Your best option may be to sue their insured for the full extent of the damages, including the cost of the starter. Have your mechanic sign an affidavit under oath attesting to the fact that the starter was damaged due to the trauma of the impact, based upon his experience, education, and training as a mechanic of X years duration. Have your mechanic willing to come to court to testify on your behalf. The cost of hiring an attorney to defend the action will certainly exceed the $400 they are questioning.
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It sounds like you have every right to be upset. It is also worth mentioning that mechanical problems such as what you describe are frequently claimed to be unrelated to a motor vehicle accident. I suggest that you get some good proof that the broken starter was the result of the accident, such as an affidavit from your mechanic stating as much sworn to before a Notary Public. Perhaps if you send something like that to the carrier with a certified letter demanding that they re-consider their denial you may get a different answer.
I think filing a complaint is a good start but you should probably send the above letter first, this way you have a good faith basis to make the complaint. Otherwise it would not be given too much weight because, as I mentioned, it is not a terribly uncommon thing for an insurance company to deny mechanical problems in an auto accident.
I would also think about bringing this matter to Small Claims court in you jurisdiction, with that Affidavit in hand!
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I agree with atty. Lundeen, although if you need to sue, this a simple case that you could probably handle yourself without a lawyer in small claims (magistrate) court. The filing fee and service fee would probably be less than 100.00 and you may get that back if you win.
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Send a demand letter certified mail to the insurance company with an affidavit from your mechanic stating the starter problem was caused by the wreck. You'll probably have to file suit but you can do this yourself in Magistrate Court in the county of residence of the person who hit you. You need to name that person as the defendant. The sheriff will serve him with the suit papers and you can send a copy to the insurance company. This may prompt them to get more reasonable.
If you were also hurt, hire a lawyer.
If this is your only claim, sue the other driver in Small Claims (Magistrates) Court and mail a copy to the insurer, which has to defend the driver.
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