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Complaint 11 of 20 in "Fault and No-Fault Issues"

Insurance Carrier: Safe Company
State: Oregon

Consumer Complaint:

I was hit on my front driver side bumper while coming out of a parking lot space. Later he lied to my agent and claimed he hit me on my back bumper. (I have no damage there what so ever.) My insurance agent came and took my statement, took measured photos, and sketches. He did this for both parties involved and also took a witnesses statement.

My insurance agent found me not at fault based on evidence and witness statement. SafeCo. did ask me questions but eventually found the other party not at fault either but have not taken photos or talked to any witnesses or have anything to back up their claim. How can no one be at fault? Please help.


Insurance Expert Answer:

It's not that no one is at fault, it is that each insurance company concluded that its driver was not sufficiently at fault. That often happens when the parties involved tell conflicting stories. IF you had collision coverage your company would pay you for the damages -- less the deductible you selected -- regardless of fault and then could proceed against the other company in inter-company discussions. If it recovers it reimburses you for the deductible in whole or part.

If you lack collision, they you are on your own and it depends on who was at fault, and in most states, the parties' relative degree of fault. Here the other driver and his carrier have concluded their side was not at fault. Remember, the insurance companies were not there to see the accident, and although they heard each of the parties' different stories, they know parties shade the facts and even outside witnesses are not always reliable and unbiased either. They can't use water-boarding to torture out the truth.

An insurance company accident investigation is never as comprehensive as the FBI and police conduct where there is a homicide -- it's a mere fender bender. No insurance company would pay what it costs to bring in a CSI-like team.

So what can you do if you don't have collision? You always can take the other driver to court to recover. In most places you can do this yourself in a local small claims court if the amount is within the court's dollar limit; if the damages you seek (say $6,000) are above the court's limit (say $5,000) then you either have to go to the regular court to be able to recover the full $6,000 or drop your demand down to one within the court's limit (here $5,000).

In either event in court you'll have to prove that the other driver was at fault. You'd be able to testify to that and bring witnesses to testify to that. The other driver would testify you were at fault and it would be up to the judge to decide where the truth lies. BUT let's get back to the real world. Once he received the summons from the court the other driver quickly will tell his insurance company you sued him. If he has liability insurance his company normally has to defend him and pay any judgment. His insurance company then has to make a decision. On the one hand they can bring their lawyer to court to defend him and make you prove your case that he was at fault. You also have to prove what damages you sustained. (That's not as easy as people think -- unless the car was repaired and you have a paid repair bill.) The other driver's insurance company may have a team of young house lawyers who want to try all cases. But as a practical matter they just may decide that instead of wasting the staff lawyer's time or going out and hiring a lawyer it would be cheaper to offer you something than pay legal fees. In that case they'd make you an offer. You'd have to negotiate with them or their lawyer. Whether they take that approach and make you an offer, who makes the offer, and how close the offer is to the cost of repairs depends on the facts and how little they think you'd take to go away. It varies by the situation.

You of course can take the offer, try to raise it, or reject it and continue to trial. If you go to trial and the judge believes you and your witnesses rather than him and his witnesses, you win. If not you lose. One important note -- if there were any personal injuries, see a lawyer now at our affiliate www.AttorneyPages.com