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HELP! An insurance company is after me…

This topic contains 37 replies, has 22 voices, and was last updated by  byogman 1 yr, 5 mos.

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JLMoses800

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Feb 19 2013 at 3:37pm #

Hi everyone,

I’m an every-day biker. I was recently involved in a collision with a car. [I'm removing the description of what happened, but basically scratches magically appeared in her car, and based on things I allegedly said to the police, a jury of my peers would possibly conclude I was at fault for them.]

I didn’t talk to her insurance company. Now they say that I owe them over $1,000 and they have the right to collect. I’ve never appeared in court about this.

I mean, look, if bikes do stupid things, they should be liable, right? But it seems like a crazy disadvantage the way the system is set up. $1,000 is crazy…her deductible is only $500 (she told me), and it really was only an f-ing scratch. I’m poor! I have no insurance of any kind…because why would I? I bike! If I were driving a car, my premiums would go up, but I wouldn’t be on the hook for all this, right? How can they make bikers contend with insurance companies?

Anyways, is there anything I can do? If I don’t pay, do they have to sue me to collect, or can they just ruin my credit forever? I’d really appreciate thoughts from anyone who’s been through anything similar.

  • This topic was modified 1 yr, 6 mos ago by  JLMoses800.
  • This topic was modified 1 yr, 6 mos ago by  JLMoses800.

jonawebb

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Feb 19 2013 at 3:49pm #

I think you might want to talk with a lawyer. I’m pretty sure you’re at fault from your description (which you should remove from here ASAP, BTW) but you need an advocate to talk with the insurance company. People here can recommend lawyers who are bicycle-oriented. Some advertise on the site.


JLMoses800

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Feb 19 2013 at 3:50pm #

I mean the description is in the police report, right? I don’t have money for a lawyer…


jonawebb

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Feb 19 2013 at 3:56pm #

Your decision — but I’m guessing you’re going to be out money one way or the other. You might well save money in the long run if you have a good advocate.
The reason for removing the description from here is that it keeps it from being used against you if the driver decides to sue.
BTW I’m assuming you don’t have homeowner’s or renter’s insurance. If you did I think that would cover it.


ericf

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Feb 19 2013 at 4:00pm #

Yeah, arguing with insurance companies is like arguing with the IRS, very hard to win. They are definitely going by the police report, where you already admitted guilt. Most likely the insurance co. will allow you to set up a payment plan before they sue for nonpayment. Probably cheaper / easier to make payments than to hire a lawyer and try to defend a case that you will probably lose anyway.


Marko82

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Feb 19 2013 at 4:05pm #

Sorry for your mishap, but I think jonawebb is right. If you were driving an uninsured car and this happened you would probably be liable, and I don’t see how being on a bike changes things (IANAL). In addition to talking to a lawyer you may also want to call your own homeowners or renters insurance, it might be covered depending on your coverage/company. Sucks!


Pseudacris

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Feb 19 2013 at 4:20pm #

If you have auto insurance, this might take care of it (minus your deductible). I have scratched someone’s car with my car before: body work is effin expensive.


brybot

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Feb 19 2013 at 4:31pm #

Sorry to hear that happened. I’ve had a similar experience, minus the insurance. I was behind a car at a red light. Light turns green, they don’t move. Finally they do, so I start going too. They didn’t put on a turn signal, but turn anyway only to realize there are pedestrians in the cross walk. The driver slammed the brake and I couldn’t stop in time and ended up bouncing off the corner of the bumper. The driver didn’t stick around though. I guess the takeaway here is that cars can stop a hell of a lot faster than bikes can, so we’ve got to be extra careful of our following distance. I hope your issue gets sorted out without too much problems.


JLMoses800

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Feb 19 2013 at 4:31pm #

Thanks, folks. I’ve modified the description of what happened although I don’t really think it matters. It’s just wild to me that such a minor thing could cost more than my entire bike. I’m surprised it’s so hard to find information about this type of thing…probably most people aren’t as stupid as me. But I guess, as a public service announcement, everyone should get renter’s insurance because it’s pretty cheap, and probably would have covered some of this. ..


RICO88

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Feb 19 2013 at 5:08pm #

weak


rice rocket

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Feb 19 2013 at 5:19pm #

I thought Pennsylvania is a no-fault state?


Pierce

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Feb 19 2013 at 5:28pm #

Not legal advice:

So so far, only the insurance company is saying you owe them $1000, but nobody else is?


