News10NBC Investigates: If your accident claim gets denied, don't take no for an answer

March 14, 2019 08:13 PM

ROCHESTER, N.Y. (WHEC) -- News10NBC is tapping into one of the most frustrating things about owning a car -- the insurance. 

You pay for it and expect it to be there when you need it.


But News10NBC has the story of three people who -- after they did nothing wrong -- got their claims denied or delayed. 

What do you do then? The insurance industry says: don't take no for an answer. 

Hit by a RPD car

Last summer, Beverly Steadtmiller's car was hit by a Rochester Police car. 

"She put it in reverse and backed into my car, damaging my car," Steadtmiller said pointing to the dent above her driver's side front wheel. 

The police report says the officer was trying to chase a suspect. Steadtmiller filed a claim but in December, she got a letter from the city which said it must "respectfully decline any settlement offer."

"My car was parked here," Steadtmiller said. "It was parked."

Hit by a stolen car

Last month, Melinda Epps was driving home from work. 

"When I got right to the center here I noticed a minivan come smack me dead in the back and I start spinning," Epps said. 

Epps was so angry she chased the minivan and got the license plate. When she filed a claim for the damage with her insurance company, Epps says she was denied because the van that hit her was reported stolen. 

"Now I'm out of a car," she said. "I have to get back and forth to work and school and no one is going to pay me."

Hit by a rental SUV

John Romero was stopped for a school bus on Ridge Road in Greece when he got hit from behind. The SUV that hit him was a rental driven by someone who wasn't on the contract. 

The rental's insurance company wrote Romero a letter saying he has to "mitigate the damages."

"How do I mitigate the damages?" Romero asked. "It's cut and dry. There's $5,000 worth of damages to this vehicle, plus."

Three different cases with all the same frustration. 

So News10NBC reached Michael Barry at the Insurance Information Institute in New York. 

News10NBC Chief Investigative Reporter Berkeley Brean: "What should these vehicle owners do?"

Michael Barry, Insurance Information Institute: "I think the first thing the vehicle owners should do is look into the appeals process."

Brean: "Your suggestion is don't take that initial no as the final no."

Barry: "Correct. The first order of business is to see how to go about, if you feel you're in the right, how to go about appealing that initial decision."

And Thursday morning, after John Romero pushed back, he got word that his damages will be covered. 

On Thursday, News10NBC contacted Melinda Epps's insurance company about its policy dealing with stolen cars. 

Her insurance company said it will look into her claim. 

We also contacted the City of Rochester for Beverly Steadtmiller.

City attorney Tim Curtin sent us the following email response: 

State Vehicle & Traffic Law Section 1104 exempts the city from such claims unless it is established that the RPD officer acted with "reckless disregard for the safety of others."  The Court of Appeals has explained that, to establish reckless disregard, a plaintiff must proffer "evidence that the actor has intentionally done an act of an unreasonable character in disregard of a known or obvious risk that was so great as to make it highly probable that harm would follow and has done so with conscious indifference to the outcome" (Saarinen v Kerr, 84 NY2d 494, 501 ). The officer's conduct while pursuing this suspect in this matter did not rise to the level of "reckless disregard" for the safety of others. Our denial of a claim does not preclude an aggrieved party from commencing a legal action against the city and have the courts determine whether or not that standard has been breached.

The police report says the officer who backed into Steadtmiller's car put the police car in reverse not park. 

"I understand there were chasing after somebody, but it was wrong," Steadtmiller said. "They need to fess up to the damages they did to my car."


Berkeley Brean

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