Just because an auto accident isn’t your fault DOES NOT mean your insurance agent gets a Free Pass to NOT help you.
I just flat out don’t understand this reasoning. And I’ve seen it many times, especially recently. Case in point: a potential customer called me to review her auto and home insurance. I’ll call her Jane. The reason wasn’t due to premium. It was due to the treatment she received from her agent regarding a claim.
Here’s an example of a claim where this occurred
Jane was T-boned at an intersection by another person- clearly the other person’s fault, the police cited the other person on the accident report, so on and so forth. Jane suffered injuries and her car was beat up pretty bad too.
She immediately called her agent to notify him of the accident. He replied, “There’s nothing I can do right now. We need to wait and see if the other person comes forward. It’s his responsibility anyway.” WHAT????????????????????????????
In other words, she got the shaft from her agent
I almost fell off my chair. Let me be very clear- there’s ALWAYS something your agent can do to help you. It’s pretty damn cold and heartless to tell your own customer to basically “F*** Off” when they’re coming to you for help. And isn’t that the case here? Jane was looking for guidance and advice.
Most agents are Johnny-on-the-spot when an accident is your fault- after all your own company needs to begin making the injured party “whole” again. Ohio law is very clear as to what constitutes “unfair claims practices.” I would tender it’s also a moral responsibility.
I would argue that it’s also a moral responsibility for your agent to do the same in reverse- when the accident Not-At-Fault.
Insurance agents’ duties are very specific- take care of our customers. Don’t you think that that should prevail regardless of who caused the accident? To hear “we can’t help you with this claim because it isn’t “our” claim” is beyond reprehensible. In fact, it’s complete bullshit.
Here’s how this not-at-fault auto accident claim would have been handled if my agency, Alan Galvez Insurance, had insured Jane’s vehicle
- We immediately ask if Jane was OK. Simple huh? We get the extent of her injuries and damages, whether the vehicle is drivable and info about any passengers. We ask who’s fault it is, and the authority that investigated the accident.
- If there is an urgency to the situation (major injuries or an undrivable vehicle), or the merest HINT of the other party not being insured or otherwise questionable, we recommend opening a claim with Jane’s company. No hesitation. No waiting for the other person to come forward or the other insurance company to accept liability. We get Jane’s company immediately involved so Jane can get back to normal as quickly as possible.
- Jane’s company would open the following lines of coverage to help Jane: Medical Payments for Jane and any passengers- you can read more about Medical Payments in a prior post; Collision for damage to her vehicle (so the vehicle can get fixed as quickly as possible); and Rental Reimbursement- should she need a rental vehicle while her car is being fixed. The moral is: If you’ve got these coverages on your auto insurance policy, you can use them to recover from the accident.
- We get the police report and scan it for the other party’s information, including insurance company. If it’s local, we call that agency or one that represents that company and ask if they insure the responsible party. If it’s a hit, we turn in the claim. If we don’t have luck on the local level, and it’s a national carrier, we find their 800 claims number and do some digging. Again, if we’re lucky, we turn in the claim.
- We assist Jane in getting all documentation and paperwork to her company adjuster, we explain anything she doesn’t understand and make sure the lines of communication remain open.
Popular and common questions about using your own auto insurance to pay a not-at-fault auto accident claim
“If Jane’s company is going to pay, why would you turn in the claim to the other company?”
- Again, it’s still that other person’s fault- his insurance needs to pay. What happens next is that Jane’s company will subrogate against the other company to get back what they’ve paid (read a more detailed explanation about subrogation).
“Do I have to pay the collision deductible?”
- Most collision coverage is subject to a deductible. So, yes, if you use it, you’ll have to pay. However, it’ll just be subtracted from the settlement check. It’s not like you’ll have to write out a separate check for that amount.
“Won’t this make my insurance increase?”
- NO, because this is not considered an at-fault accident. If you’re using your own policy in this situation, it does not count against you.
At Alan Galvez Insurance, we’ve been known to send certified letters to responsible parties reminding them of their responsibility to pay for damages and injuries, whether via their insurance company, or if uninsured, out of their pocket. We also let them know we can file a state report that will eventually result in yanking their license and/or plates (it’s called the Ohio Financial Responsibility law. No compliance = no privileges). As agents, we are advocates for our customers. That is a huge part of our job. Again, one of the major pluses to using an agent- we fight for you.
The moral of my story?
If your insurance agent gives you the finger and basically says you’re on your own because of a not-at-fault auto accident- “Run, Forrest, run!” Run to someone who gives a shit (like me, *wink wink*). Get a new agent. And fast. Because that thinking is just plain, 100% CRAPOLA. And I shudder to think the attitude you’d get if something truly major (like a house fire) occurred.