Thursday, November 19, 2009

Things I didn't know about Car Insurance in California

Way back at the end of October I was in a very minor car accident on my way to tutor my learner. The irony is that when I called my learner to tell her I'd be late due to said accident, she suggested that we just reschedule. If I hadn't been driving to meet her, I wouldn't have been on that road at all. Curses! Gods of Irony!

Shortly after the accident I was discussing (read: complaining) about the whole situation with a friend of mine, who commented that I had a rant all set up and ready to go. But I was waiting to write about it until everything was taken care of and I had my car fixed and back. And now I'm too worn out to rant about it. Because I was driving a POS rental while my car was in the shop for 10 days. (Although that's not nearly as bad as another friend of mine who recently posted this on his facebook page: If your car has ever been hit while parked, by a drunk driver, then stayed in the shop for 31 days, only to be returned one day after your rental car coverage expires, on a friday night, before the weekend, when the rental car agency isn't open for you to return the car anyway, then been charged for four extra days as a result, I totally feel you.) I have never been so happy to drive a corolla before in my entire life. And I am so glad to be DONE calling people making sure they're doing their jobs because their client hit me. Really? I have to do all of the work? I was the one who was rear-ended!

Because I am unbelievably anal-retentive about this sort of thing (namely when someone else tries to beat up something of mine), I have a log of all of the phone calls regarding this situation.

10/29/09--I was rear-ended on I-805 South, somewhere south of I-8 and north of National City (I wasn't really paying attention, but when I tried to explain this vague location to my claims adjuster the following day, he pointed out to me that I couldn't have been going south on I-8, and that I-8 isn't in National City. No shit! This is me: I was going SOUTH. On 805. I KNOW I was SOUTH of the 8 interchange. My adjuster, who's name is Paul: I-8 runs east and west. Me: Yes, I know, I was SOUTH of it. On 805. Paul: So you weren't on the 8 at all. Me: No, I had already driven OVER the 8, ON 805, going SOUTH. Paul: So you were in National City? Me: NO. I was on 805 SOUTH. I hadn't gotten to National City yet. Paul: So you were going to National City? (OK. What the F does it matter where I was going? I'm allowed to drive my car. On the interstate) Me: NO. I was going to BONITA. But I was on 805 SOUTH somewhere between the 8 and National City.)

Ok, so clearly I'm not worn out enough not to rant. And back to what happened on Thursday, October 29. I called my insurance, AAA, and spoke to a very nice woman named Teresa who wasn't mad at all that I hadn't called the police, or gotten the driver's licence from the girl who hit me (because she didn't have it with her). And thus far, I learned:

1. The police are not likely to come to an accident at rush hour on a major free way and block traffic further unless someone was hurt or the vehicles weren't drivable.

2. The most they would have done is given the girl a citation and let her drive away (much to my husbands annoyance, who wanted to ship her to TJ from where she probably came anyway)

3. The most important piece of information you can get is the licence plate number, which I did.

10/30/09--Paul, my adjuster for AAA called me, and we had the brilliant conversation I outlined above. Just imagine me speaking very s l o w l y, as if to someone very dumb, because clearly I had had a lobotomy instead of just being rear-ended. While I was on the phone with Paul, we called Wawanesa (the other party's insurance, which I thought was strange protocol--that I was on the phone while we were doing this, but no one else thought this was weird.) We spoke with Tina who gave us a claim number and then transferred us to Darin who told us that an adjuster had not yet been assigned on Wawanesa's side. Here's where I learned what I didn't know about car insurance in California:

4. You are only required to cover liability of $5,000. So if you hit someone and do more than $5k worth of damage, well, it's just their problem. Umm? How is this fair, or even reasonable? This sounds like an open invitation to lower your liability to $5k, drive a beater, and then just ram right in to the drivers who are pissing you off because they didn't seem to think about where they were trying to go when they pulled out into traffic...or whatever their problem is. Oh right. Then my insurance rates would go up. Because you're not supposed to hit other people's cars when they piss you off; in fact you're not supposed to hit other people's cars at all, which is why you have to have liability in the first place, which gets me back to the whole bit about, really? You only have to have $5k worth of coverage? And back to Curses! Gods of Irony!

5. Here's some more fun. If you're like me, and don't have renters coverage on your insurance (because I have no plans to hit a car, and I was operating under this misconception that if I were hit, the other insurance would sort of have to cover me), and the damage on the car is more than $5k, the other party's insurance won't cover a rental. They will only cover up to $5k, and you can dice it any way you want between the repairs and the rental). Again, I owned a working car. Your client rendered in un-working. And now it's up to me to get myself a car while mine is being fixed? Yup. That makes perfect sense.

