Hit And Run Driver From Tijuana Has Insurance Unless You Prove Otherwise

Had a lovely experience with a hit & run accident this weekend, which was somehow improved by state farm.

Order of events:

1) driving down road, make eye contact with man in van waiting at stop sign
2) man looks opposite direction from me, then pulls out and T-bones me
3) we egress from our respective vehicles and ask if either party is injured
4) man says “why didn’t you stop?”
5) I reply “because I didn’t have a stop sign.”
6) he replies: “I’m from Tijuana”
7) he hops in his van and drives away, calling my tienneman style bluff
8) incident reported to police, includes four digits of man’s baja license plate number, witnesses

Phase 2:

9) I call state farm and explain situation…


10) state farm informs me that I’m on the hook for a collision deductible
11) I ask if the uninsured motorist coverage applies (zero deductible policy)
12) Response: If you can positively identify the vehicle and driver, then prove he doesn’t have insurance, it will
13) I reply: ” So the ‘ I’m from tijuana ‘ –corroborated by the Baja plate, followed by the attempt to run me over while leaving the scene forces us to assume that the man is insured unless proven otherwise?”
14) “Yeah, I think they’re changing that law in a couple of years, but for now that’s how it works”

So, either:
1) California law is really beneficial to insurance companies in this case
2) State farm is trying to convince its customers it is not responsible for coverage because California law is really beneficial to insurance companies in this case.

Just thought I’d share this tale of pleasure to see if there was any agreement about which of the last 2 observations was correct.

-Mike

— BEN POPKEN

Comments

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  1. Sudonum says:

    I’m pretty sure that uninsured motorist covers hit and run. Since by the very defenition of “hit and run” you tend not to able to get their insurance info.

  2. zl9600 says:

    God I hate these stories.

    Tips to avoid these if you can: 1. Always keep a camera phone or camera somewhere in your car. Use it immediately, including photos of the area around you, pavement, lights, stopsigns, etc.
    2. First thing when you get in accident that has any significant damage, call the police, immediately, before even getting out of your car if you can, and give them the license plate of the vehicle you are involved with. 3. Get out of your car and get the person’s drivers license. Don’t give it back until police come. 4. If they run before police arrive, call police back and tell them immediately so they can be on alert for the vehicle.

    Oh yeah, and if it’s not serious and you’re in traffic, do the rest of the world a favor: GET IT OUT OF TRAFFIC. In many states it’s now state law, and yes you can get ticketed for an accident that’s not your fault if you leave it in the middle of the road and it’s both not serious and possible you could have moved it.

    If it’s all your fault, don’t be an ass and try to run. You’ll get caught if they get a license plate, and will deserve every bit of punishment.

  3. bluegus32 says:

    State Farm is dead wrong. This falls under the “phantom vehicle” provisions of Uninsured Motorist law. If you can prove that you were struck by a hit and run driver (which seems easy enough in this case) you are deemed to have been struck by a “phantom vehicle” thus triggering Uninsured Motorist coverage.

    I have litigated cases like this before and the insurance company always loses. Now, it’s been a few years since i’ve done any uninsured motorist litigation but I’m pretty sure I’m right on this one. State Farm is jerking you around. Call back and see if you can speak with a different adjustor or claims manager. If you get any more grief, find yourself an attorney who specializes in uninsured motorist law. If you’re in Northern California, I know the perfect one for you. He literally wrote the book on uninsured motorist law (my old boss.)

  4. HawkWolf says:

    I second the ‘call the cops’. If you don’t, then trying to claim fault on the other person will be a big pain. I was involved in a very minor accident that was the other driver’s fault, and his vehicle wasn’t damaged. Unfortunately, since I didn’t do a police report, there’s really not much case for me to get my deductible waived.

  5. Skeptic says:

    I’d say the OP was lucky the opposing driver didn’t stick around. He’d have a serious home court advantage. My understanding is that if you don’t have Mexican auto insurance in Mexico you’re SOL even if you are not at fault.

    I’d be interested to know about US citizens good or bad experiences with car accidents in Mexico.

