Insurance Blaming Victim

WSVN — A woman had her car backed into by another driver. That driver admitted fault, but his insurance company won’t pay the whole claim. It’s tonight’s Help Me Howard with Patrick Fraser.

If you live on the water in South Florida, you never know what to expect.

Marcela Cebal: It’s amazing every day, and different every day.”

And as we stood on the balcony overlooking Biscayne Bay, it’s as if someone cued the dolphin to appear.

Jaime and Marcela love the South Florida waters. The South Florida drivers are another story.

Marcela Cebal: “Suddenly, I saw a car backing up also at a very fast speed and crash me.”

Marcela was getting ready to leave a parking lot in Southwest Miami-Dade. The police sketch, which shows a witness a few feet away, reveals how the 17-year-old driver backed into her.

Marcela Cebal: “It was fast. I had time to honk.”

With the teenager admitted it was his fault, the officer talked to the witness, then wrote Marcela was “not distracted” and had “no contributing action” to the accident, but the teenager was “inattentive” and used “improper backing.”

Marcela Cebal: “The policeman told us the kid was at fault, and he gave him a ticket.”

Fortunately, the young driver had insurance. His insurance company looked at Marcela’s car, and then…

Jaime Davis: “And they said that Marcela was 20 percent liable of the accident because she was not ‘aware of her surroundings.'”

Now, you may be thinking exactly what Jaime was thinking.

Jaime Davis: “What do you mean by she is not aware of her surroundings? ‘That she didn’t honk.’ And I said, ‘She honked, but not within the proper time for the guy not to hit you.'”

Jaime asked the insurance employee how he knew how many seconds Marcela honked before she was hit and how many seconds was the appropriate time.

Jaime Davis: “And the guy said nothing.”

The bill to repair the car was $871. Marcela had to pay 20 percent, or $174. They can afford it, but Jaime says it’s not right.

Jaime Davis: “I think it’s a script that some insurance companies have in order not to pay people what they are entitled to.”

Well Howard, you’re the victim, but the insurance company for the driver who was at fault says you need to share the blame and the cost of the repair. Can they do that to you?

Howard Finkelstein: “They can try, because the state of Florida allows insurers to use comparable negligence, meaning the insurance companies can blame the victim. You don’t have to accept the insurance companies’ offer, but to hire a lawyer and fight them in court doesn’t make dollars and cents.”

I contacted Infinity Insurance to find out how they concluded Marcela was responsible for 20 percent of the accident. A spokesperson wrote back, “It is our policy not to comment on the handling or settlement of specific claims.”

The State Division of Consumer Services said Infinity told them they concluded Marcela deserved 20 percent of the blame because, in part, the eyewitness wouldn’t provide a recorded statement to the insurance company. He told them he didn’t see the accident and didn’t want to get involved in the claim.

Jaime says maybe it’s time for the state politicians need to step in.

Jaime Davis: “That there is legislation and they look into how insurance companies are working, because if this is how they proceed, I find that to be wrong and we, the people, need to be protected.”

Jaime and Marcela did get one thing out of the incident. It’s so outrageous, they can laugh about it.

Marcela Cebal: “And now that’s a family joke, that I am not aware of my surroundings.”

You gotta laugh, I guess. Now, Marcela could have refused the insurance company’s offer, but then you have to file with your insurance company and pay your deductible. That wouldn’t work for Jaime and Marcela. The state offered to mediate the dispute, but that costs $100 to win $174 dollars. Again, just no good options. That’s why Jaime is hoping a legislator looks into this.

A situation left you wrecked? Wanna insure you get some help? Contact us. We don’t repair cars, but we try to replace problems with solutions, and you don’t have to worry about paying a percentage of the cost because we’re free.

With this Help Me Howard, I’m Patrick Fraser 7News.

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