Insurance refusing to pay because I'd already hit another vehicle?

by Barbara
(Phoenix, AZ)

I live in Phoenix, AZ. I was driving to work going 70 mph down the freeway when all of a sudden the car in front of me slammed on their brakes & came to a complete stop. I slammed on my breaks, but hit them. My airbags deployed. I was stunned for a few minutes.

When I finally realized what had happened I was going to take off my seat belt to exit the vehicle when a car hit me from behind. The hit made my truck ram the car in front of me that I had already hit harder, & messed up my rear end. I was ticketed for going excessive speed. The car that hit me from behind got ticketed also, but I do not know what for.

I have liability insurance only. I was cited as 50% at fault, so the liability of the first hit was my fault. The person that hit me from behind's insurance company is telling me that they do not have to pay me anything but $100.00. They say my truck was totaled when I got hit by their insured, because my airbag deployed and I drive a 1998 Ford Explorer. They were calling it something like a "salvaged vehicle."

I'm only 21 years old. I was hurt, but nothing bad like I needed an ambulance. I've never had any vehicle incidents prior and I just find what they are saying wrong. I don't want to have to hire an attorney unless needed. I just want to get a running vehicle because I am a full time student in college plus I work full time, so not having a vehicle right now is killing me.

It's been almost a month now and I can't believe that being hit again and the damage caused by the hit is only worth $100.00. Any advise or guidance would be very much appreciated. What can I do to get reimbursed for this? Thank you for your time.

Visitor Question:
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ANSWER for "Insurance refusing to pay because I'd already hit another vehicle?":

Barbara (Phoenix, AZ):

If you purchased the Ford Explorer and the registration stated "salvage," or "salvage vehicle," then the insurance company doesn't have to offer you any amount more than a few hundred dollars. That's because a salvaged vehicle has little or no worth on the open market.

A reputable car dealer would never accept in trade a salvaged vehicle. The only manner in which you might be able to sell the Explorer is to a private buyer. Once prospective buyers finds out it’s a salvaged vehicle, you might not be able to sell it at all.

According to Kelley Blue Book, a 1998 Ford Explorer that is not a salvaged vehicle and has approximately 100,000 miles on it, and is in reasonable condition, is worth anywhere from $616 to $933 dollars.

Even if you, or the previous owner put a conservative 12,000 miles per year on the Explorer, it would have had at least 200,000 miles on it at the time of the collision. Unfortunately, with that amount of mileage the Explorer is relatively worthless.

The State of Arizona is a "Pure Comparative Fault" State. In a pure comparative fault state a victim can be up to 99% at fault for an accident and still be compensated. In your case, the insurance company apparently decided you were 50% at fault for the accident.

This means you would theoretically be entitled to 50% compensation for your injuries and property damage. From the facts you present, you didn't require any medical treatment. As a result, the only compensation due to you is for you property damage. That damage is quite obviously to your Ford Explorer.

Unfortunately, it will be quite difficult to find an attorney who will accept your case. That is, unless you want to pay the attorney on an hourly basis. Even then, any experienced attorney will tell you you really don't have the basis of a successful lawsuit.

You have no medical or therapy bills, no out of pocket expenses for medications, etc., no lost wages, and no pain and suffering. There would be nothing for the attorney to do other than attempt to convince the insurance company to pay you a little more for your Explorer. Realistically, you would end up paying the attorney many times more than you could ever hope to get for your Explorer.

The above is general information. Laws change frequently, and across jurisdictions. You should get a personalized case evaluation from an attorney licensed in your state. Find a local attorney to give you a free case review here, or call (888) 647-2490.

Best of luck,

Judge Calisi

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