You were in a car accident that wasn’t your fault. Now what? Depending on the accident’s severity and the parties involved, your to-do list may have grown significantly. In addition, you might suffer from injuries requiring medical attention and a lengthy recovery.
While it might make sense to pick up the phone and call your insurance company as soon as possible, don’t start dialing just yet.
If you have experienced a an accident reach out to car accident lawyer to receive a consultation today.
When Should You Contact Your Insurance Company After a Car Accident?
Nearly all auto insurance policies require the insured party or a legal representative on their behalf to report any accidents or losses as soon as possible. You are likely contractually obligated to do the same.
If you don’t, your insurance company can deny your coverage and refuse to pay for your damages or represent you if someone makes a claim against you in the accident. In addition, getting car repairs or receiving reimbursement for accident-related expenses that you pay for upfront can take a while.
By contacting the insurance company as soon as possible or having someone do it on your behalf, you can expedite getting your car repaired and receiving any monetary reimbursements you deserve.
The sooner your insurance company knows about the accident, the better. However, you don’t need to call them on the way to the emergency room or even be the one to report the accident to them.
Instead, it’s in your best interest to hire an experienced car accident attorney as soon as possible. They can take care of contacting everyone who needs to get notified about your accident, including your insurance company.
So why shouldn’t you call your own insurance company? Aren’t they supposed to be on your side?
Technically, yes, but unfortunately, whatever you say to them can be held against you and be detrimental to your injury claim.
Always speak to an attorney before contacting your insurance company or anyone else’s involved in the accident insurance company. Your accident might be simple enough that your attorney tells you it’s okay if you call and report it to your insurer. If it’s not, they can call and report the accident.
If you must speak with your insurance company or the insurer of another interested party, your attorney can advise you about what to say and even be present with you. This prelude to testimony helps protect your rights.
What Information Will Your Insurance Company Need?
When you hire your car accident attorney, they will gather many pieces of information from you. They will need some of this information when contacting your insurance company to report the accident.
They need to be prepared to provide the information you collected, such as:
- Contact information (name, address, phone, email) of all involved parties
- Auto insurance information of all motorists involved in the accident, including their name, insurance company, and the policy number
- The responding law enforcement agency, such as the sheriff, highway patrol, or city police
- Accident date, time, and location
- Specific details regarding the damage to your car or property and your injuries
Ensure the information you give your car accident lawyer is clear, concise, and accurate so that they give the correct information to your insurance company. Any discrepancies or missing details in the information you give your attorney can be detrimental to your personal injury case. Be sure you give only the facts and nothing more.
What the At-Fault Party’s Auto Insurance Might Cover?
Car accidents, even seemingly minor ones, can be expensive. For example, even a simple fender bender can cost thousands of dollars between medical bills and property damage. All states require drivers to carry a minimum amount of liability insurance.
Drivers who don’t carry it are breaking the law and can face severe penalties such as jail time, hefty fines, and having their driver’s license suspended or revoked. Liability insurance should cover damages a driver causes property damage or physical harm to others in an accident.
However, it’s important to note that liability coverage only pays up to the amount of the policy. For example, if your medical bills amounted to $20,000, but the at-fault driver’s liability insurance policy topped out at $15,000, you will still be responsible for the other $5,000.
What Your Auto Insurance Coverage Might Cover?
The good news is that, depending on your insurance policy, you may still have any remaining amounts covered. While liability insurance is typically the only mandatory coverage, drivers can elect several other types of coverage on their policy. Your policy should cover you, up to your coverage limits, no matter who injured you. Drivers may add any of the following coverages to their auto insurance policy. However, you must select the coverage before an accident.
If you collide with another car, hit an object, or are in a rollover, your collision coverage can help pay for out-of-pocket expenses to your vehicle. However, you will likely need to pay a deductible, and then your insurance covers the remainder of the costs.
Comprehensive coverage pays for damage to your vehicle that arises from an incident that isn't collision-related, for instance, acts of God, fires, floods, storms, theft, or vandalism. You must also pay a deductible with this type of coverage.
Medical Payments Coverage
Also referred to as Med Pay or personal injury protection (PIP), this coverage helps pay for medical bills for you, your family, and the passengers in your vehicle if you are involved in an accident. You will also have protection through med pay if someone hits you while you are walking.
