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Get Gephardt: Investigating insurance for wheelchair-accessible cars

Nov 8, 2023, 11:02 PM | Updated: 11:05 pm

MIDVALE — If you’re in a wreck, you count on insurance to get you back on the road. What happens when insurance will not pay nearly enough to make that happen?

A Midvale woman said her insurance company refused to pay a fair price for what her wrecked ride was worth, so she decided to Get Gephardt.

“There was no steering wheel,” Zahra Moghimi said of her crash. “No gas. No brakes.”

She said she was exiting the freeway when, without warning, her car lost power and rolled into a building.

“My car is destroyed,” she said.

Her car wasn’t just any old car. It had been retrofitted with special equipment that allowed her to drive using only her hands. Polio had cost Moghimi the use of her legs when she was a child. The cost of that equipment was tens of thousands of dollars. She filed an insurance claim but was stunned by the offer she received.

“We are only able to pay you for the value of the car,” her insurer told her. “We cannot pay you for what you had on the van.”

That total is about $8,000 Moghimi estimated. She appealed, saying her car was worth a lot more with all that equipment.

“For what he is offering me, there is nowhere I can replace that car,” she said. “I depend on my car, 100%.”

Stranded, she asked me to investigate. I took her case to her insurer, Bear River Mutual Insurance Company.         

“It is extremely common that people have aftermarket equipment,” Dave Andrist said, He’s Vice President of Underwriting and Analytics at Bear River Mutual.

Andrist would not talk about Moghimi’s case specifically, citing privacy concerns. He did say the company frequently has to tell people their car add-ons are not covered in an accident.

“It is extremely important that you read your insurance contract because most aftermarket equipment is not covered,” he said.

Insurance companies will write policies that do cover extra equipment, but Andrist said you must tell your agent about it and then pay for it.

“We don’t want to increase everybody’s cars at the expense of a few people,” he explained. “We want those people to pay their fair share and so we’ll cover the 99% and then the 1%, you’d have to pay additional premium for.  And that’s really about fairness.”

Moghimi’s policy did not cover the extra equipment but a few days later came a surprising turn. Bear River Mutual sent her nearly $20,000 more than they told her they would. She said she hopes others in wheelchairs take what happened to her as a lesson.

“Look more, very carefully, what is in your policy,” she said.

I asked Bear River why there was a change of heart. Bear River there wasn’t. That larger payment was actually a mistake. But considering everything, Bear River Mutual said it will not try to collect the difference from Moghimi.

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Get Gephardt: Investigating insurance for wheelchair-accessible cars