Since I was rear-ended on Leap Day 2012, I’ve been a lot more aware of the happenings going on behind me.

It isn’t that I haven’t always peaked in the rearview mirror, it’s just that I’ve been doing it a lot more often lately.

Yeah, there’s some anxiety there.

Now, I’m totally aware that “driving” in general has become a lot more dangerous over the past 20 years (I’ve been driving since 1992) — I see the level of safety declining everyday.

Red lights are meaningless to some.

The shoulder is apparently an additional travel lane on the on the highway.

If you want to turn left, it’s okay to block crossing traffic to make it happen. Totally acceptable.

U-turns? In traffic? No problem. Just do it.

And there are signal lights? Really, what are those even for?

With all of that around me, I’m concerned enough but, of late, I’m really terrified out there.
My commute is less than 6 miles — and that includes to-and-from.

Six miles.

Every single day since that accident I’ve had at least one person in the car directly behind me totally “in the zone”.

A cell phone is the usual culprit — and I’m convinced that’s why I was hit — but it’s the freakin’ text messagers that really scare the crap out of me.

The talkers aren’t paying attention and, yeah, that’s a hazard, but it’s the texters who aren’t paying attention or even looking at where they’re headed that are the real problem.

Now, since the accident, I finally upgraded my el-cheapo cell phone to one with the full keyboard. For those that care, it’s a Samsung M575. Seven bucks per month, baby…

Anyway, once the battery charged, I sent my first text message on it to my wife from the comfort of the couch and it was clear — there is no way I could have done that from behind the wheel of a moving car. No way.

I’m getting off topic…

Okay, so back to the aftermath of the accident on Leap Day…

So, since I was in an accident, I did what I “thought” you were supposed to do when you’re in an accident — I called my insurance company.

(Yes, I now realize that this was an incredibly stupid thing to do when you’re not at fault but it turned out kinda of interesting… Read on…)

I asked lots of questions while filing my claim with Allstate and made it clear that I wasn’t at fault, I had an police accident report, and even a witness, blah, blah, blah…

It was implied that Geico — the other guy’s insurance company — would re-imburse Allstate on the claim.

Sounded feasable to me since I just wanted my car to get fixed.

Allstate scheduled me with an adjuster to take a look at the car and “issue a check” so, the day after the accident, I took the car to one of Allstate’s drive-up claim offices which just so happens to be an auto shop. Go figure.

The dude, nice enough guy, comes out, checks out the damage, takes a few pictures and then starts googling “Land Rover Bumper”.

Seriously?

I was a little taken aback, you know, thinking they’d have some sort of master “parts” database for that sort of thing.

Being the nerd that I am, you know I’d already googled the cost of a new bumper — yeah, around $900.

So, the adjuster guy isn’t quite as savvy on the internet as I am and he can’t find the “correct” bumper so he makes an executive decision and “chooses” a knock off bumper made in Taiwan.

Now, I’m not against using generic parts, not for one second, but if that bumper doesn’t look the same (with the words “Land Rover” embossed across the length of it), well, that’s not good enough.

I said as much too.

I mean, you don’t see people removing logos from their BMWs, Cadillacs, and Mercedes?

No, you don’t.

It’s just the Mitsubishi and pimped out Honda crowd that try to make their car appear as something else…

Anyway, he talked up some lifetime Allstate guarantee of somesort for junk aftermarket parts and put the cost down as $250.

Say what?

Yeah, $250 for a new bumper cover.

And a $50 repair on the muffler. No, really, a fifty dollar repair to the muffler.

Can I get a show of hands of people who’ve ever had anything done at a Meinieke for fifty clams?

All told, his guesstimation of the damage was $1011. Take out my $500 deductable and I was presented with a check for $511.

But, oh no, there was a printing error. He printed the check wrong so he had to void it. In the end, I left the office having been told that I’d have to wait for Allstate to correct it and mail it to me.

Whatever.

