Do research before accepting settlement

By CALL 12

FOR ACTION Rick DeBruhl Feb. 24, 2003

It wasn't exactly David and Goliath, but Bev Auerbach felt she beat the giant.

In this case, the giant was a car insurance company.

Bev's problems started last year when her car was parked at work. A pickup pulled into the next space. For some reason, after the driver left, the truck caught on fire. The blaze spread to Bev's car.

Her 1997 Dodge Neon was destroyed, just two payments away from being paid off.

The insurance company offered Bev $2,100 and told her that she had to return her rental car right away.

Bev felt her car was worth more, so she and her boyfriend went to work. They scoured the classified ads to see what prices people were getting for cars like hers. They called dealerships and searched the Internet. When they were done, they felt their car was worth $5,000. That's what they requested from the insurance company.

It's important to point out that they didn't just throw out a number. They did research. They documented the prices of similar cars.

Faced with solid facts, the insurance company changed its tune. Bev got her $5,000.

Bev also kept the rental car for a longer period. She didn't return it when the adjuster first asked because she wasn't ready to accept the settlement. It was a risk. In her case the insurance company paid the entire bill, but she might have been stuck with part of it. Once you accept the settlement offer and pick up your check, you are normally obligated to return the rental.

The important thing is to understand that all of this is negotiable. The first settlement offer may be reasonable or just a starting point. If you think your car is worth more, prove it.

You have to be reasonable. Being an accident victim is annoying, and you're not likely to be reimbursed for every inconvenience. Don't spend money assuming that you will reimbursed.

But don't be afraid to make your case and ask for more.

Reach Call 12 for Action from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. weekdays at (602) 260-1212 or 1-866-260-1212.

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