Ana Garcia, James Hourani
Four days after a collision, recent college graduate Stefanie Selai was offered a settlement. But when the other driver hired a lawyer, Selai's insurance company, which represented both drivers, pulled its offer. Ana Garcia reports for the NBC4 News at 11 p.m. on June 13, 2012.
Most people would assume that a car accident involving two drivers who share one insurance company would be an easy situation to handle, but for Stephanie Selai, that was not the case.
On March 9, Selai, a recent college graduate, was driving home from a teaching job. She said she could not avoid hitting a Mercedes that pulled out in front of her.
The drivers shared an insurance company, Progressive.
Selai called for police but because there were no serious injuries, she said they refused to come to the scene. She took pictures of the cars but only after they had been moved off the road.
“I never should have done that,” Selai said. “I should have taken pictures of everything right there.”
After Selai told Progressive her version of how the accident occurred, she said they offered her a $5,200 settlement.
To get the check, she had to do was sign the title of the car over to insurance company. But before she could do that, the other driver hired a lawyer and, according to Selai, the other driver changed her story.
“She is now making up a completely different story,” Selai said.
Progressive rescinded its offer, telling Selai that further investigation was needed to decide liability.
After two months of waiting with no car, no explanation and no settlement, Selai contacted NBC4’s Ana Garcia.
When asked why it was taking so long for a settlement, Progressive said it was still conducting its investigation.
Get Garcia then described the situation to Mike Alder, an attorney who specializes in insurance cases.
“Without getting a lawyer involved, she would continue to get the runaround,” said Adler, who offered to provide his services to Selai for free.
Alder assigned Dan Johnson, a former insurance adjuster, to investigate the collision.
Johnson called Progressive and met with Selai at the scene. He said it took him less than one afternoon to conduct an investigation.
“You pull all of it together, you come up with a conclusion, really all of this should have been done within a week,” Johnson said.
On June 5, nearly three months after the accident and three weeks after Alder became involved, Progressive concluded its investigation and sent the Get Garcia team a statement.
“Because there were no witnesses, this claim involved a very complex liability investigation, and has taken us longer to resolve,” the statement read in part.
Even though Progressive determined both drivers were equally liable, Selai was offered 100 percent of her damages – totaling just over $6,900.
The final settlement offer was $1,700 higher than the initial offer that Progressive rescinded.
The California Department of Insurance confirmed that Stefanie may have helped her case if she had taken pictures of the accident scene before the cars were moved. They also recommend that people file a complaint with them if they feel they are being treated unfairly.
If you have a tip you was investigation, contact Ana Garcia and her team at GetGarcia@nbcuni.com or call the tip line at (818) 520-TIPS.