This type of insurance coverage can help with damages caused by uninsured drivers or those who don't have enough insurance to cover their costs. For example, if your damages amounted to $12,000 in an accident and the driver who hit you only had liability insurance to cover $10,000, you might pay for the other $2,000 with uninsured motorist coverage if you bought it. Uninsured motorist coverage also applies to hit-and-run accidents.
Should You Give a Recorded Statement?
An insurance adjuster might contact you within a few days of reporting your accident. They will most likely ask if it’s okay for them to record you giving a statement and answering some questions about the accident and your injuries.
If a lawyer already represents you, it’s best to let the adjuster know and politely decline to speak with them. They can get whatever information they need from your attorney. If it later becomes necessary for you to speak directly with them, you have the right to have your lawyer present.
Suppose an attorney doesn’t represent you. In that case, it’s generally in your best interest to decline to give a recorded statement and hire one.
Whether you have legal counsel, you don’t have to give such a statement. Some adjusters lie or twist their truth, saying that they can’t move forward with your claim if you don’t provide a recorded statement, but this isn’t true.
By getting a recorded statement, the adjuster hears your version of the events leading to your accident and what has happened since. Without your account, the adjuster only has the insured’s version of what took place.
The insurance claims adjuster will use several pieces of evidence to understand what happened, including:
- Driver statements
- Witness statements
- Police reports
Some adjusters can be friendly and pleasant, while others may be formal and callous. Remember that to them, you are simply another name on a claim, one of the many they process every year.
Avoid letting the adjuster’s demeanor give you a false sense of comfort or scare you. Even the most sympathetic claims adjuster isn’t on your side, and often, the cold ones may just be trying to rattle you. Whatever you say to them, recorded or not, can potentially be used to deny or devalue your claim, so be careful what you say.
It’s common for them to ask leading questions to try to harm your claim, such as:
- “You didn’t see the other driver coming, did you?”
- “You had just a little to drink that night, right?”
They may also ask other questions to intentionally confuse you or get you to say something to harm your claim. For example, even answering a seemingly innocent and polite "How are you today?" can put your case in peril. You may answer "fine" to be polite or because you feel okay but not great.
Still, the insurance adjuster will take that to mean you are magnificent and either your injuries healed or you never had them in the first place. Protect yourself by letting your attorney deal with adjusters.
What Other Tactics Do Insurance Companies Use to Avoid Paying Claims?
Insurance companies and the adjustors they employ typically have many tactics they use to try to avoid paying your claim. For example, in addition to asking for a recorded statement and twisting the words of claimants, they might also attempt to get you to settle quickly for much less than your claim is worth. They usually contact you as soon as possible after you file a claim.
In doing so, they hope to present you with a lowball offer before you have the chance to meet with a lawyer and find out what your claim is worth. If they can get you to accept and sign for their small offer now, they will use little time and resources on your claim and save tens or even hundreds of thousands of dollars. Always talk to a lawyer about your accident before entertaining offers from the insurance company or signing any agreements.
Insurance adjusters also like to tell claimants that they don’t need a lawyer and that their insurance carrier will take good care of them. But, of course, you should always consult with an attorney no matter what they say or what kind of case you have. Don’t take the insurance adjustor’s word for it, as they and their company are the ones that benefit from you not getting a lawyer.
Another common tactic is simply to delay or stall your claim. They may do this by not returning your calls or emails or by continually asking for information you have already given them or information they don’t need or have a right to see. They hope they will wear you down or burden you with requests for paperwork and information, and you will give up on pursuing your claim.
With a seasoned car accident attorney on your side, most car insurance companies and claims adjusters know better than to attempt these tactics. An experienced attorney can see right through them and will call them out on it. Depending on their actions, you may even have grounds for a bad faith insurance claim. All insurance companies have a legal and ethical obligation to act in good faith and fair dealing. They may act in bad faith when they use these tactics and others.
Suppose your attorney believes you have grounds for a bad faith claim against the insurance company. In that case, you can receive compensation for your damages in the car accident claim and bad faith damages. Insurance companies can and should be held accountable for their bad faith actions.
Contact an Experienced Car Accident Attorney Today
Before you call any insurance companies or make any decisions about your car accident or its claim, call an experienced car accident attorney. Protect your rights and financial future by speaking with an attorney before the insurance company.
You might not believe that your insurance company will not pay the benefits you deserve, but this is a common problem. You cannot trust insurers to do the right thing, and you cannot believe an adjuster when they tell you the limits on your settlement amount.