Auto Insurance Claims: BI Claim Valuation and Automobile Residual Value, cracked vertebrae, vertibrae

QUESTION: Hi Claims Guy,

I have two questions for you.

1.  My 16 year old daughter was struck by a municipal snow plow a few months ago.  She was bruised but no bleeding, broken bones, etc.  She does not appear to have any problems associated with the accident currently.  That said, I do have some long-term concerns about cracked vertibrae and possible future problems related to this accident.  I know that this claim is currently not worth much, and the insurance company has offered $1,000 to settle and to sign a "forever" release.  My question is whether this seems reasonable.  Is there any type of resource available that shows "average" insurance company BI payments in this type of situation?  

2.  Same daughter, same car.  The municipality totalled the car and paid us for it.  I made some repairs to make it driveable and we continue to use the car.  Just recently, another governmental entity (aren't we the lucky ones) caused $850-$1,300 of additional damage to the car.  My question is, once a vehicle is totalled, can I still recoup payment from another entity if additional damages are caused by the other entity?  Since the new damages are unrelated to the old damages, it would seem that this is reasonable.  What are your thoughts?  Thanks much!!

ANSWER: (1)  The value will depend in part on the amount of medical bills she incurred.  Did she see a doctor or hospital?  As far as possible long term problems, that would be for a doctor to determine.  FYI - there really is no such thing as cracked vertebrae in the way you seem to be describing.  If they were cracked, that would be a fracture and it would show up on xray.  You may be referring to herniated  discs, which is the soft cartlidge between the vertebrae slipping out, but again, that would have manifested itself if the accident caused that.  And that is very rare to happen as a result of an auto accident.  Normally, the back/neck injuries you hear about are nothing more than strained muscles.  This can be very painful, but not normally very serious.  

There is no average because each case is very different and an average would not be helpful.  But if you provide info re medical bills and/or lost wages, I can give you my opinion as to a fair value.

(2)  Yes, you can collect again on the car.  However, you start over again as far as the value.  When the car was totaled the first time, the only value was the salvage value - not much.  But when you repaired it, and made it roadworthy, the value increased.  So when they are considering your claim, they will need to establish the market value of the vehicle 1 second before they hit it.  This is the amount you could have sold it for on the open market.  It will be less than it was before the first accident, because most car buyers do not want to buy a previously totaled car, even if it is safe to drive.  There is a stigma.  So if they can repair it for less than the market value before the  2nd loss, they will do so.  if not, they will pay you the market value before the 2nd loss.

(3)  one last thing - government entities are protected by local laws that limit the time you can make a claim.  Some states have very unreasonable and short limits, so to be safe, make sure you ask about  this.  Also, to be safe, I would send a letter to both entities stating your intent to make a claim and that if any time limits apply, you want to be informed of them in writing.

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

QUESTION: My daughter saw her general practice physician once and we had her visit a Ph.D psychologist.  Her physician did not feel an MRI or cat scan was warranted and basically gave her a clean bill of health.  The psychologist provided an opinion that our daughter is okay and that time will heal any residual mental issues (this was her first accident and the snow plow had nearly pushed her off the top of a hill and into the lake below.  She was having flashbacks each time she saw a snowplow).  I'm looking to be fair, but don't want to be taken advantage of, either.  If most claims adjusters would offer $2,500 for this type of claim, I don't want to accept $1,000.  On the other hand, maybe $1,000 is a fair offer.  I'd appreciate your opinion.

I'm going to guess your medical bills are about $200.  If that is the case, I'd say $1000 is fair.  If the bills were more than $200, add that amount to $1000.  You might be able to squeeze $1500 out of them if you negotiate, but probably not much more.  Good luck.