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Woman’s car gets damaged, then insurance company refuses to pay because she called police 2 hours too late


By Lauren Victory

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    WOODSTOCK, Illinois (WBBM) — Having your car damaged in a crash is bad, and getting your insurance claim denied is even worse.

And that is exactly what happened to a suburban woman who reached out to us. CBS 2’s Lauren Victory brought you her story as a warning to all drivers – check your clock!

Ironically, Elena Flores was bringing up the garbage can in her driveway when she noticed her car was trashed. She doesn’t know by who or when.

“It dented the whole back of the back panel,” said Flores, who lives in Woodstock.

Repairs will put her out at least $1,000. Flores is guessing it’ll be closer to $4,500 out of pocket when all is said and done. Her insurance company refuses to pay a cent.

“I’ve never even filed a claim before. I’ve never had a ticket. I have a clean record,” said Flores.

At issue is her timing. Phone logs provided to CBS 2 shows a 26-hour, 13-minute span between Flores’s call to her insurance provider to file a claim and her report of car damage to Woodstock police.

American Freedom Insurance denied her claim on the grounds she didn’t call police within 24 hours. Apparently, she was too late by two hours.

“I understand if I was in an accident out in the street. Normally, obviously somebody calls police,” said Flores.

No one got hurt and she noticed the damage after-the-fact while in her driveway – so what’s the urgency to call police? Flores appealed to American Freedom Insurance, and lost.

“I’m like, “How do you sleep at night knowing that you’re doing this?’ He’s like, ‘I sleep well.’” she said.

“I would hope that an insurance company would be a little flexible,” said Doug Heller after CBS 2 explained Flores’s case to him. Heller is a nationwide insurance expert for the Consumer Federation of America.

While he argues for more leniency in Flores’ case and believes at least some providers do grant wiggle room on their policies, Heller said a 24-hour time limit to call police is not uncommon.

“It’s an antifraud measure,” Heller explained. “They want make sure people aren’t crashing their cars and saying, ‘Oh somebody else did it.’”

He’s not suggesting Flores did anything illegal. Her situation is more of a cautionary tale for others.

“You can’t always get police out to the scene of a crash, but it’s worth going through the effort of getting it on the record to have a formal defense of your case,” Heller said.

“It’s like they’re still denying claims because they can,” said a fired-up Flores.

Several other customers complain about seemingly minor reasons for denials on American Freedom Insurance’s Better Business Bureau page.

Unfortunately for Flores, the company reviewed her claim per CBS 2’s request and is sticking to its decision.

We asked Woodstock police about the notion that calling them – or any department – about a small crash or bit of damage might be bothersome or a waste of resources. The chief urges everyone to report accidents – no matter how minor.

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