My car was rear ended and my insurance company won’t pay for the damage. What should I do?

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My car was rear ended and my insurance company won’t pay for the damage. What should I do?

My dad’s 2007 mini van was rear ended in Mineola, Nassau County, NY by an uninsured and out-of-state driver (without a driver’s license). After taking the mini van to the body shop it turns out that my dad’s insurance company, State Farm insurance won’t cover the repairs due to some technicality (i.e., they did not receive a photo of the car prior to the accident). Now my dad is dealing with total repair costs summing over $10K and the original car loan (over $17K). What options does he have? Should he declare himself bankrupt? Can he take the liable party to court for the car accident? If so a court in Nassau County or a elsewhere?

Asked on June 14, 2009 under Accident Law, New York

Answers:

SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 11 years ago | Contributor

Several  different options:

1) Fight your father's insurance company--if the issue was that you did not have a pre-accident photo of the car, that is an issue that should have been brought up as part of getting coverage from the insurance company. If you've had the coverage for awhile--i.e. you or your dad have been paying the premiums and the insurer has been cashing the checks--it may be too late for them to complain that you never filed photos in the first place. This is probably your best option, since you deserve to be paid if the insurer has taken you money *and* you know the insurer has the cash. If you've been paying awhile, contact them with the information about all your premium payments and negotiate--or have a lawyer negotiate for you--on the basis that you can prove they accept your payments and therefore cannot claim after the fact that you didn't comply with a requirement for coverage. It sounds as if they are acting in bad faith.

2) In line with the above, you can also file a complaint against your insurer with the NYS Dept. of Insurance, on the ground the insurer is not paying a claim. This may help force them to pay. The contact info for the dept. can be found at http://www.ins.state.ny.us/hpoffnos.htm. First  try to work things through with your insurer, either directly or w/your attorney.

3) You can sue the uninsured driver, but if the driver was uninsured and didn't even have a driver's license, there's a good chance he a doesn't have money, either. If they were working for someone and were on the company's business at the time--for example, was it a delivery person? a salesman making a sales call in Nassau County? etc.--you might be able to sue the driver's employer though. A Nassau County car accident attorney could help you determine this.

4) Bankruptcy is an option if you can't meet your obligations, but it does have serious consequences to your or your father's credit rating and ability to get credit. Keep this option in reserve until you see whether you can recover the money first.

There's enough money at stake to make it worthwhile to get a car accident attorney and do this right. You should look for an attorney who does a lot of car accidents and claims vs. insurance companies; try to find one who will give you a free initial consultation. a local car accident attorney in Nassau County is your best bet.


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