I drove home…kind of in a funk. Had I just gotten screwed? Again?

It didn’t sit right.

I mean, I’m not a car expert but I paid $1200 out-of-pocket for that front bumber repair last summer and that damage was far far less than this.

And why was I paying $500? I was the one that got hit — the adjuster and my claim rep only briefly mentioned getting re-imbursed by the other guy’s insurance company, as in Allstate would get re-imbursed but I wouldn’t.

Not happy about it but not sure what to do, my wife took over (she’s better at being mean), and cancelled the claim with Allstate before the check even arrived — it took like 4 business days to show up.

It’ll still show up as a claim on my record though — and my premium could go up — so, in a way, I did get screwed.

For anyone out there that’s been hit by someone else — don’t *EVER* call your own insurance company even though there are places all over the internet (and in your policy) that say you should.

So then I called Geico — the other guy’s insurance company.

It felt weird calling in to file a claim with a company that you’re not even a customer with. I mean, the first question they ask is what your policy number is…

You can’t help but expect them to take a different tone the second you way, “Um, I don’t have one…” but the fellow on the other end of the line was as pleasant as could be.

That said, I could’ve done without the “I’m sorry to hear you were in an accident, was everyone alright?” No matter how you slice it, it never comes across as sincere from a total stranger over the phone.

I know he was just reading a script on the computer screen in front of him but, c’mon…

Anyway, he was able to look everything up based on the other guy’s policy number (which I had from the police accident report) and, without even having to go through the 40-questions game about nwhat occured, he flat out said that Geico had admitted fault.

(In short, the other driver had already filed a claim cause his car was really messed up.)

Wow, that was easy.

So from there I had to schedule an appointment at one of Geico’s drive in locations which, again, was at an auto body.

Annoyingly, the closest one was a bit of a hike from home and their available timeslots were less than convenient but I took a wicked long lunch one day at work and drove it out there.

For maximum effect, just before I got there, I pulled the tail light out so it looked like it was hanging by a wire.

(Post accident, it was hanging by a wire but it was easy to snap the smashed light enclosure back into place.)

This guy came out, looked at the car, took the same types of pictures that the Allstate guy did and then started looking up the parts.

His system didn’t have the rear bumper cover listed but when he looked it up (I didn’t see if he was just using google too), he said, “Man, that cover will be tough to find…” and then came to the value of $950.

Yeah, that’s more like it, I thought…

And he said the muffler was just fine — the bumper cover just wasn’t where it’s supposed to be so it’s now almost touching the muffler. Looking at it myself, I totally agree.

In the end, I was presented with a check for $1701 from Geico.

So, Allstate was going to give me $511 to take to an autobody shop to pay for the repairs and Geico was going to give me $1701.

Now I realize it’s all a matter of opinion and that either insurance company would deal with the autobody directly on the “realized” cost of the total repair but, c’mon…

That’s a $1200 difference.

Omitting the deductible, it’s still not even close.

Not even close.

So now I’m not even sure what to think…

Does Allstate suck? Are they cheap? Or is Geico that awesome? I just don’t know…

What I have learned though is that if I’m ever in another accident where it’s undoubtedly not my fault… I’m NOT calling my own insurance company.

That is the WRONG thing to do.

I know, I know, it seems obvious but snoop around on the internet a bit — it says that it’s in your best interest to call your own insurance company and I’ve come to learn that that’s completely wrong when the accident is clearly not your fault.

So now we need to decide on how to procede…

I want to get it fixed because I’ve never been the type to “benefit” from being a victim or drive a junked out car but…the damage is strictly cosmetic. It stills drive like a charm.

And let’s be honest, a $1700 payment to the credit card company is pretty enticing…

It’s almost got me thinking that Geico may have had a formula in place when they came to that $1701 number — make it less than what the actual repairs we’ll be on the hook for but high enough that the non-customer will just cash it instead.

If that’s the case, well, they hit the mark.

I’m on the fence.

And I don’t like it.

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