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#1
Old 05-17-2018, 02:45 PM
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Homeowner's insurance question: "Impact from a vehicle" definition?

Quick background: Was driving with my bike attached to a roof rack, turned from one public street onto another and collided with a low-hanging bridge. Bike, bike rack, and crossbars were ripped off and irreparably damaged.

Fast forward to my attempt to file a renter's insurance claim on my property, and it was denied by underwriting. I asked for a document describing my coverages, and they sent me a Policy Contents Broad Form, which names one of the insured perils as:

Quote:
Vehicles, meaning impact from a vehicle, but not including damage to the vehicle itself.
The insurer argues that the impact was from the bridge, not the vehicle. My argument was that the bridge would not have impacted anything if the vehicle had not impacted it; it certainly didn't collide with the bike on its own volition.

The language from the packet is ambiguous and there is no further explanation. Is there a better definition of what "impact from a vehicle" means, or am I just SOL?
#2
Old 05-17-2018, 03:11 PM
Corellian Nerfherder
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Location: Brookfield, IL
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Reply View Post
The language from the packet is ambiguous and there is no further explanation. Is there a better definition of what "impact from a vehicle" means, or am I just SOL?
My suspicion is that it's meant to cover a vehicle running into / damaging your home or property -- for example, an out-of-control car driving through your front window, or crashing through your fence. In general, I think it's meant to cover damage to your stuff when someone else's vehicle hits it.

Between that, and the fact that they would likely argue that the damage to your bike was your fault (generally, if a driver's vehicle is taller than the clearance on a bridge, and they hit it, the driver is seen to be at fault, for not being aware of, or not heeding, the clearance which they need to pass safely), I suspect that you're SOL.

Last edited by kenobi 65; 05-17-2018 at 03:13 PM.
#3
Old 05-17-2018, 03:18 PM
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Originally Posted by kenobi 65 View Post
My suspicion is that it's meant to cover a vehicle running into / damaging your home or property -- for example, an out-of-control car driving through your front window, or crashing through your fence. In general, I think it's meant to cover damage to your stuff when someone else's vehicle hits it.
There is nothing in the language, as far as I can tell, that specifies whose vehicle it may be. Is there another contract that they go by instead of this policy "broad form"? Whatever their intent may have been, it certainly was not made clear in the document provided to me. That is literally the entire section out of that specific named peril. They are pretty specific about exclusions, so if they wanted to exclude my own property they would've (the same way they excluded the vehicle).

Quote:
Between that, and the fact that they would likely argue that the damage to your bike was your fault (generally, if a driver's vehicle is taller than the clearance on a bridge, and they hit it, the driver is seen to be at fault, for not being aware of, or not heeding, the clearance which they need to pass safely), I suspect that you're SOL.
I had considered this, and one of the exclusions is "neglect". However, I don't think this was entirely a negligent scenario. The building was actually below city code (by a significant height) and probably grandfathered in. I didn't have enough time (<3 seconds) to react from the time I made the turn to the time of the collision, and even if I did, it would have been unsafe to suddenly stop like that in that busy intersection. Anyway, if it turns out that they successfully argue I was negligent, fine, but that's a different story than them saying that this damage was not from a vehicle impact.

Last edited by Reply; 05-17-2018 at 03:20 PM.
#4
Old 05-17-2018, 03:21 PM
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I don't have an answer for your question, but is there any chance your car insurance would cover the damage?
#5
Old 05-17-2018, 03:23 PM
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Originally Posted by Tom Tildrum View Post
I don't have an answer for your question, but is there any chance your car insurance would cover the damage?
Fair question The answer is no. Auto insurance told me to ask renter's insurance. Renter's insurance told me to ask auto insurance. They are the same company (AAA) and neither wanted to cover it.

Edit: To be clear, auto insurance offered to cover the (cosmetic but ridiculously expensive) damage to my car itself, a tiny ding on the hatch. They would not cover the bicycle.