JLMoses800

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Feb 19 2013 at 5:52pm #

yeah, but according to them, they have the “right to collect” it…


Pierce

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Feb 19 2013 at 6:14pm #

These people might be able to help:

http://www.nlsa.us/

Worst case scenario is that they cannot


dwillen

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Feb 19 2013 at 7:49pm #

They can tell you they are going to collect whatever they want and try to scare you into paying. The deductible is meaningless to you. It is what she pays/paid. The insurance company is after you for what they paid.

I’m not a lawyer either, but as far as I can tell, they would actually have to take you to a court to forcibly collect money from you or report you to a credit agency. They might do that, but it would probably cost them almost as much as they are trying to collect. Are they going to bother with it? From what everyone has said, it sounds like they might win. The police report is just a part of the story though – and not by any means a verdict.

Get a lawyer. The lawyer and insurance company can mail each other letters for the next 3 years.


bear250220

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Feb 19 2013 at 9:42pm #

if you dont really own anything you can file bankrupsy even if you dont the only thing they can do is get a judgement against you but there only good for so long they have to be renewed if you dont own anything worth taking theres not alot they can really do to you


gg

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Feb 19 2013 at 10:57pm #

If it was me I would threaten a pile of crap. I am taking you to court, I don’t agree, I am getting an attorney and maybe even say, my dad is a high powered attorney and loves this stuff. I kid you not! Don’t be afraid. You can always back off and pay, but I would go all in at the beginning. Insurance companies don’t really want a pile of legal crap either, but they are trying to push you around. At the end of the day, you might be totally at fault, but I would at least threaten the world to see if they counter with some other number. It is like a chess game right now. Play the game and resign if you have to.


edmonds59

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Feb 19 2013 at 11:56pm #

I don’t know that saying your dad is a high powered attorney is an effective threat, that’s as good as an admission that there’s money to be had there somewhere, they’ll just pursue it harder.


cburch

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Feb 20 2013 at 12:18am #

I say if you ARE at fault, pay. our actions have consequences. but get an attorney to make sure you aren’t overpaying either.


AtLeastMyKidsLoveMe

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Feb 20 2013 at 11:44am #

Oh geez… do NOT file bankruptcy. They say it “comes off” your record in 7 years, but I have a friend who filed 15 years ago and it is still haunting her.

Sorry about your mishap there, but if it ends up you’re on the hook for the $1K, better to pay that now than be stuck with sh*t credit and higher rates, etc. from having a bankruptcy on your record.


jonawebb

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Feb 20 2013 at 11:52am #

I had an accident years ago (guy slid into my parked car) and I took my car for an estimate — the guy’s insurance company then got a claims adjuster who got the estimate reduced, by substituting used parts for the new ones in the original. I think you need a claims adjuster, because I’ll bet the high $1000 price is based on new parts. But I don’t know how you get a claims adjuster involved since you don’t have insurance, unless you contact a lawyer and discuss it.
And definitely don’t file for bankruptcy; it’s not worth it — you’d need a lawyer in any case — unless you have a pile of credit card bills you’re not talking about.


Mikhail

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Feb 20 2013 at 1:31pm #

cburch wrote:I say if you ARE at fault, pay. our actions have consequences. but get an attorney to make sure you aren’t overpaying either.

+1

jonawebb wrote:the guy’s insurance company then got a claims adjuster who got the estimate reduced, by substituting used parts for the new ones in the original.

It’s a little bit trickier. I had an accident also and it was not my fault. And other guy company tried to do the same. I did not agree (I required warranty that after market parts are going perform on the same level and at that time insurance company could not go ahead with substituted parts if owner did not agree) and they had to pay for OEM parts.

And from what I understood OP is not talking about parts. It’s scratch. And if car has multi layered paint with clear coating then it’s could easily be $2,000 — sometimes you have paint $300-$500 per pound (and you need three different colors and clear coating). And then there is a color matching, priming, cleaning by the guy who does color matching. And those guys are highly qualified specialists.


Pierce

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Feb 20 2013 at 4:19pm #

I love the world we live in where we’re paying thousands of dollars to fix a scratch, and meanwhile people are starving

Thank you post-modernism/consumerism

But then again, who am I to split hairs. We spend thousands of dollars on lots of frivolous crap


gg

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Feb 20 2013 at 8:18pm #

edmonds59 wrote:I don’t know that saying your dad is a high powered attorney is an effective threat, that’s as good as an admission that there’s money to be had there somewhere, they’ll just pursue it harder.