  6. bluegus32 says:

    Skeptic: except that the accident in question happened in California. The other driver was from Mexico, but that’s not where this accident occurred.

  7. ikes says:

    this is exactly why is scares me to death to drive in san diego. that, and the fact that every single person in this city is a brainless turd. i can’t believe these people don’t constantly run into each other.

  8. BotchedJoke says:

    A Camera in the car?! Yea, I am a San Diego native and Americanos have no rights. State Farm HAS to cover you if you have uninsured motorists coverage, ALSO the law states that since it was a hit and run you do not have to pay the deductible. This happend to me last year and I have Mercury insurance and they paid me.

  9. superbmtsub says:

    Bet state farm dont got insurance for having cops arrest their phone reps for lying to customers.

  10. empty01 says:

    @bluegus32

    First word that popped into my head was “lawyer”

    In a situation like this he has shown “good faith” by attempting to negotiate through traditional channels so when he lawyers up State Farm is liable for the lawyers fees as well correct? (presuming he wins)

    I wish that you could assess damages for aggravation and irritations encountered when a company acts illegaly.

  11. gte910h says:

    The state insurance commissioner’s office may be easier than a lawyer if you call and talk with someone. Talking with them, then talking to the claims adjuster would give you a little more umph without losing the price of the attorney right off the bat.

    I’ve been screwed by Insurance Companies for piddling amounts before (not even the full deductible, just 100-200 bucks) I’m going to use grand central.com and record future dealings so they can’t doubletalk their way out of things they did say.

    I suggest you record you some conversations with grandcentral if that’s legal in your state, then you talk with the insurance commish again :o)

    –michael

  12. dwarf74 says:

    Last time I read the regulations, “hit and run” is one of the specific items covered by Uninsured Motorist coverage.

    It doesn’t matter if the guy has insurance or not – the fact is, you weren’t able to obtain his insurance. The insurer can’t assume the adverse vehicle was covered… Ask your agent for a written copy of your policy, specifically the description of the UM/UIM coverage.

    Try to escalate this to a claims manager before contacting a lawyer. It may save you some cash. If that doesn’t work, I guess a lawyer will be your only recourse… If it’s any consolation, you’d win.

  13. Shutterman says:

    I sure hope State Farm is in the wrong. I have Uninsured Driver coverage in New Mexico, it would suck to find out it’s worthless.

  14. capnfive says:

    I had a similar experience with a hit and run driver in Norther California (except the driver never stopped or got out of the car). USAA told me that I wouldn’t be covered with the Uninsured Motorist coverage I’d been paying for because I couldn’t prove the hit and run driver didn’t have insurance. They sited CA insurance law.

    But… I didn’t go away like USAA was probably hoping I would. After numerous calls and letters telling them how unethical they were, I was still getting a “we’d like to help, but the law doesn’t allow us” response. When I told them I was going to call the CA Insurance Commissioner, they changed their tune and waived the deductible. There’s my advice: Be the squeeky wheel.

    I hope CA gets their act together to change this law soon. I can understand it for unwitnessed claims (there could be lots of fraudulent claims), but if there are witnesses and a police reports… the “prove they didn’t have insurance” standard is just plain wrong.

  15. bluegus32 says:

    empty01: “In a situation like this he has shown “good faith” by attempting to negotiate through traditional channels so when he lawyers up State Farm is liable for the lawyers fees as well correct? (presuming he wins)”

    Nope. Attorneys’ fees are non-recoverable in California, good faith or no good faith.

    There are a couple of limited exceptions to this rule. The most significant that any plaintiff’s lawyer will be quick to cry is “bad faith.” I won’t go into why that’s a losing argument. Let’s just say that it’s a difficult hurdle to jump. In any event, the bottom line is that hiring a lawyer is going to cost this guy to a certain degree.

    However, let’s not look at the bare fact that an attorney will take 1/3. You also have to think about how much more money the insurance company will pay up merely because you get a lawyer. As a general rule, lawyers get more money for you than you can get for yourself. In fact, the amount of more money that the lawyer can get you will usually justify the contingency fee. So, in the end, he may get just as much money but that much less headache.