Last edited by Reply; 05-17-2018 at 03:24 PM.
#6
Old 05-17-2018, 03:35 PM
Corellian Nerfherder
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Reply View Post
I had considered this, and one of the exclusions is "neglect". However, I don't think this was entirely a negligent scenario. The building was actually below city code (by a significant height) and probably grandfathered in. I didn't have enough time (<3 seconds) to react from the time I made the turn to the time of the collision, and even if I did, it would have been unsafe to suddenly stop like that in that busy intersection. Anyway, if it turns out that they successfully argue I was negligent, fine, but that's a different story than them saying that this damage was not from a vehicle impact.
If the bridge you hit had a clearance sign, your insurance company is likely to point to that as evidence of your fault (regardless of how quickly you would have had to react to it). People hit bridges with vehicles (or with things they're carrying on top of their vehicles) with alarming frequency, and I suspect that "I hit a low bridge" isn't going to gain much traction with them. As a driver, you're expected to know the height of your vehicle (including with your bike atop it), and expected to not take it into situations in which you won't clear.

If the bridge you ran into wasn't properly signed, then you might have a case against the city (if it's public property) or the landowner (if it's private property).

As far as the rider in your renter's policy, insurance companies can and will be very literal. "Impact from a vehicle," to them, probably means exactly that. A vehicle did not hit your bike.

Last edited by kenobi 65; 05-17-2018 at 03:36 PM.
#7
Old 05-17-2018, 03:41 PM
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"Fault" is usually not an issue. It's either covered or it's not covered.

There is a long-standing principle that ambiguities in insurance policies must be construed in favor of the insured.
#8
Old 05-17-2018, 03:53 PM
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As for the ambiguity, it isn't just me who seems confused about the language. Of the multiple agents at my insurer I spoke to, not one of them could give me a clear answer either. One told me it would not be covered, another said the first one was wrong and that I should file a claim and it probably would be covered, and ultimately the underwriter denied it, I asked for an explanation why it wouldn't be considered a vehicle impact, and she never answered me. FWIW I also spoke to another insurance company and they said it absolutely would be covered under their renter's policy, which seems to me that there's quite a bit of leeway in this sort of scenario.

If the language is so ambiguous that even their own people can't make sense of it, how should I?
#9
Old 05-17-2018, 04:00 PM
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And just to be clear, this is just about the renter's policy. For the auto insurance portion, I was found clearly at fault there (collision with a fixed object), and I have no complaint about that. The minor damage to my car would've been covered under auto, but that's irrelevant here.

The claim I am pursuing is against my renter's, which doesn't specifically exclude my own actions unless it constitutes a specific exclusion. "Neglect" is defined thus:
Quote:
Neglect, meaning neglect of the insured to use all reasonable means to save and preserve property at and after the time of a loss.
It would not have been reasonable for me to have slammed on the brakes and risk killing someone just to save my bike. Indeed, after my collision, several cars behind me had to swerve out of the way and I had to wait for a safe moment to recover my property.

Last edited by Reply; 05-17-2018 at 04:01 PM.
#10
Old 05-17-2018, 04:11 PM
Corellian Nerfherder
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Reply View Post
It would not have been reasonable for me to have slammed on the brakes and risk killing someone just to save my bike. Indeed, after my collision, several cars behind me had to swerve out of the way and I had to wait for a safe moment to recover my property.
Slamming on the brakes might not have been the only way to "use all reasonable means to save and preserve property at and after the time of a loss." Your insurance company might well argue that not turning onto that street, and thus, not encountering that low bridge, would have also been a "reasonable means."

(And, at this point, you may well feel like I'm being argumentative, and I'll stop posting.)
#11
Old 05-17-2018, 04:14 PM
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https://iii.org/article/your-ren...nsurance-guide

See #6 in the link. It seems like the thing you need to ask or scour your policy for is "off-premises coverage."
#12
Old 05-17-2018, 06:02 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by kenobi 65 View Post
Slamming on the brakes might not have been the only way to "use all reasonable means to save and preserve property at and after the time of a loss." Your insurance company might well argue that not turning onto that street, and thus, not encountering that low bridge, would have also been a "reasonable means."

