Reader Question: To File a Claim or Not?

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Here’s the latest reader question, along with my reply! 

Tom asks: This answer to this question is largely academic because I already chose to do one of the two options I’m about to ask you about. In a nutshell I got into a fender bender or got my fender bent. It was actually more the rear quarter panel but anyhow. The person who hit me – this was in a parking lot, backing out of a parking spot – was very flustered and seemed like a nice person. She was very worried about her insurance company raising her rates and asked whether she could just pay me directly and not get the insurance company involved. What would you do in this situation?

My reply: There are variables here, including personal ones. I personally would have probably been ok with this, if it were my old truck – what’s another dent? – and the dent wasn’t much and I knew I’d be okay with getting stiffed. Like loaning money to a friend. I never do it unless I know I can deal with the loss of the money (and the friend!)

But, if the damage is potentially more than superficial (i.e., behind the bent metal) which is likely if the impact is more than very minor, I’d want the insurance to handle it as what might appear to be a $200 dent could prove to be a $1,000 new quarter panel. And I don’t think it’s a good idea to get into a situation where you’re haggling with the owner of the other car – the person who hit yours – over a higher-than-you-both-expected repair bill. Much as I dislike the insurance mafia – mainly because it is a mafia –  this is what you’re being forced to pay for.

Might as well get something for your money.

. . . .

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  1. There is another issue here that is relative (to me). I have a dealer friend who taught me a lot about the car biz. I came in for an oil change with my tailgate dented pretty bad (my fault).
    My dealer friend said “you better not go through insurance to get that fixed”
    Why? It was going to be about $1K.
    “Cause then it will go on CarFax, and I can’t give you retail when you trade it in. I can’t sell it Certified, and no one will want it, cause all it says is ‘accident reported’.”
    hmmmmmm. So he showed me the numbers of my truck that he could sell certified vs. wholesale. The differential was around $8K. So I had to anti-up $1K to save 8.
    And I fixed it right with a body shop friend with a new tailgate.

    Eric is right, if minor, and you care about resale, do it cash. Could always get an ‘estimate’ to see if it’s worse than you think. Nunzio’s advice is good too.

    For me, insurance is sorta a joke now for anything under $4-5K’ish damage, next to a very bad accident or a total. You just lose way too much on resale. Hence my very high deductibles.

  2. I don’t think I’ve EVER heard of an incident where someone who didn’t want to go through insurance ended up good for the innocent victim. Most of the time, if they don’t want insurance’s because they haven’t got any. Bad enough, if ya don’t have a dash cam, and didn’t call the fuzz, even with insurance, they or their client will often deny responsibility.

    What I would do in that situation, is take their ins. info, and have them either sign something admitting guilt, or call the pigs, and then tell them as long as they pay, you won’t involve the insurance. (Actually, the insurance co.s only responsibility is to defend their client- they don’t even have to deal with you).

    Can’t get much body work done for $1000 these days…..


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