any age, and if both the mother and the daughter need to admit liability in writing, can each be a witness for the other,...or can I get one of the daughter's or mother's friends, or a co-worker of the mother or daughter to sign as witness?
Thank you again.
1. The written admission of liability should be from the at-fault driver who caused the damages.
2.You can have the driver write it out or it can be typed out and provided to them to sign, in either instance it would behoove you to have them sign it in front of a notary or witness (i.e. her mother). by stating something like:
I _________was the operator of my mother;'s vehicle on ____/___/___ when I struck and caused damages to Mr. _____________'s vehicle. I admit liability for the accident and responsibility for the resulting damages and costs.
3. Anyone over the age of 18 can sign as a witness but it would be best to have it signed in front of and witnessed by a notary. You may be able to find one at the bank, real estate office etc.
Note: One doesn't want to make too big of a deal over this and perhaps scare them off, but it would be beneficial for you to get the other party to do this so that amnesia doesn't set in at a later date.
Hope this helps; Good luck!