Today at dinner time, a representative from called me and surveyed me about my claims experience with Johnson. This kind of triggered me to write this post.

About a month ago, one of my cars had an accident. My wife was driving it alone southbound on Pharmacy, at a T intersection, saw traffic lights were yellow and were to turn red, she slowed and stopped, but a car following her at a distance did not stop, and rear-ended her car. For us, our bumper was seriously broken, but all tail lights were intact. For the other driver, her 2008 Mazda Sports 4 door was seriously damaged in the front. The front hood was up and crumpled; the radiator was broken and coolant leaked to the gournd; other parts on the front were impacted; some lights broken.

When I arrived at the scene, both cars were already hooked up to tow trucks; the policeman told me that he was not going to write a report on the spot, and asked us to go to the collision reporting center to report it. I took some photos of the front of the Mazda that showed the damages and the license plate; I also took photo of my car and the license plate of the tow truck, before I let the two truck driver drove away to the collision center.

At the collision reporting center, the officers that came out to inspect the damage and took photos asked us why our car was towed in, suggesting that we should have driven it there and saved them the towing fee. This is quite annoying, how were we supposed to know whether the force of the impact had not damaged or cracked the gas tank, or whether the braking lines had not been cracked. Anyway, we just told them we thought the car was no longer safe to drive. But for others who are sure that the rear-bumper collision is not serious, they can drive to the collision center, and save the insurance company some towing cost.

As for the claims process, I had a rental car for about a week while my car was in the body shop, and all tental expenses were covered by the insurance. This is despite the fact that my insurance policy is third-party liability only. I guess it’s because we did not have any fault, all these costs would be recouped from the other driver’s insurance company. My car was left at the reporting center, and on the same day, my appointed adjustor from Unifund Insurance picked a body shop for us, and told the body shop to pick up our car from the reporting center. We did not have to be there as we left our key with the reporting center, and I authorized the release of our car to the body shop over the phone. The rear bumper cover was replaced, the inside panel was also repaired, and there was a paint job. All told, the body shop charges amounted to $4050, all covered by the insurance. The people at the body shop also threw in an oil and filter change for me at no charge, when I told them the car was due for an oil and filter change.

I know many people complained about the difficulty they faced during the claims process with Johnson and Unifund Assurance. For me, I am pretty happy overall with the claims process with Johnson and Unifund Assurance although the adjustor was really rude on the phone the next day. But he waived my deductibles, arranged for the rental and car repairs. I guess it is largely due to the fact that we had 0% fault.  Maybe, if we had a percentage of fault, it would be quite different an experience with Johnson. But I don’t know. For me, the only thing is that the accident caused a lot of inconveniences and lost time.

Here are a few lessons along the way to share with other drivers.

Lesson 1: Take Photos of not only the car or part parts, but also of the scene

I should have taken a few photos of the surrounding to establish where the accident happened, and the relative positions of the cars involved. This is important because the police did not write a report on the spot, and people can easily tell a false and different story at the collision center when both parties did not have witnesses to support their story. Even though we know we had no fault when we were rear-ended on the road, the other driver could easily tell a different story that it happened in a parking lot and we backed up into her car, or that we backed up at the exit of a parking lot, or that we overshoot the stop line and backed up into her car. With a photo that could establish where the accident happened, it would be difficult even if they wanted to tell a lie.

Also, the fact that you took photos of the cars and scene would deter the other driver from telling lies that would be easily refuted by photos.

What I did right was that took photos of the other car that clearly showed the license plate. It proved to be useful at the collision center. We were expecting the other party to arrive at the center at about the same time, but while we were there, they did not show up. So I only found out about the license plate by looking at the photo I took.

Lesson 2: Take down information about the other driver and his/her insurance

I arrived at the scene to see that the police were already there. Thinking the police would have either already told the drivers to exchange information or taken down the information somewhere, I left the scene to go to the collision reporting center without asking the other driver for pink insurance slip, or her name, address and her insurance information.

Lesson 3: Look for Witnesses and Take Down their Phone and Address

I arrived at the scene late, and most likely those drivers who saw the accident had left the scene. My wife did not have the experience to first look for witnesses. They would be the ones that could prove you were not at fault when there is a dispute.

Lesson 4: Find out the Road or Street Names or Bring your iPhone or Android phone

That was the first day after I bought an Android smartphone that had integrated Google maps. I did not note down the name of the smaller cross road, and at the reporting center they wanted to know the exact location or the street names. I was lucky to have my Android phone with me, and was able to find out the name of the cross road using Google Maps.

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  5. Parking & the Parking Lot

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