Other Party's Negligence Caused My Rates to Go Up!
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Another Party’s Negligence Caused My Rates to Go Up!

As a result of me making a claim through my own carrier, even though my wife was not at fault, I’ve been advised that we have lost our ‘Safe Driver’s Discount’ and will not be receiving the 25 percent annual discount we received for a period of the next three years. This doesn’t seem right. What can I do?

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Barrett has authored numerous industry trade journal/magazine articles, including several cover stories for BodyShop Business. Having grown up in a family-owned collision repair business and owner/operator of two successful collision repair facilities, his ongoing efforts as industry speaker and repairer coach-consultant are geared toward educating professionals and consumers to achieve equally successful resolutions to automotive-related property damage issues. Such issues include proper and thorough repair, reasonable repair profitability for repairers as well as equitable claim settlements for both claimants and the responsible/paying parties. ADE offers numerous professional services nationwide.

ASK-EXPERTMy wife’s vehicle was damaged in an accident when the other driver failed to yield. Although the at-fault driver was cited, their insurer initially denied liability (until they finished their investigation). And because I was a third-party claimant and didn’t have an obligation to await their approval to make repairs, as a shop owner, I went ahead and made the repairs.

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After repairs were nearly complete, the at-fault party notified me that the other party’s policy had been cancelled prior to the loss. I was then forced to make a claim against my own policy for the $3,000 repair. My insurer reviewed the photos I had taken of the damages and paid my billing invoice in full.

As a result of me making a claim through my own carrier, even though my wife was not at fault, I’ve been advised that we have lost our ‘Safe Driver’s Discount’ and will not be receiving the 25 percent annual discount we received for a period of the next three years. Because this includes our homeowner’s coverage, it equates to an annual increase of $933.75, and over three years, it will end up costing us over $2,800.

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This doesn’t seem right. What can I do?

Restatement of Torts

As body shop operators serving our customers over the years, we’ve all heard of and had similar concerns. People are afraid to make a claim through their own insurer due to the fear that their rates will go up.

Under the laws of our great country, there is a legal doctrine referred to as the ‘Restatement of Torts’ whereas, as a victim of another’s negligence, you have certain rights to be ‘made whole’ or be put back in the same condition you were before the loss…no better, but no worse.

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While I’m no attorney, I’ve been involved in the issues of liability as a senior insurance claims adjuster and collision repair facility owner/manager, as well as assisting consumers, insurance and legal professionals in such issues as a court certified expert for issues involving property damage, diminished value and other such claims.

In assisting others with their efforts to recover their loss (diminution) in value claims, I’ve learned that generally speaking, one is entitled to recompense for “All Damages that Flow from the Loss” or recovery of their resultant damages, including economic damages.

As such, I don’t see where your financial loss of $2,800 in insurer discounts (rising premium costs) would differ from any other economic damage suffered as a result of the other party’s negligence.

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Now while the at-fault party may not have insurance to protect them, this does not preclude you from seeking recovery of your losses from them personally by and through whatever legal means may become necessary. This may be from a simple demand letter to a lawsuit against the driver and their personal assets. Of course, it would be up to you to decide if it’s worth the effort and cost and if you could handle it yourself in small claims court or having to seek the services of an attorney to represent you in civil court.

No Guarantees

While there are never any guarantees when it comes to litigation, none of the potential claims for Diminished Value, Loss of Use (for the time you were without your vehicle unless you received a rental from your insurer) and Loss of Discount/Premium Increase (for three years) should be difficult to establish and/or prove. As such, it would appear that you would have a very good chance at prevailing and obtain a judgment in your favor. Of course, a judgment may not mean immediate payment from the at-fault party, but it would mean they’re legally obligated to pay you as long as the judgment remains viable.

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I would suggest you seek a consultation and the advice of competent legal counsel in your area or speak with your local clerk of courts for more information in these regards.

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