27 January 2015

Losses and Lessons: Alfa Romeo Spider caught in web of title trouble

VEHICLE: 1969 Alfa Romeo 1750 Spider

WHAT WENT WRONG: No one enjoys having to file an insurance claim, especially when the process moves slowly and payment seems to take forever. At Hagerty, we take pride in providing fast claims service, but sometimes the procedure comes to a screeching halt due to circumstances beyond our control. And when that happens, it’s frustrating for everyone involved.

The owner of a 1969 Alfa Romeo 1750 Spider was cruising with a buddy when he inadvertently ran a stop sign and was struck broadside by a pickup truck.

DAMAGE/LOSS: The Alfa was totaled and the truck was badly damaged, but that was only the beginning. The Alfa owner and his passenger both suffered serious injuries and were airlifted to the hospital; the driver of the pickup was also hospitalized. All three eventually recovered from their injuries, but the Alfa passenger and pickup driver both sued the Alfa owner for medical expenses above his insured limit. Once the suit is settled, Hagerty is prepared to pay out the policy’s $200,000 Bodily Injury maximum. The pickup owner has already been paid $5,500 to cover damages to his truck. However, a $20,000 settlement check for the Guaranteed Value of the Alfa was delayed because of a problem with the vehicle’s title. In the state of Indiana, a car’s VIN must be certified by a police officer whenever the title is transferred, something the Alfa owner inadvertently failed to do when he purchased the vehicle. Since Indiana requires that the car owner be present while the VIN is being certified – and the Alfa owner was not only recovering from severe injuries but also lived two hours from the tow yard – the process took 106 days.

LESSON: The lessons here may be obvious, but they’re worth reading: Pay attention to traffic signs and signals; be particularly cautious when driving smaller vehicles; and make yourself aware of motor vehicle laws that may be unique to your state. To view registration and title requirements, log on to your state’s DMV website or stop by your local office and ask for a printed copy.

EDITOR’S NOTE: Due to ongoing litigation, some details were changed for this story.

12 Reader Comments

  • 1
    Burt Harwood Longview, WA 98632 January 28, 2015 at 14:23
    Certifying a VIN does not negate "Insurable Interest". The carrier is duty bound and obligated to pay the policy limits within a reasonable period of time, usually 30 days. No delay on paying for B.I. & there should be no delay on paying the Collision.
  • 2
    Norm Indianapolis, Indiana January 28, 2015 at 15:06
    I'm a little confused why this happened if he had an Indiana title? Indiana requires you to have the VIN certified on out-of-state purchases, but they also won't start the title process until that is done.
  • 3
    Pete Postma Houston TX January 28, 2015 at 15:07
    As a retired insurance agent, I am awared of such a dilemma. Personal Umbrella Liability Insurance is available to provide excess limits but the underlying primary insurance must have sufficient limit to meet the Umbrella requirements and the underlying primary policy must be declared in the umbrella. I urge all to discuss this in detail with their insurance professional.
  • 4
    Todd C. Indiana January 28, 2015 at 15:41
    Lived in Indiana for 51 years. Only need a police officer to check VIN when bought out of state. Never had to any other time.
  • 5
    bmw325_num99 Chicago, IL January 28, 2015 at 16:41
    I wonder what the relationship of the Alfa passenger is to the Alfa driver and why we would sue him. What a story, thanks for sharing.
  • 6
    wesley Santa Fe N.M. January 28, 2015 at 16:51
    You almost have to be a lawyer yourself to know what's going on out there. Your right you need to really pay attention to the other guy. Wes .
  • 7
    Steve Barney Greensboro, NC January 28, 2015 at 17:00
    Many lessons to be learned here. I have three Alfa spiders insured with you and you've been great. For what it's worth the great drawing accompanying you article shows a roundtail '66 to '69 spider. The '73 would have had a cam tail. Nice color though.
  • 8
    Tom Rea Bloomington January 28, 2015 at 17:01
    The VIN must be verified by a police officer only when a title is transferred from another state. It's certainly not required every time a title is transferred.
  • 9
    Mister2 Tim Nusbaum South Florida January 28, 2015 at 17:38
    Here in Florida the VIN must be physically inspected by one of the following: 1. A law enforcement officer from any state. 2. A licensed Florida or out of state motor vehicle dealer. NOTE: If the VIN is verified by an out of state motor vehicle dealer, the verification must be submitted on their letterhead stationery. 3. A Florida DMV Compliance Examiner/Inspector, DMV or tax collector employee. 4. A notary public commissioned by the state of Florida. 5. Provost Marshal (an officer who supervises the military police of a command) or a commissioned officer in active military service, with a rank of 2nd Lieutenant or higher or an LNC, "Legalman, Chief Petty Officer, E-7 SupercharZed ToyZ RacZing
  • 10
    Rico Bravo Texas January 28, 2015 at 23:37
    Excellent and priceless advice.
  • 11
    Phillip Franklin United States January 29, 2015 at 21:51
    I think the guy in the picture falling off the ladder was so horrified by what he saw when the classic Alfa was running the sop sign he lost his balance and fell off the ladder only making the total settlement that much higher. Never run a stop sign in a classic car when someone is on a ladder is also an important lesson.
  • 12
    Tom Brick, NJ February 2, 2015 at 10:59
    I recently found out that in NJ, if you have a car that is not insured and have an accident-in another vehicle, properly insured and registered-the insurance company will not pay your claim. In NJ you MUST insure all vehicles that are titled by you. Including collector vehicles. Even if you are not driving it! This includes vehicles you may have sold to someone and they did not retitle the car. Kind of crazy, but can get you into hot water if you have a car you are restoring and haven't insured it.

Join the Discussion