Don’t Get Cheated out of Your Totalled Car, Three Hints.

When your car is damaged or destroyed in a motor vehicle collision that is not your fault, last thing you need is to get cheated on the replacement. The following information should help protect you from loss on your rental and your car.

Rule #1. At least half of what the other person’s insurance company tells won’t be true.

RENTAL CARS

Accident victims are entitled to compensation for all losses caused by the auto accident. This includes “loss of use” of your car. This is measured by the value of the use of your vehicle, not something less. You can’t up grade to a luxury model unless you pay the value difference but the auto insurance company cannot force you to downgrade either. You are entitled to fair compensation for what you actually lose.

In each of these recent cases the insurance company’s insured negligently caused the total loss of the accident victim’s vehicle. In each case the auto accident victim was told that the auto insurer was responsible only for rental of a $25 per day sub-compact rather than the full sized vehicle that was destroyed. The car crash victim was told they had to pay to “upgrade” to the car they were entitled to! This is not true. If you encounter this type of tactic call an experienced Vancouver Washington personal injury and car crash attorney.

Total Loss Valuation

As personal injury attorneys we see a lot of tactics designed to minimize the amount a person injured in a car crash recovers. One tactic is using dealer pricing of trade in vehicles. The most common however are computerized valuations. These valuations do not actually value your car. They value a theoretical “average” car based on numerous vehicles that are allegedly for sale or have allegedly sold for specific prices.

In such a total loss valuation performed by the insurance company for the negligent driver I found the same significant “errors” had been used to downgrade the amount paid for the injured driver’s car. Comparison vehicles were misidentified as to year and options. Options the loss vehicle had were ignored. Further scrutiny of the valuation showed more serious deficiencies.

We requested copies of everything the negligent driver’s insurance company used to value the damaged vehicles. I then began making calls to the automobile dealers listed to make sure the comparison vehicles really are comparable. What I found made me question the entire total loss valuation process.

Hint: Demand the valuation documents, all of them.

You will get a report many pages long. There will be anywhere from a half dozen to a dozen or more “comparable” cars. The most obvious question is “Why do you need to “compare” 15 vehicles when you have 3 or 4 that are almost EXACTLY the same as my car?” The reason is that using a lot of “comparable sales” drags the average value down. This is particularly true because the computer program “devalues” the cars being used as “comparable” then devalues your car on the basis of the devalued cars. If you have an average or below average car, the system might be OK but if you have a newer car or one with low miles, your car will be under valued.

Hint: Do your own research into the value of your car, two very similar cars are a better measure of value than 15 mismatches.

On the valuation you will see the source of valuations reported. Telephone calls to the dealers who had allegedly quoted “take prices” produced interesting results. In one case the person quoted had no authority to set a price, he could only convey offers. In the second case I learned that the vehicle had already been sold for more than the alleged “take price”. Check craigslist.org, auto trader and other sales sources.

Hint: Research the autos used to produce the valuation.

Review the “comparable” cars and look for “outliers”. These are cars that sold for way below what similar cars sold for. To drag the price down these “fire sale” cars are left in the appraisal. The alleged sale price is not adjusted up to reflect desperation sales or other factors. Only cars sold in a bona fide transaction should be counted. The definition is: ” an arms length transaction between a willing buyer who does not have to buy and a willing seller who does not have to sell.” Outliers have no business in the valuation process.

BONUS HINT: I often hear from people who have been told that the adjuster can’t consider comparable cars outside the valuation the insurance company came up with. That is not true. Ask to speak to a supervisor if this trick is pulled on you.

BONUS BONUS: The best comparable sale is your purchase of your car. If you recently purchased he car in a bona fide transaction that is as good a valuation as can be found, demand it be considered particularly if you improved the car after you bought it.

Valuation methods like “CCC” and “Autosource” rely on a valuation method that does not actually appraise your car. It appraises a mythical vehicle. If they really wanted to value your vehicle they would find two or three very similar vehicles, they would not search high and low for as many vehicles of the approximate year, make and model as they can, toss out those they think sold for too much and then run an average.

After The Car Crash – When Your Vehicle is Totalled?

When you are injured in an automobile collision the last thing you need is to be cheated on your property damage and loss of use. Here are some hints on protecting your pocket book.

LOSS OF USE

When I first wrote this post I knew of two cases in which consumers were deliberately cheated on their loss of use. I have now heard of many indicating this is a wide spread practice not limited to a single company.

In all cases State Farm is the guilty party. In each the injured party was told that State Farm was responsible only for rental of a sub-compact car rather than the full sized vehicle that was damaged.

