I’ve seen a lot of posts on different chat forums wondering about the effectiveness of car insurance in Costa Rica.

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My husband and I both had newer version cars, so we decided that for us, the cost of insuring both cars outweighed the risk of being without. Simply put, replacing either of the cars if either were in a bad accident or if god forbid the cars were stolen, we would be in a financial bind. Of course, we hoped to never need our insurance, but when you do, be glad you have it.

About three weeks ago we were in a terrible car accident which involved my Toyota Prado some 5 hours south of us near Playa Dominical. I won’t bore you with the details, but the short story is that a car went to pass us while we were making a left.

The end result was a white Kia Sportage crashing into the rear of the driver’s side and our car was hit with such force that it flipped three times. My car was completely totaled. The only good news out of this story is that my husband and I walked away from this crash with only cuts and bruises and our son was not traveling with us. We both know that we are lucky to be alive. I guess it just wasn’t our time.

I was impressed that the ambulance and Fuerza Publica showed up five minutes after the accident occurred. However, it took the Transito Police 90 minutes to show up. It was the Transito Police who gave us a ‘police report’. This police report was needed to file a report at the courthouse. After two hours, INS had not shown, even though I had called them to come to the scene. After three hours of sitting in the hot sun I decided to call my insurance agent and he made some phone calls.

Ten minutes later he called me back and told me we did not have to wait for the INS agent and he filed a report on my behalf and that INS agents did not typically show up in rural areas. I asked him if he was sure, since this was against everything I was ever told or had heard. He assured me that I did not need to hang out in the hot sun any longer. At that point we called the tow truck to pick up what was left of the Prado. We then were picked up by a friend, Daveed Hollander, who lived nearby in Dominical. He was our angel that day. Without him, we would have been lost.

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The process:

After the tow truck came and took the car to the shop (which happened to be in San Isidro) we got a call from the owner of the shop saying he was in receipt of our car. We had gone back to Guanacaste the next day and filed a report with INS with help our agent in Liberia.

We were then told we had to personally go to the nearest court house to the accident scene, which happened to be in Ciudad Cortez. (Remember this was some 5 hours away). It’s probable that the agent had told me this, but with everything going on, I wasn’t really able to focus on everything that day. Because my husband was the driver and president of the corporation the car was in, only he had to show up at the courthouse to file the report. So, he took a day and a half to deal with filing this report at the court. With this report, the court will schedule a hearing to find out who was at fault. With this report, the mechanic was also able to start his evaluation (avaluo) of our car (whether it could be repaired or not).

The hearing is supposed to be scheduled in one to two months we were told, but we have no dates as of yet. He got certified copies of all the documents that were presented at the court and sent those DHL to our insurance agent in Liberia. These documents (the originals with stamps) are needed to present to INS insurance. We had to hire an attorney to represent us since the people who hit us are trying to say they are not at fault. They also did NOT have insurance. Unfortunately, auto insurance is not mandatory in Costa Rica and many go without.

Meanwhile, my car was determined to be a total loss by the INS insurance agency after they received the estimate from the mechanic. The car was insured for 13,000,000 colones ($25,000) and the INS determined just today that they will pay me $17,000 ($25,000 minus 20% deductible minus a value of my car as-is for parts and such).

I am still awaiting the check, which I am told will take 7 business days. The advice I can give you is to make sure you do all your paperwork quickly. Many of the reports that have to be filed are time sensitive (7-10 business days). I will of course report more of my INS saga in Part II of this memorable true-life story.

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Dealing With Costa Rica’s Insurance Monopoly (INS) After An Accident. Part I

Article/Property ID Number 2193

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