Dealing with insurance companies is a chore, but it’s something most of us will have to deal with at some point in life. Often, after an accident, the first question people ask our firm is how to report the accident to insurance and get in touch with the right person.
Is the process different if you are not at fault in your accident scenario? Do you have to report an accident to your insurance, or the insurance company representing another party, or both?
If you are not at fault for a car accident, you typically only need to deal with the other driver’s insurance company, not yours. While you should still call to report the accident to your own insurance company, you won’t be pursuing compensation from them. Certain exceptions apply; for example, if the other driver is uninsured, you’ll need to check your own policy for uninsured motorist coverage.
Not everything fits into that one tiny paragraph, though! Choices can quickly become overwhelming. This piece takes a deeper dive into questions regarding what to do about insurance after a car accident. (Want one tip that never changes? The best advice is to call a car accident lawyer right away!)
Is Insurance Important After A Car Accident?
You need car insurance when driving. All states require minimum liability insurance for all drivers.
Even if you do not have insurance to cover your own damages in a car accident, you have to carry insurance to cover another motorist’s injuries in case you cause an accident. If you fail to carry insurance, you could face major fines and pay out of pocket to cover the damages you cause another driver.
On the other hand, the driver who hit you in a car accident may carry insurance to cover your damages. However, if they do not, you might need to see what options you have for compensation through your own insurance.
If you are sure that you are not at fault in your car accident, take the proper legal steps to get insurance coverage for your damages. This might involve contacting your own insurer, another driver’s insurer, or both.
Should You Contact The Insurance Company of A Negligent Driver?
Never contact the insurance company representing the negligent person on your own, even if you simply want to report the accident. If you need to file a claim against the negligent driver’s insurance company, the best option is to hire an attorney to communicate with their insurer on your behalf.
To avoid going through a lengthy and expensive trial, insurance companies usually try to get you to settle as early as possible, for as little as possible. If you contact the negligent driver’s insurer on your own, they are likely to make a low-ball offer to get you to settle and disappear.
The unfortunate truth is insurance companies are not in business to prioritize the interests of vulnerable accident victims. An insurance company’s allegiance is to its shareholders and policyholders, including the person who caused your accident. Because insurance companies do not have your best interests at heart, it is generally best not to take the first offer they make.
Avoid talking to an insurance company if they come calling with questions. They might try to ask how you are feeling, but beware: if you make any reference to saying you’re doing “okay,” they may attempt to twist your words laterand accuse you of lying about other injuries. Everything you say matters! One wrong word could mean losing out on a sizable amount of compensation.
Let Your Lawyer Contact The Insurance Company
You definitely want a lawyer to report your accident to the insurance company representing the other person. Your first step after an accident, though, is to think about your health. Don’t let short-term problems overshadow long-term problems. In other words, don’t worry about insurance if you’re facing major injuries! Take time to get the medical treatment you need. More severe injuries often have victims in the hospital for weeks, and contacting an insurance company during this fragile time only causes undue stress.
Still, even while recovering from your injuries, it is hard not to worry about the future. Medical bills start to pile up, and you wonder how you’ll keep your head above water. How do you focus on recovery and look out for your financial interests at the same time? Simple: Get legal help.
An experienced car accident lawyer will know who to contact and how to communicate with the insurance company. Their goal is to get you on track to recovering the compensation you deserve. Not only will you be saving yourself the hassle of having to communicate with an insurance company while you heal, but you’ll have an experienced professional doing that work for you!
The Negotiation Process With Insurance Companies
Your attorney contacts the insurance company and files the claim for your injuries at the same time, usually with a demand letter. The demand letter includes the amount of money you want in compensation, but the insurance company will rarely pay what you ask for in the demand letter.
In fact, the insurance company will do anything to deny or bring down your claim. They may downplay your injuries and say you’ve exaggerated the expenses you have incurred. You know the truth: the car accident wasn’t your fault, and your injuries are as severe as you say. Your injuries may even be life-altering and continue to rack up expenses in the years ahead. Regardless, the insurance company will find a way to push back.
At some point, your attorney will begin negotiating with the insurance company. The negotiation process can be lengthy, but be patient and let it play out. Much of the negotiation process involves collecting and presenting the evidence to the insurance company to prove their insured’s fault for the accident and the expenses and impacts you have experienced. Fortunately, the vast majority of claims settle—it’s just a matter of time.
Along the way, your lawyer should communicate any new offers from the insurance company, but the power is yours. You choose whether to accept or deny any offer. Your attorney may advise you about whether an offer is good or bad, but you take the lead on what settlement amount you want to fight for.
No matter what, you are in control. While your attorney may think a settlement is good, they cannot accept it without your approval.
Not accepting an offer might mean your case moves into litigation and goes to trial. Hire an attorney who isn’t afraid to take your case to trial, if necessary.