It worked for me. I was on the receiving end of the deal and the insurance company didn’t want to pony up. Daddy, came through and then some. Loved f’n with those losers. Like I said, I would do it again in a NY second.


bikeygirl

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Feb 22 2013 at 7:48am #

+1 Colin

I’m w/Colin in here: if you’re at fault even to some degree, own up to it. Get the adjuster and pay -only- what is fair.

You probably should get a lawyer -at least get a consultation, with their lawyer experience maybe they know something that that could help minimize your case & even turn it around in your favor (depending what really went down).

My 2c


ieverhart

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Feb 22 2013 at 11:30am #

+1 for paying where responsible, also for not overpaying; note also +1 for not paying where not responsible.

$1,000 is almost a borderline case to even pursue in court, where (non-refundable) filing fees might significantly eat into any recovery they get. This is possibly within a magisterial district court (think justice of the peace) given the amount of the claim where things can be less formal and they claim there is less need for an attorney.

I don’t know much/anything about bankruptcy but it would almost certainly be cheaper and will definitely be less of a hassle to pay $1,000 than to go through the bankruptcy process.

*** nothing here is legal advice, just some thoughts


JLMoses800

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Feb 22 2013 at 12:06pm #

Yeah, I think you’re right about the $1,000 amount being borderline.

The moral/ethical question of whether or not to pay is interesting, especially because most of the money is going from a person (on a bike) to an insurance company. I can think of good arguments to justify doing a lot of things. But I’ll weigh them on my conscience.

I’ll keep the details of my financial life off the internet, but I assure everyone that I’ll make the right decision about whether bankruptcy or $1,000 will hurt me more.

But I’m most interested in this last point by iverhart: would they go to court over this? And are there differences between bikers and cars as far as a court is concerned? I mean, if a pedestrian jay walked and got hit, an insurance company wouldn’t get damages I don’t think. On the other hand, if someone were driving without insurance they would be liable for everything. Where are bikers in this?

An officer on the scene told me that he thought they couldn’t do anything to me, but he might not have known all the specifics.


JLMoses800

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Feb 22 2013 at 12:26pm #

I know, I know, I’ll speak to a lawyer. First world problems.

(If the insurance people read this: it’s my pops, Johnny Cochran. He’s never lost a bike case.)


Marko82

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Feb 22 2013 at 12:58pm #

JL, I think the j-walking analogy is wrong. Think of this more like a person pushing a shopping cart in a parking lot. If they pushed a cart into your car, even if by accident, you would want them to pay for any damage. If not them, then you would seek restitution from the store that owns the parking lot, etc.

The driver had a claim, turned it in to his insurance company, and now that company is trying to collect it from you. So you are really paying the driver for his property damage, plus the body shop labor and materials, plus the insurance company overhead – all without any say as to how the damage gets fixed – repaint the scratch or replace the whole trunk lid, for instance.

Sometimes you can offer to handle these things between yourselves and not turn it in to the insurance co. which can be cheaper since you can negotiate with body shops and such, but the other guy can always refuse.

I had a neighbor wreck into my parked car in the middle of the night once and do a fair amount of damage. Since he stopped the next day and talked to me (when he easily could have left and I not known who the culprit was) we settled on restitution being a case of beer. It was an old car and there were other personal factors, but I’m sure it was 2-3K worth of damage if I had wanted to turn it in. Sometimes people are reasonable, so don’t let this experience sour you on doing the right thing next time – which is stopping and exchanging info, just like you did.


Greasefoot

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Feb 22 2013 at 1:08pm #

They were probably fishing and trying to find out if you had insurance. If you told them you did not the next course of action would be to try & scare you into agreeing to pay them for the claim. Was there a beeping sound during the phone call, they may have been recording the conversation.

If they continue to call you ask them for a mailing address to send a registeerd letter with a partial cease and desist stating they can only contact you via written correspondence.

They will need to take you to court for a judgment. A case for only $1000 would cost the insurance company much more in attorny fees then the judgment is worth. They most likeley do an analysis and determine it’s not cost effective to peruse a judgment.

I’m not an attorney but in some cases they can only file a law suit for the damages but depending on the circumstances they also have the right to request a judgment for the cost of the repair plus attorney fees. If you lose a case like this the $1000 could turn into several more thousand dollars.

Don’t talk to the insurance company on the phone anymore and consider getting an attorney.


byogman

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Feb 22 2013 at 1:09pm #

People who put too much money into status symbols, curse when they should be asking if you’re ok, and generally refuse to accept responsibility for how they may have contributed to their problem are high on my sh*t list. And it sounds like in practical terms this may have been a hard accident to avoid. So I definitely sympathize.

