Asked in Insurance Bad Faith for California

Q: Can I get my deductible back after a car accident, and my kids' car seats replaced?

I was involved in a minor car collision (5-10 mph) approx. 2 months ago. Progressive found me not at fault for the accident, and Geico also said their driver was not at fault. I already had to pay a $1,000 deductible to get my car fixed, but since it is now a word vs. word situation are there options to get my deductible back? Progressive is telling me that they have no obligation to pursue my reimbursement. Additionally, there were one occupied and one unoccupied car seat in the vehicle at the time of the accident. Progressive says they will only pay up to $125 to replace the occupied seat. Is this acceptable per CA car seat laws?? A replacement will cost at least double what they are offering me

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3 Lawyer Answers
William John Light
William John Light
Answered
  • Insurance Claims Lawyer
  • Riverside, CA
  • Licensed in California

A: Small Claims against the other driver is an option if you can prove s/he was at fault. You will need Progressive's consent to pursue the other driver since Progressive now owns part of the claim for property damage. You will need the receipt/estimate for repair, proof of payment of the $1k deductible and proof of payment for two new car seats, along with photos of the damage to your car, photos of the intersection/road where the collision occurred, and a convincing argument why the other driver is at fault.

Gerald Barry Dorfman agrees with this answer

John Karas
John Karas
Answered
  • Insurance Claims Lawyer
  • Temecula, CA
  • Licensed in California

A: I hate to sound like a certain attorney on Justia who responds to all questions with "more info needed" but in this instance more info is needed. Were police summoned and a report prepared or did you and the other driver merely exchange insurance information and leave the scene of the accident? Were there any witnesses to the accident besides yourself and the other driver? Would your claim be limited to only property damage or were there any personal injuries to yourself, other occupants (if any) in your vehicle?

Did you merely submit a 1st party claim to your own insurer or make a 3rd party claim directly to the other driver's insurer and simply rely on what your insurer said that the other driver's insurer said that its insured was not at fault? A 3rd party claim made by you or an attorney on your behalf to the other drivers insurer is still be a viable option.

I ask because Small Claims court is the LAST PLACE you want you case adjudicated. Commissioners (lowest judicial officers) preside over Small Claims and often do not give the Plaintiff (in this case you as you would be the one suing for recovery of damages) sufficient time to put on their case and don't consider evidence properly. If you simply want to recoup your 1K deductible and other amounts for your 2 broken car seats your own insurer won't "pay full freight", your insurer would not have subrogation rights. More, importantly, if you lose you do not have the right to appeal.

I suggest you contact traffic accident lawyers in your area (unspecified, the question only says you are located somewhere in California and as you know California is a big state) who are also knowledgeable re: Insurance Bad Faith (IBF) for a free consultation. Have all your paperwork (including your full insurance policy and other evidence) ready to discuss with an attorney.

Based on the limited facts and low dollar potential, most attorneys would not take your case on a contingency fee basis but you might have a "diamond in the rough" 1st party IBF case if your insurer did not vigorously pursue your claim with the other driver's insurer or has a "custom and practice" of low balling its insureds (meaning you and countless others).

Good luck.

William John Light
William John Light
Answered
  • Insurance Claims Lawyer
  • Riverside, CA
  • Licensed in California

A: PS California car seat laws have nothing to do with what your insurer is obligated to pay. That is determined by your insurance policy. Read it, and/or ask your insurer on what policy provision it relies in refusing to pay for both car seats. Ins. Code section 11580.011 requires coverage for replacement of car seat if in use at the time of a collision, or if the seat was damaged in the collision. One of your seats was not in use. Was it damaged?

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