(And, at this point, you may well feel like I'm being argumentative, and I'll stop posting.)
No, no, it's totally fine. I appreciate the input. It's another ambiguous situation, as worded, and I'm totally fine with either you or the insurer arguing that angle (even if I disagree). Again, it's not something that is very explicit in the phrasing, and not only is "reasonable" up to interpretation, "at and after" is also ambiguous. At the time of the loss, I did my best (and failed) to avoid a collision, braking a bit but not enough. Immediately thereafter, as soon as I was safe, I moved and recovered all the parts to prevent further damage.

Sure, they could say "It's neglectful to have turned onto that street at all". Would a "reasonable" person have avoided the situation? I asked myself that question, and it turns out that bridge height was drastically below code, it was immediately after a turn (with no way to turn back), and gaping holes in the cement indicated that several other motorists have also collided with it. It might've been understandable if this were a structure I was attempting to enter (say, a parking garage or a motel lobby or something). I had avoided several of those during the same trip. This was just a street turning onto another street, and I had no idea the law would allow something so low to decapitate passing motorists (and indeed it doesn't). In truth it's a public hazard that's just left there because it's been there for so long. New construction would not be allowed to be so low.

My guess is that the neglect clause is there for situations like "You noticed the pipe was leaking. Why didn't you turn it off to prevent further damage?", but again, whatever their intent, it's not very specific in the language. So, I'm going to try to argue it in my favor.

In any case, they never brought it up. They just said it wasn't a covered peril, and to my reading, it very well could be.

I'm not really sure how to argue this with them though, if there's any sort of mediation process for disagreements over verbiage or if they just have the final say.

I ended up filing a complaint with the CA Dept of Insurance and they will look into it. I'll report back...

Quote:
It seems like the thing you need to ask or scour your policy for is "off-premises coverage.
It does, yes. The location is not an issue; the coverage covers "personal property owned or used by any insured while it is anywhere in the world."

Last edited by Reply; 05-17-2018 at 06:03 PM.
#13
Old 05-17-2018, 10:29 PM
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I’ve found that claiming anything other than a catastrophic loss (fire, burglary, tornado, etc.) on renter’s insurance isn’t worth the risk of significant premium increases or outright cancellation of your policy and flagging you as high-risk to all other insurers. Of course they can’t/won’t tell you beforehand what impacts a claim will have, but it won’t be in your favor. I damaged the carbon frame of my bike a few years ago while riding, and I considered filing a claim if it turned out to be irreprable (my policy covers off-premises personal property up to 10% of my total coverage limit, which is enough even for a nice carbon road bike). Fortunately the damage could be repaired, but even if it couldn’t, just about everyone suggested simply eating it.
#14
Old 05-17-2018, 10:38 PM
Corellian Nerfherder
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Reply View Post
I'm not really sure how to argue this with them though, if there's any sort of mediation process for disagreements over verbiage or if they just have the final say.
If they're a reputable company, they probably do have some sort of appeal process; that's something you should ask your agent about, as they should know how this is supposed to work. If you bought the policy from a specific local agent (as opposed to buying it directly online), that's who I think you should talk to; the agent is the person who's supposed to act as the intermediary between the policyholder and the company.

Parenthetically, it sounds like you're frustrated with your agent(s) telling you it should be covered, and then the underwriter disagreeing. Agents can opine on this sort of thing, but it's not their area of expertise, especially if it's an odd corner-case in your policy (which this seems to be). Ultimately, it's up to that underwriter to accept or deny the claim.
#15
Old 05-17-2018, 10:58 PM
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Quote:
I’ve found that claiming anything other than a catastrophic loss (fire, burglary, tornado, etc.) on renter’s insurance isn’t worth the risk of significant premium increases or outright cancellation of your policy and flagging you as high-risk to all other insurers.
My bike is half the reason I bought this insurance at all (the other half being mostly a laptop and some camping gear). If they want to jack up my rates, fine, I'll just cancel and move onto something else *shrug*. After this experience, I don't really want to do business with them anymore anyway.

