What to do if my insurer is refusing to pay for repairs because they claim damage was pre-existing.

My car was hit by a drunk driver while it was parked. The body shop disassembled the bumper and claim that it was damaged from a previous accident. It appeared to have been repaired. They claim they could not reattach it because they wouldn’t attempt to try the same repair and I needed to pay for the new bumper assembly. The bumper was intact prior to the accident. There was also a lower arm support damaged that they claimed was pre-existing but they decided tp cover it when it was pointed out the tow driver lifted it near that support/bumper to get it off the curb to tow it. Am I liable for repairs that need to be made before they will repair my car?

Asked on July 24, 2012 under Accident Law, Ohio


SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 8 years ago | Contributor

An insurer is obligated to pay as per its policy. Presumably, under the policy, they are not bound to pay for pre-existing damage. The issue then is whether the damage was in fact pre-existing. If you believe it was not, you could appeal the determination through the insurer's internal processes; and if they still decide against you, you have the right to sue the insurer to force them to honor their obligations. If you do that, you'd have to prove in court by a preponderance of the evidence that this damage came from this accident. If you can, you could force them to pay; however, it could well be that the cost of legal action would exceed the amount of money to hope to recover, so it may not be cost effective to do this. It may be that the most practical option is to pay for the allegedly pre-existing damage to be repaired.

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