That representation is false. “Loss of use” means loss of use of your vehicle, not something different. You can’t up grade to a luxury model unless you pay the value difference but they cannot force you to downgrade unless they agree to pay you the value difference. Demand a car of equal quality and complain to the Office of the Insurance Commissioner if they refuse.

UNDER VALUATION OF TOTAL LOSS

Undervaluation of total loss cars is a chronic problem. Most companies use services that don’t actually value your vehicle. Instead they use adjusted values for a bunch of vehicles somewhat like yours to arrive at a mystical average. If you drive a beater this can actually work in your favor. If you take good care of your car or own a rare vehicle you will get a raw deal.

We request copies of everything the insurance company uses to value the damaged vehicles. I then begin making calls to the sellers and dealers listed to make sure the comparison vehicles really are comparable.

In most instances a review of the valuation disclosed significant “errors”. Comparison vehicles are often misrepresented as to year and options. Options on the loss vehicle are then ignored. Further scrutiny of the valuations often reveals more serious deficiencies.

Telephone calls to the dealers who had allegedly quoted “take prices” produced interesting results. In one case the person quoted had no authority to set a price, he could only convey offers. In another I learned that the vehicle had been sold for more than the alleged “take price”.

We also review the comparison cars and look for “outliers”. These are cars that sold for way below what similar cars sold for. I recently called the listed seller on one of these vehicles and discovered the sale was a desperation sale as the owner was dying of cancer, could not use the car, and badly needed some money. That is anything but the type of bona fide sales transaction that is supposed to be used.

Is Expecting Fair Treatment From an Insurance Company Expecting too much?

One of the things most of my new or prospective clients tell me is “We are not sue happy people” or some variation on that theme. Thankfully almost no one is “sue happy”. The myth of the sue happy American is just that, myth. Suing someone is a big deal. It is not something to take lightly. Even if there are sue happy folks, very few attorneys will have anything to do with an unjustified lawsuit so their happiness will be short lived.
It does seem the insurance industry is sue happy these days. Offers in most cases are far from fair. Also the insurers force you to engage in protracted litigation at significant cost in time and expense.
Gone are the days when every under insured motorist policy allowed you to save time and money by arbitrating your case. However, the insurance industry knows that juries almost always award less than panels of professional claims adjudicators. When it comes to income loss juries are particularly tightfisted. You might want to look in your own policy. In the under insured motorist section look for the “if we can’t agree” section and see what you have to do when they deny your claim, can you arbitrate, or do you have to sue them? If there is nothing there or if the words “agree to arbitrate” appear you will have to file a lawsuit. State Farm, California Casualty and many others will routinely remove your suit to Federal court, doubling down on the expense they force you to incur to get fair treatment.

When another driver ignores the rules of safety on the road and injures someone else we only have one way to help the injured party, money damages. If those who ignore the rules are allowed to get away without paying full compensation then the rules that protect us all are weakened, and we are all less safe as a result.

Insurers today spread the myths and memes they have created to bolster their bottom line. One such myth is the myth of the “sue happy” American. In reality, those who bring lawsuits to enforce the rules and protect public safety are acting in the best interest of the community.

ERISA – Punishing the Innocent

One of the worst things things that can happen to you is to be injured through no choice or fault of your own. If you think nothing could be worse than being smashed up by some drunken driver you are wrong.

There is something worse and it comes from a series of United States Supreme Court decisions concerning a law originally enacted to protect workers. In a perverse twist the court has turned the law into a hammer used to smash those who are injured when others break the rules we all live by.

Imagine you are hit by a drunk driver. The driver is on mandatory insurance for earlier troubles. The limit of the insurance is $25,000, the minimum. Let’s assume though that you are responsible and prudent. You have health insurance through your employment and you purchased $100,000 of under insured motorist (UIM) coverage for just this kind of disaster. The drunk runs a stop sign and smashes into your car breaking your leg and shoulder. You won’t be working for at least 6 months, if ever again. Your medical bills are mounting.

Now the bad news. Your health care plan has a provision excluding injuries caused by the fault of third parties. Your health insurance plan won’t pay a cent until medical bills exceed the coverage on the other driver’s car and the UIM coverage you bought and paid. What will you live on? According to the SCOTUS it is just fine to leave you with no compensation at all for your loss of income, pain, suffering, mental anguish or any other damage. The ERISA plan can take it all. Here is a link to some case studies of the horrible effects of this law. http://erisawithprofessorbaron.com/catastrophic-situations/