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Complaint 6 of 13 in "Rear Ended"

Insurance Carrier: High Point
State: New Jersey

Consumer Complaint:

My car was hit by the other driver on the rear back on the freeway. I called police. The police came talked to both of us and let the other driver give me his information. No report. I called his insurance company. It's been over 10 days. The insurance agent always said she could not reach the driver to get a statement. And I would not be paid until the investigation is complete. I went to police station and filed a accident report and also faxed that to the insurance agent. What if she can never reach this person? What should I do to get the compensation.


Insurance Expert Answer:

You have what is known as a 3rd party claim. The other driver is the 3rd party and his or her insurance company is NOT your friend or buddy. They owe you nothing -- but they are obligated to defend their driver and pay any judgment you may obtain in court. As a result, where liability of their driver is clear, they try to settle the cases against their insureds, fearing that otherwise you may see a lawyer, claim personal injury, and sue for a great deal more than the minor property damage you claim now. When they settle they get you to sign a general release eliminating your right to seek more later. However, until they do speak to their driver -- and perhaps see any accident and police reports filed -- and confirm liability they will do nothing, and as a matter of prudence, they probably shouldn't, at least for a reasonable time period. Similarly, if their driver denies liability or says you backed into him and the facts do not point to the contrary, they may deny your claim and say "sue." By the way, if their insured does not report the accident to them, and/or he or she refuses to cooperate with the insurance company so the company is in any way prejudiced, the insurance company typically has the right to deny paying the claim; in that although the insurance company can avoid paying, the driver remains liable.) Normally we suggest that drivers report collision claims to their own insurance companies and get paid -- less the deductible -- and then let their own insurance company go after the other driver's company. When your company collects, it reimburses the deductible in full or substantial part and you save the hassle. ("Settling" the claim can be a hassle, especially if your body shop quotes a rate that is higher than their shop quotes.) But here your damage is so low it is probably less than the deductible. You may want to try to contact the driver who hit you and tell the driver to call his company and if you don't get paid in X days, you'll have to file suit in small claims court against him. That may get him in touch with the company.

Of course, based on my watching the TV show, and having lived in the NY area for decades, if the driver that hit you turns out to be Tony Soprano or a member of his "family", filing a suit or making a fuss just may get you "wacked."