Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

`Totaled' Car Brings Hardship; Should Insurance Firm Pay More?

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

`Totaled' Car Brings Hardship; Should Insurance Firm Pay More?

Article excerpt

Q. My daughter has a job at a nursing home in Columbia, Mo. Last year the company car backed into my daughter's parked car. The nursing home's insurance company considered the car "totaled."

The amount of money they offered her was insufficient to replace the car with a similar year and model, especially since they had taken extra deductions for items such as "cleanup."

I contend that they should have been required to replace the car with a similar year and model. Am I off base?

The end result was to put my daughter back into debt for several more years for a new car. She was living so close to the edge that she had to consider bankruptcy. I had to loan her money to see her through. F.H. Hazelwood

You're not off base at all. But your chances of getting justice at this point are pretty slim.

If it were earlier in the game, I'd recommend a routine of wheedling, whining and nagging, possibly including a polite mention of small claims court, in order to pry some more money loose.

As you told me, the company paid your daughter $1,454 to settle the claim on her 1988 Plymouth Horizon. She got another $300 by selling the wreck for salvage.

In all, she got out with $1,754. That's about $100 less than the retail book value for the car when it was scrunched 18 months ago.

So says the bible of auto pricing, the Official Used Car Guide of the National Automobile Dealers Association.

The NADA says it gets its figures from actual sales on used car lots. But you're not the first fellow who couldn't find a car dealer willing to sell at NADA's price.

I know from speaking to you that you prowled the auto lots. The best deal you could find was $3,500 for a 1989 Horizon.

The Missouri Insurance Department says low settlement offers are the No. 1 cause of complaints registered against auto insurance companies. The number of complaining motorists is "up in the thousands," says Brenda Maddox of the department's consumer division. …

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