Auto Insurance Claims: Car accident liability, insurance expert, claim settlement

View from the other drivers position
View from the other dr  
Front view of my car
Front view of my car  
QUESTION: Hi my name is megan and I was in a car accident on feb.12. 2013
I was heading north bound on las virgenes in California And as I approached the intersection another car heading south bound made a left hand turn and hit the left front side of my car when I was passing through the intersection. The other driver admitted fault at the scene and there were two witnesses who stayed to talk to police. When the report came back the officer had put me at fault stating that was what the witnesses were saying. When I called the witnesses to confirm they said that was not true and I was not at fault. They even went to police station to fix the matter but the new report is still saying I'm at fault. My question is that if the report is saying I'm at fault but the witnesses have both told the insurance companies I wasn't at fault do I still have to worry? My car has no damage to the front proving I could not possible have hit him and also proving I was already in the intersection when he made the left. I'm so stressed and the witnesses are willing to help in any way they can. What are the chances that the insurance will go on the witnesses testimony and not the false police report?

ANSWER: Hello Megan,

Clearly there is something wrong with the way the officer is investigating traffic accidents.  Have you spoken to his Sergeant?  Perhaps you should consider doing so.  Ordinarily I would not necessarily advocate this, but since you have two witnesses, it seems pretty much like a no-brainer.

As to the insurance companies, I assume you have filed a property damage liability claim with the other driver's carrier.  As with any insurance company, the adjuster assigned has a duty to conduct a fair and unbiased investigation based on actual evidence.  In this case that investigation should include an inspection of the damages as well as accounts from the two witnesses.  Regardless of what their insured might say, the evidence cited supports your account of the accident.  That should be it.

If that is not the case, you will need to be very proactive and inquire why they cannot agree with the obvious evidentiary proof.  If the response is that they simply believe their insured - despite the evidence - they have not done their job.  Can you fight that if they choose to deny your claim?  Possibly.  You could appeal to the claims manager supervising the claim. But your chances for success might be unlikely.

If the liability claim is denied, and you have to file a Collision claim, certainly your own insurance company should be able to reach the appropriate decision.  Your Collision would pay for your damages even if the other company denied your claim. The catch is, you would have to pay your deductible.  And unless your carrier is willing to get into a subrogation battle with the other carrier, you would be out your deductible.

Would you be "charged" with an at-fault accident?  No.  If your carrier does the right thing and finds that you are not at fault, your policy will not reflect an at fault loss, and your premiums should not rise - at least not for that.  The other company's denial should not affect your record.

One final word on police reports.  Insurance companies should not use them as sole evidence in any claim investigation. Police reports are merely one document that can shed light on what occurred on the scene.  They are sometimes useful when it comes to documentation of traffic conditions, time of day, construction areas, line of sight obstructions, lighting conditions, weather, final rest of vehicles, etc.  But the officer is not a witness to the accident.  In that sense, he knows nothing more than the adjuster.  Accordingly, the officer's account should not be considered as absolute.  The report is a tool - nothing more.
Be proactive, and good luck.

Jane Pytel

---------- FOLLOW-UP ----------

QUESTION: Thank you so much Jane. I just spoke to the witness and she is appalled by this female officer as well. she was nasty to me when the firemen were trying to see that i was alright, she kept snapping at me to answer her when the paramedics were asking me various questions about my injuries. she was also nasty to the witnesses. the witness just informed me not to worry because she and her sister are in it with me til the end and they are just as upset about this injustice. she is going to write out yet ANOTHER formal statement and bring it to the CHP office again and will continue to do so as many times as it takes for this officer to give it up. my biggest issue is that i only have liability :( i know thats not a good move on my part but the full coverage was too expensive and i am a very safe driver. this has been a huge lesson for me to always have full coverage and i hope anyone reading this can take that bit of advice from it. unfortunately that doesnt help me in this matter, and i can only hope that with all the evidence and witness testimony i can get through this. I dont want to sue or ruin anyones life, i just want my car back and for this to be over.

 Hi again Megan,

You are lucky to have such ethical witnesses.  Forward the correspondence not to the officer, but to the Lieutenant and Sergeant of the offending officer.  I suggest you attempt to speak with them as well.  No one likes to see this type of behavior, and certainly not the dedicated professional officers who work alongside the officer in question. If it has happened to you, it has happened to others.

Never skimp on Collision! It has little bearing on whether you are a safe driver. Guess you know that now.

Good luck