Are you insured?

So a little over a month ago on my birthday I was on my way back from a friends house when I was rear-ended at a stop light. Calmly I pulled to the side of the road and got out to survey the damage. It wasn’t too bad all things considered. My back bumper was twisted and bent down but the girl driving the other car had jerked the wheel at the last minute and hit me with a glancing blow.

I went to her car where she was standing to make sure she was OK. She was shaken up but appeared fine. I asked her name and tried to calm her by talking about her job and what she did as we exchanged information. I took a couple pictures of her car and mine and of her insurance ID card. “I could only find an old insurance card,” she said. “No problem,” I replied. Little did I know that it WOULD be a problem and a big one.

We finished up exchanging information, I asked again if she was OK or if she needed me to wait until her husband showed up to give her a ride home. She assured me she was OK. So I got in my car and went directly to my insurance agent just a few blocks from my house to report the accident.

At the agents I showed them the photos of the damage and gave them the other drivers information. All seemed well so I went home. Having been out taking photos all day I laid down for a nap only to be woke up by my wife with the phone. “It’s some guy for you,” she said.

“Hello?” I said groggily.

“Hi this is Randy the husband of Nicole,” said the guy on the other end of the line.

“Oh Hi! How’s it going? What can I do for you tonight?” I said slipping into my best I-was-in-sales-before-this routine.

“I just wanted to call and let you know my wife’s insurance had lapsed. She forgot to pay the bill and they canceled her policy. But don’t worry, I’m more than happy to pay cash for your repairs if you haven’t reported it to your insurance yet.”

I informed him I had and he would have to do any dealing with them. I wasn’t too worried, this is after all what we pay Uninsured Motorist for.

I ended the call with Randy and hung up the phone. Before I could even set it down it was ringing again. “Hello?” I said.

“Hi this is Sandhu with Progressive Insurance. I just wanted to call and tell you that Nicole’s insurance policy had lapsed but we’re going to issue a claim number anyway.”

Ok, I thought. What insurance company issues a claim number on a lapsed policy? I wrote down the claim number and made a note to call my agent in the morning with the information. I finished the call with the Progressive Agent and went to set the phone down again. Before I could put it down it was again ringing. This time it was the claims department of my insurance company.

I answered the agents questions, told him what the husband and Progressive agent had said and gave him the claim number. The claims agent then told me that if I wanted to get my car fixed since she was uninsured I would have to pay for it out of my own pocket. “Wait! Wait!” I said. “I have uninsured motorist.” He explained that if the other company had issued a claim number they would have to do an investigation to make sure she was uninsured and until then I wasn’t covered.

Ok so wait. Why am I paying this again?

Tomorrow I am finally taking my car to the shop to have it appraised after 6 weeks. Granted one week was because I was sick but the other 5 weeks were spent dealing with insurance companies and their “investigation” as to whether the other driver was covered or not. In the end my uninsured is paying for it. Unless I want to pay for the repairs out of pocket and be reimbursed, something that’s out of the question when I’m starting my own business, I have a choice of 3 local repair shops to go to. None of them are shops I would normally choose to take my business to nor do they have good reputations. After the appraisal we were told it would be another 3 weeks before my car could be worked on and that would probably take a week.

What’s the moral of this story? Insurance sucks. They’re not on your side. They’re only on their side. Car insurance is a broken industry just like medical insurance. It’s a scam, a con, that’s hoodwinking billions of Americans into thinking they have recourse if something happens when really they have none. They’re at the mercy of this broken industry. It needs fixing and it needs fixing before it gets worse. Don’t look to the government to fix the mess. They’re part of the problem with their lobbyist money. Only you can fix it by using the power of your pocket book. How can you fix it? Look around before you buy insurance. Read your contract. If you see something you don’t like, walk out. Find someone who gives you what you want. But above all, be an informed consumer. Research.

As for my problem, after this is all over I’m having a long talk with my insurance agent about the things that were done. If he values our 2 car and home policy he’ll work to fix the problems. If not, well, there are lots of fish in the sea.

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