Quote:
Originally Posted by kenobi 65 View Post
If they're a reputable company, they probably do have some sort of appeal process; that's something you should ask your agent about, as they should know how this is supposed to work. If you bought the policy from a specific local agent (as opposed to buying it directly online), that's who I think you should talk to; the agent is the person who's supposed to act as the intermediary between the policyholder and the company.
As far as I can tell, the AAA doesn't assign you a specific agent. They just choose one from a call center pool whenever you file a claim. Before I actually submitted the claim, I was trying to figure out how to actually do so (like how to divide it up between auto and renter's) and so ended up speaking to several agents. Eventually I filed a claim, at one's behest, and now I do have a designated person. She was the one who ignored my call from before, asking for an explanation, but she did just now call me back after I reminded her. I'll reach out to her again tomorrow and see what she says, and I suppose simultaneously the CA Dept of Insurance will talk to them as well to see if there's any merit to my complaint.

Quote:
Parenthetically, it sounds like you're frustrated with your agent(s) telling you it should be covered, and then the underwriter disagreeing. Agents can opine on this sort of thing, but it's not their area of expertise, especially if it's an odd corner-case in your policy (which this seems to be). Ultimately, it's up to that underwriter to accept or deny the claim.
I mean, sure, it's silly that their agents are salespeople who don't understand their own product, but whatever. That part is understandable. I'm more frustrated that the policy is so unclear, both when verbally communicated and even in writing. It makes me question why I pay year after year for this product when I cannot reliably even understand what I'm actually paying for, and when I ask for clarification, they just close the case and ignore me.

Especially since another insurance company's agent (State Farm) DID say that this WOULD be covered with their policy. I asked for proof in writing so I can see how theirs differs, and if it's convincing, I'm going to switch over as soon as I can.

At the end of the day, this isn't a huge deal. Just something I want clarification for for the future. If they're going to try to weasel out of a claim this small ($1000 ish) after fifteen years with two policies, well, I don't want them as my insurer anymore. God knows what they'll try if I get into a really serious accident.

Last edited by Reply; 05-17-2018 at 11:02 PM.
#16
Old 05-17-2018, 11:31 PM
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Since this involves legal advice, let's move it to IMHO.

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#17
Old 05-18-2018, 12:53 AM
Corellian Nerfherder
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Reply View Post
Especially since another insurance company's agent (State Farm) DID say that this WOULD be covered with their policy. I asked for proof in writing so I can see how theirs differs, and if it's convincing, I'm going to switch over as soon as I can.
I had State Farm as a client for several years (I'm in advertising), and I like them a lot. Plus, they'll assign you a local agent, who would, I suspect, be more helpful than the call-center folks you're getting with AAA.
#18
Old 05-18-2018, 01:20 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Reply
My bike is half the reason I bought this insurance at all (the other half being mostly a laptop and some camping gear). If they want to jack up my rates, fine, I'll just cancel and move onto something else *shrug*. After this experience, I don't really want to do business with them anymore anyway.
Good luck with that. Just for filing the claim, you're already in an industry database called CLUE. (Comprehensive Loss Underwriting Exchange) Go to the State Farm office across the street, and they'll know all about the loss and why AAA denied coverage.
#19
Old 05-18-2018, 03:50 AM
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Originally Posted by gotpasswords View Post
Good luck with that. Just for filing the claim, you're already in an industry database called CLUE. (Comprehensive Loss Underwriting Exchange) Go to the State Farm office across the street, and they'll know all about the loss and why AAA denied coverage.
Eh, I was completely honest with the State Farm agent about why I want to move to them. I specifically mentioned this incident with the AAA and asked if theirs would be any different. She said yes.

And also, by "something else", I meant mostly something like Velosurance, a bicycle-specific policy.

Last edited by Reply; 05-18-2018 at 03:54 AM.
#20
Old Yesterday, 04:30 AM
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I agree with your logic on coverage interpretation but I worked for USAA and my coverage interpretation when faced with ambiguous policy language would lean toward resolving the issue in favor of the insured as opposed to the insurance company. Not all companies think that way.

