January 03, 2005

Arrrrrrrrrgh Dammit (Driving Is So Much Fun)

(One in a continuing series ...)

Remember just before Christmas, when Shelby was rear-ended while driving home from her parents'? Remember how we both wrapped up our accounts of the event with "well, at least he had insurance!"? Well, early this morning our inattentive driver's former insurance company called me up with the news that Mr. Miguel Muņoz had let his insurance lapse six months ago.

So, naturally "his" insurance isn't going to pay for any damages. Nor did they seem particularly disturbed to think that Mr. Muņoz was going around committing insurance fraud by claiming to still be covered by one of their policies.

Adding to the mix is the unfortunate fact that while Shelby got his name, license plate number, and "insurance info", she was too flustered to collect his address or phone number (and I'm sure that his oh-yo-no-hablo-the-Ingles act of total noncomprehension didn't help either).

Since it's state law that everybody has to carry auto insurance, surely our government will help us, right? Ha! Looking at the DMV's Web site, both Shelby and Muņoz are supposed to file an "SR-1 Traffic Accident Report" within ten days of the accident (so, today). What does that buy us? Well, for $20, we can get a copy of the SR-1 that the other driver filed (thus discovering his reported address and insurance information), assuming that he filed a report. For another $20, we can make a second request to get a certification that the other driver was, in fact, uninsured -- again, assuming that he filed a report. It doesn't appear that the DMV will give out any information that the other party doesn't personally volunteer.

So, it seems that we can pay $40 to obtain information that doesn't exist. And if we're Good Samaritans and report the accident unilaterally, we do ourselves the 'favor' of putting a collision on Shelby's driving record:

Every accident reported to DMV by law enforcement shows on your driving record unless the reporting officer says another person was at fault. Every accident reported by you, or another party in the accident, shows on your record if any one person has over $750 in damage or if anyone is injured or dies. It does not matter who caused the accident. The law says DMV must keep this record.

Really, the only thing that filing an accident report will give us is the satisfaction of knowing that Muņoz will have his license suspended for a year -- or longer, if he can't manage to scrape up a new source for insurance. And while that is satisfying, it doesn't result in money to repair our car -- and for a guy who's already driving without insurance, is the lack of a driver's license or current auto registration really going to keep him off the road?

We could sue Muņoz in small-claims court (assuming that we can somehow divine his address and phone number) -- but again, if the guy can't scrape up enough money to pay for auto insurance, what's the likelihood of our collecting, versus our effort and frustration in fighting for a victory?

Since the accident took place in Anaheim, and since Muņoz seems to live in Anaheim, I plan to call the local police as soon as we get the letter from "his" insurance company stating that Muņoz lied about carrying insurance. But I don't expect it to do any good.

Really, it seems like everybody wins but us:

  • Muņoz! He gets away scot-free!
  • Workmen's Auto Insurance Company! Muņoz doesn't actually carry their insurance -- so they don't actually have to do anything!
  • GEICO! (our insurance company ...) Not only do they get the benefit of the $1,000 deductible that we were carrying on the Ford, I'm sure that this is going to result in their raising our rates. They raised our six-month premium by a few hundred dollars when we did nothing but change our mailing address from Torrance to Anaheim, so how could they miss this opportunity?

. . . so, it's really the perfect crime. We'll be out $1,000 plus years of increased premiums, and nobody really cares that yet another inattentive, uninsured driver is dazing his way through SoCal traffic. But it could be worse -- I've been giving thanks every day that Shelby wasn't driving her car, where Muņoz's bumper would have been at the level of her head, rather than at the level of my trunk.

(Oh, and a hearty f**k-you-too to Workmen's Auto Insurance Company for taking almost two weeks to tell us that our buddy wasn't insured. Thanks for the quick work on that one, guys!)

Posted by Kevin at January 3, 2005 05:34 PM

If this Munoz guy is a property or business owner, you could go after those assets; however, we can assume if this guy can't afford auto insurance, he most likely isn't a homeowner.

Plus even IF Shelby obtained his address and phone number, he could have totally lied about that as well. Perhaps you can send the INS (oops sorry, now the Office of Homeland Security) after this guy? Still I would take him to court just to inconvience him!

Yes, unfortunately, if you move to a different geographic area, your auto insurance company CAN and WILL raise your rates. Apparently, there is actuarial data that suggests you are more likely to be hit by an uninsured, undocumented immigrant in the city of Anaheim than in Torrance.

Posted by: Katrina at January 4, 2005 02:34 PM
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