But it’s not like someone cut in front of you and immediately slammed on the brakes trying to run you off the road, this is just run of the mill bad driving. Which you followed with your own subpar riding, you just need to give more following distance. Not trying to put you down, there’s a strong element of luck here and we all have had close calls that could have been worse, but if you can’t be responsible for responding to the traffic ahead of you, what can you be responsible for?

Even if there is some nit-picky way out of this, (which I somewhat doubt), it would probably be expensive to find (probably more than it’s worth facing 1000$ otherwise) and ultimately very iffy ethically since I don’t think that there’s a reasonable answer to the rhetorical question posed. And I don’t want to see a ranting/raving editorial against irresponsible cyclists not having the same responsibilities as car drivers that I have to partially agree with and this just becoming an ingredient in the bad vibe stew out there.

You can challenge the estimate I suppose, and I would prefer to see a world where there are some liability limits (having a 10X more expensive car shouldn’t entitle you to 10X more caution and deference from other drivers… I do think this is part of why some BMW/Mercedes etc. seem especially aggressive, they get this deference (and can afford the bad speeding tickets)). But ultimately, I think you just have to own this.


sew

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Feb 22 2013 at 1:38pm #

Not legal advice as I don’t know anything ( about the law or otherwise!!!).

There is also negotiation and/or payments. If the insurance company may not go through the expense to pursue it legally then why not counter if you want to clear your conscience or just get them off your back. Offer what you think is reasonable for the damage done.


fultonco

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Feb 23 2013 at 10:14am #

Interesting reading and I am sorry for you and your predicament. There is some good advice given here and I will offer some of my own, as an old guy with some life experience and perspective.

In the grand scheme of things and assuming that you are relatively young and have a lot of life in front of you, $1000.00 is not going to make or break you. Attorneys typically charge $225.00 – $400.00 per hour. You could easily spend a lot more than you are possibly being sued for just on the day you have to go to court. That doesn’t include pre and post-hearing work by the attorney.

As one person recommended, talk with the car owner and work something out. Sounds like you do not have $1000.00 to fork over all at once, so offer reasonable payments over a period of time until the obligation is satisfied. If you are being reasonable and sticking to the payments, there is no way it is worth anyone’s time to take you to court.

You are probably going to have to pick up some extra work but you’ll be surprised that beginning to meet this obligation this will become a temporary part of your routine and will minimize your current stress over the matter.

5 years from now this will have been a small event in your life, from which you have learned some valuable lessons and shaped your character.

Don’t sweat this. Get a plan together, get on the path of putting this behind you, and move on with your life. Good luck !


Pierce

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Feb 23 2013 at 10:20pm #

“And I don’t want to see a ranting/raving editorial against irresponsible cyclists not having the same responsibilities as car drivers”

I’m still waiting for that guy who left hooked me to compensate me for the frame and wheel he destroyed…

My brother got hit on an off-ramp a few years ago and exchanged info with the guy, but then the guy claimed it never happened when the insurance got involved.

So, as usual, this isn’t a bicycle specific problem


byogman

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Feb 23 2013 at 11:15pm #

Hi Pierce,

Obviously ducking responsibility in crashes isn’t specific to any one class of vehicle operator.

And there will always be driver complaints ignoring this. The key phrase was “that I have to partially agree with”.

That is, if it were somehow possible to not be responsible for damages since he wasn’t driving a car, I’d have to side with car drivers who’d be incensed about it, because it would be unfair.

Given all the stereotypical b.s. that would come spewing out at the same time, that’s a really uncomfortable spot to be in.


fultonco

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Feb 24 2013 at 8:35am #

No witnesses to the off-ramp collision ?


Mikhail

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Feb 24 2013 at 6:18pm #

byogman wrote:and can afford the bad speeding tickets

Ususally there are some points asspciated with ticket. 6 points accumulation and you know what is going to happened.


byogman

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Feb 24 2013 at 9:41pm #

“Ususally there are some points asspciated with ticket.”

There can be a disconnect between tickets and points. That is my own experience with my two speeding tickets. They weren’t terribly egregious mind you, were spaced apart in time, and it was in a different state, but I don’t think it’s so unusual.

So if there’s any price elasticity to speeding behavior (and there’s a price elasticity to most things) it’s only logical that those with the means would be less scrupulous about avoiding it.

And those with means can afford counsel that may be able to negotiate a multi-point offense down to something smaller. That’s not something I’ve directly experienced, but it is something I’ve heard directly from someone who benefited from it (and felt greatly aggrieved anyway, naturally).

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