11/2/09--I take my car into this place called Balboa Autobody to have them do an estimate for the damage, which comes out to $1,001. Great! I can get my car fixed and drive a rental! Just what I always wanted! Looks like Christmas came early!

11/2/09--I hear from Cord, my adjuster on Wawanesa's side, who tells me that we may have a limit issue, if they find additional damage when they take the bumper off. Yes. I did that math myself. This is also when I found out that I don't just get to give my claims number to the doctor's office (I had some mild back pain that I wanted to get looked at). (I was rear-ended once in Oregon, and as best as I can remember it, I just told the chiropractor I was in a car accident, gave them the claims number and was adjusted. I'm sure there was some paperwork involved, but there was no out of pocket on my part). So here are my California options: to pay all of the medical bills myself and then wait for Wawanesa to decide if the claims are valid, and then wait for them to reimburse me, or to sign a release of medical liability and get $1,000. I took the cash. At this point, I had had enough of the stupid California rules.

Here's something else that's fun: when I got the release, because I'm married, my husband had to sign it, too, and we needed a witness! That ended up being no big deal because hubby had to pick some friends up at the airport that night, and they were more than willing to bear witness, but if that hadn't been the case, my plan was just to sign for my sister and tell her about it. My family has a mildly open policy about signing our in, for example, if we're in a restaurant and my mother pays the bill, but can't find her glasses to read the bill, Sis or I will read and sign for her.

11/3/09--I spoke with Cord again and he said that Balboa Autobody said worst case: $1,500-$2,000 of damage, so I could get a rental car! Yipee!

11/5/09--After doing some Yelping on the repair places AAA suggested to me, I called All American Paint and Body because they had the best hours and the best Yelp reviews. As this was Thursday (I'm an accountant. I was very busy. You know, doing things like, oh, making sure my company had REVENUE in October. So yes, it took me a while to carve out the 30 minutes I needed to look at repair shops. Again: why am I doing all of the work?) I was saying, as this was Thursday, and even though All American is open on Saturdays, it seemed like the likelihood of them getting much done on my car in those few days was pretty low, so I waited until Monday to drop off my car, figuring they'd have all week to fix it and I'd have it back by the weekend. Apparently I operate under the misconception that everyone is as efficient as I am. Or maybe it's just that my life is more of a priority for me than for other people. What is the world coming to? However, I did also get my Enterprise reservation all set up.

11/9/09--I took my car to All American, who were very nice. The Enterprise people were very nice, too. The car was a POS because I only wanted what the insurance would cover. And honestly, the worst part of the car, for me, was that the dome light and the zapper didn't work. Apparently those things are very important to me.

11/11/09--I called All American to find out when my car would be ready and they told me someone (presumably the guy actually doing the work) would call me back. But they didn't.

11/12/09--I called All American again and they told me that they found additional damages once they took off the bumper (which was to be expected) and that they were having someone from Wawanesa come out and look at the vehicle in order to approve the additional amount. And they told me that the car would probably be ready the following Wednesday. In my head I was pitching a royal fit, but the guy laid out the timeline, and between my repair guy getting a weekend, and needing to repaint the bumper, well, next Wednesday it was. I guess repairmen deserve days off, and it's not All American's fault that they have to wait for Wawanesa's approval to do the work, and Wawanesa is in no hurry to get this done because they don't give a rat's ass about me or the fact that none of this is my fault! And it's making me sound like a whiny teenager. But mom! It's not my fault the teacher hates me! Ok. I'm pretty sure I've never uttered those last two sentences in my entire life, but I'm also pretty sure that my mother would have found it totally amusing if I had.

11/13/09--Good news! Cord called again and told me that he received my release of medical liability and he was sending me $1,000. The check arrived 11/18, and I wasted no time depositing it.

11/17/09--I call All American again, hoping that the car repair gods will smile upon me and have my car done a day early because Wednesday was already looking like a very busy day, but alas, they did not. All American said they'd call me when my car was ready.

11/18/09--All American called and told me to come get it after 4. Yay! I have my car back, and $1,000, but guess what? Wawanesa only approved my rental through 11/15, so there's still a possibility that I'll have to argue with them about the extra days. I'm going to keep my fingers crossed that Cord is reasonable enough to know that I wouldn't keep a rental longer than I needed to--not if I had the option of driving my own car!

1 comment:

  1. Oh. My. God. I'm not sure what's more terrifying - your experience, or that you just blogged 8000 words about it.
    I think what you need is a drink. Hell, after reading your post, I think I'll go have one.