  16. MarvinMar says:

    http://www.doniglaw.com/CM/Articles/Articles8.asp

    WHEN DOES AN UNINSURED MOTORIST POLICY APPLY?

    Uninsured motorist vehicle coverage comes into play whenever anyone who is insured is injured by a driver who is uninsured or underinsured (does not have enough insurance to pay for the damages caused). An uninsured driver includes a hit-and-run driver, so long as there is some actual contact from the hit-and-run driver’s vehicle.

  17. Uurp says:

    And here’s something I learned the hard way: Other than to ask the other driver if they (and/or their poassenger(s)) are in need of medical assistance, don’t talk to them. As a naive 20-y.o. I was broadsided by an asswipe PolyGrip user who ran a yield sign, totaled my car. His insurance later denied my claim (even though the police report clearly showed I had the ROW) because they said I admitted fault at the scene of the accident. All I said to the old guy was, “Don’t sweat it, man, everyone gets in an accident one time or another.” ‘Cause he looked so pathetic. And like a dumb 20-y.o. I took it in the ass because I couldn’t afford a lawyer.

  18. planetdaddy says:

    I would be making a trip to Mexico.

  19. PandemicSoul says:

    I worked for State Farm, in an agent’s office, until about a month ago. My first question is: who were you talking to? I’m assuming it was someone at an agent’s office? If that’s the case, don’t believe everything you are hearing. Fact being that people in an agent’s office are not always the best informed on insurance policies regarding claims. People in an agent’s office are trained to do one thing: sell insurance. Claims are handled by local offices with dedicated representatives who ONLY deal with claims. THEY are the people who you need to start asking questions to.

    I am not aware of substantial differences in the procedures between where I live (in Arkansas) and California. Nonetheless, in this situation, as an agent’s staff person, I would have simply taken your claim and then you would have spoken to a claims rep later today or tomorrow. In my state, to answer your question, I would have assumed this is an “uninsured motorists” claim and you WOULD be responsible for the $200 uninsured motorists claim deductible. ANY hit and run is an uninsured motorists claim.

    I don’t think there’s any need for a lawyer — that’s just going to slow down the process for you. File your claim and talk to a claim representative (usually you can’t talk to them until the claim is filed). If you still have questions, and don’t want to file the claim yet, then call and speak with your agent. If you get one of their staff people on the line, leave a message. Continue to call back twice a day until you speak with them.

  20. PandemicSoul says:

    … one other thing. When you speak with the people at your insurance office, ask the following:

    1. Am I in Mutual company, or Standard company?
    2. When can I come by to pick up an auto policy booklet, which lists all of the terms of my policy?

    The first question is to make sure that you get the proper booklet. State Farm has two auto programs — one for drivers with good credit, and a good driving history, the other for drivers with bad credit and/or bad driving history. Mutual is for the former, standard for the latter. The auto policies have different terms, and so you want to know which policy you have when you get the booklet. (As mentioned above, sometimes staff in offices don’t know enough. They may give you whatever they have without knowing, or checking, whether it is a mutual or standard booklet.)

    If they tell you that they don’t have a copy of your auto policy, don’t fuss — they might not. State Farm doesn’t normally give these out, and the agent has to order them from State Farm to have them in their office. They SHOULD have them, so that they can refer to them, but they might not. Call another office (and keep doing so) until you get one.

    The policy should NOT be something printed out from a computer. If they’re trying to just give you a one-page print-out of your policy, that’s a declaration page which lists the coverages you’re carrying. What you’re looking for is a booklet that looks like a half-fold pamphlet, but is about 15-20 pages. It will be printed on very thin newspaper-like stuff, and be either red or blue (dependent on which company you’re in — mutual or standard).

    It is, admittedly, written in legal-speak and may be a bit daunting at first. Nonetheless, if you give it 30 minutes and really, really read it, you will be a lot more educated on how the company is required, by their own policy admissions, to deal with your auto claim.