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Complaint 9 of 36 in "Claim Denied or Delayed"
Insurance Carrier: Key Insurance Company
We were hit in Kansas by a car insured in Kansas, but not the car's owner. Their insurance agent will not return calls, will not meet with us, and his supervisor claims that they don't know if he had permission, or whether they have liability in the matter. In Kansas, the car is insured, not the driver. They "suggest" the car was taken without permission, "stolen", so it isn't their fault, or it was an act of God, etc. They have been rude and deliberately difficult to deal with. The matter is currently unresolved, and we are stuck with an undriveable car. As I understand Kansas law, they are supposed to settle this in thirty days, but they are acting like that is the minimum before they need to do anything. So my question is this. Since the car had the policy (which the driver produced immediately), is the insurance company liable and do they need to pay us? The police report show my wife as not moving in her lane, and the other driver lost control of the car, crossed his lanes, and struck us.
Insurance Expert Answer:
If you have collision coverage, and there is no or minor personal injury, we almost always suggest that people let their own carrier handle it. Sure, you'll have to absorb the deductible, but when your carrier recovers from the driver and/or the car owner's insurance company you'll get it back in full or large part.
YOUR insurance carrier, owes you a duty of good faith. The OTHER driver's insurance company owes its duty to its insured. In one sense it owes you nothing UNLESS the car owner, or an authorized driver, is liable.
Here the OTHER driver can always deny liability (as an individual he owes you nothing unless a court says he does) and the car owner's carrier can and will defend the insured car owner, and while it must pay any judgment you recover against the owners or an authorized driver -- up to the policy limit -- it need not settle with you unless it is reasonably clear there is liability. It won't settle if it concludes it has a reasonable defense, or it thinks you are asking for too much, or have a less than compelling case or are unlikely to pursue the matter.
IF the other driver's liability is absolutely clear, and the owner's liability is also clear, and you were in no sense at fault -- even a little -- then it usually will settle for what it regards as an acceptable amount. Most policies in most states only cover claims against the car's owner and persons the owner has actually or implicitly authorized to drive it. So if I came to town and stole the car and hit you, the insurance company could deny liability. You'd have to sue me and prove I was negligent and (depending on the state) there was no or not enough contributory negligence on your part to fully recover. However, let's face it. Claims that a driver was "unauthorized" are often bogus -- and authorization often is presumed when the driver is a family member or house guest or on an errand for the household or has driven the car previously. All those are questions of fact. Unfortunately questions of disputed facts require some one to sort things out, and that's a judge or jury in most instances. A practical matter of showing authorization is that if a car was really stolen, a police report is normally quickly filed and the owner demands that charges be pressed. If that's not been done, judges and juries and insurance companies get the picture pretty quickly. I suggest that you see a lawyer. A lawyer's letter should get the company off its butt. It's unfortunate but who knows, if there was even the slightest personal injury involved the company will quickly realize that paying for the property damage is cheap compared to facing exposure for an injury claim.