The policy language of:

“Vehicles, meaning impact from a vehicle, but not including damage to the vehicle itself.”, seems to limit coverage in this situation to a vehicle coming into direct contact to the bike/rack. However, this interpretation appears to be limited to a casual reading of the above.

I believe the key word in the above coverage is the preposition “from” that can easily be defined, “as a result of”. In my mind, this loss was caused by a direct result of your operating a vehicle and driving it under the bridge. It is impossible to remove the vehicle from this scenario and experience the loss sustained to the bike/rack.

Unfortunately, this is my interpretation and during my early years in the business, I would review past court decisions on coverage issues and found that many similar cases revealed diametrically different decisions. It’s all about interpretation and that’s obviously one of the shortcomings of the written word. I’ll end by saying that the language is so ambiguous, I could present a reasonably coherent argument either for or against coverage.
#21
Old Yesterday, 07:07 AM
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Not meaning to be snarky, but ...

Isn't the bicycle a "vehicle"? If so, "... not including damage to the vehicle itself" may mean it is excluded from coverage.
#22
Old Yesterday, 07:10 AM
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The renter's policy has a section of definitions and 'Vehicle" is most likely defined as "motorized". Good point though.

Last edited by Dereknocue67; Yesterday at 07:13 AM.
#23
Old Yesterday, 07:26 AM
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Keep in mind you actually have like 4 moving parts to this claim - Damage to the Car, damage to the Bike Rack, damage to the Roof rack/crossbars, and Damage to the bicycle itself.
The car is clearly auto insurance, but the bike rack and/or roof rack might also be able to be covered by the auto insurance as custom parts and equipment, so see if you have coverage for that it in the first place (you may not, it is often is add-on, but some states or policies have a few thousand $ included by default).
#24
Old Yesterday, 06:55 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Dereknocue67 View Post
I agree with your logic on coverage interpretation but I worked for USAA and my coverage interpretation when faced with ambiguous policy language would lean toward resolving the issue in favor of the insured as opposed to the insurance company. Not all companies think that way.

[snip]

I could present a reasonably coherent argument either for or against coverage.
Yup, exactly. Thank you for eloquently describing both thought processes. I'm not saying I should definitely win, but that there's a chance b/c of the ambiguity, so it was worth a shot. The bike matters a lot to me. Worst case is that I just learn from the experience and find less ambiguous policies in the future, which is why I insisted on getting the policy language this time.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Xema View Post
Not meaning to be snarky, but ...

Isn't the bicycle a "vehicle"? If so, "... not including damage to the vehicle itself" may mean it is excluded from coverage.
Hah, good point! In another part of the packet, they do specifically exclude motor vehicles. They don't really define the terms used in the named perils section (as we see here). However, this particular insurance company does cover stolen bicycles, so one would presume they meant motorized vehicles, but I suppose it's indeed another ambiguity in the language. Sheesh, you'd think insurance companies would be clearer

Quote:
Originally Posted by jacobsta811 View Post
Keep in mind you actually have like 4 moving parts to this claim - Damage to the Car, damage to the Bike Rack, damage to the Roof rack/crossbars, and Damage to the bicycle itself.
The car is clearly auto insurance, but the bike rack and/or roof rack might also be able to be covered by the auto insurance as custom parts and equipment, so see if you have coverage for that it in the first place (you may not, it is often is add-on, but some states or policies have a few thousand $ included by default).
Yep. Damage to the car was definitely covered. Bike rack and roof rack were another ambiguous situation, but since it was part of the auto claim, I didn't pursue that any further. (They wanted to replace the entire hatch and roof, which would've cost thousands of dollars. I opted for a $15 bottle of touch-up paint. That was another complaint with my insurer... they were unwilling to pay for a repair and insisted on replacement with all new parts. That's another story, though...)

Last edited by Reply; Yesterday at 06:56 PM.
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