Evidence From The Accident Scene
After retaining a lawyer, the discovery period will start. The lawyer might visit the scene of the accident, and they will gather as much evidence as they can find, including any photographic or video evidence, police reports, and witness statements.
Obtaining video footage is particularly valuable. Public traffic cameras are increasingly present on our roads, especially in metro areas. An experienced car accident attorney will know how to access such footage.
What if there wasn’t a public traffic camera at the accident scene, but there was a small convenience store with a security camera that caught the accident on tape? Security footage from within a business is sometimes more complicated to obtain. Even so, a lawyer has the resources to obtain such footage, though it may take some more time. Any compelling photographic or video evidence can show exactly what happened in your accident, and thus proves very valuable in negotiating with insurers.
Sometimes, video footage alone can be enough to prove you are not at fault. This can turn up the heat and get an insurance company to move toward the settlement figure you need.
Evidence Of Your Medical Bills
Your medical bills are an equally big piece of the evidence your lawyer will need to compile. An insurance company might not even move forward with negotiations without proof of the financial challenges you face. Your attorneys can help you gather your medical bills and keep them organized and recorded. You may continue to accumulate medical bills, especially if you suffered serious injuries. Make sure to keep every receipt, every notice of benefits—everything.
Medical bills prove the expenses you have incurred and estimate the expenses you are likely to incur. To prove future medical expenses, you are likely to need other medical records as well, such as records of your doctor’s visits and prognoses.
Car accident injuries likely to cause expensive future complications include spinal cord injuries and traumatic brain injury. Both of these tend to present major, expensive struggles long after your case resolves, which is why it is crucial to factor future medical expenses into your settlement demand.
Evidence of Intangible Impacts
Evidence of all the aforementioned tangible expenses is vital to prove your case.
But what about the intangible impacts you have suffered? What about the mental anguish, or pain and suffering you suffered in your accident?
You should recover compensation for these impacts as well. To do so, however, you will also need to gather evidence.
Proving what your future looks like based on your injuries helps to prove mental and emotional suffering. You might get a statement from a doctor that you will not be able to work again due to physical or mental impairment, or that you will be unable to engage in many of the activities you used to enjoy.
When you consult with an attorney about the specific ways in which an accident has changed your life, they can figure out the whole range of evidence you can collect to prove your impacts.
What Insurance Settlement Might You Receive?
Winning a favorable settlement is the first objective after any vehicle accident that wasn’t your fault. If you patiently work with your lawyer, you can receive a substantial settlement, hopefully enough to help you get by while you learn to live life with your injuries.
However, no one can predict how much you will be able to recover. It all depends on how the negotiation process plays out, how much evidence you can collect in your favor, and other unique facts of your case. Your attorney can give you an idea of how much you potentially stand to recover based on similar cases they handle, but no two cases are exactly alike.
Find a legal team with experience in taking on insurance companies. The more experience they have with cases like yours, the better.
What Happens If The Driver Wasn’t Insured?
The negligent driver who hit you may have had no car insurance. While it is more likely than not that any given driver on the road is insured, many drive without insurance. In such cases, your only recourse might be to seek compensation from their personal funds or assets. However, uninsured drivers tend to be uninsured because they can’t pay for it. If they cannot pay for insurance, they almost certainly do not have the funds to pay for your expenses.
The best course of action when you encounter an uninsured driver is to seek legal representation. Your attorney might first look at your own insurance policy to see if you have uninsured motorist coverage (UIM.) Most insurance companies have this as an add-on to a regular liability policy.
Another important thing to know is that if you have a five-figure liability policy, you usually can’t exceed that amount in coverage for UIM. Nevertheless, other options are usually available from insurance companies to cover your injury costs.
In no-fault states, you should have immediate coverage through your own insurance policy to pay for a certain amount of your expenses. While rarely enough to cover the full extent of your expenses, these policies often provide a good start.
Regardless of whether you live in a no-fault state, you can purchase additional insurance options like personal injury protection or even MedPay. Some quality insurance policies offer these alternatives to help pay for injuries caused by uninsured drivers.
Get Legal Help To Work With Your Insurance Company
Let’s summarize what we’ve covered:
- After a wreck, exchange information and call your insurance company and the other driver’s insurance company to report the accident.
- If you are not at fault, you will file a claim and pursue compensation from the other driver’s car insurance, not yours.
- If the other driver did not have insurance, you can use your own UIM coverage—if you have it.
- Do not give a recorded statement to an insurance company. It can be weaponized against you.
- Never accept the first offer from an insurance company. Know your worth, and partner with a lawyer with good negotiation skills to get the money you deserve!
If you have any trepidation about dealing with an insurance company to ensure you get compensation for your car accident injuries, you aren’t alone.
Insurance companies all tend to follow a similar model for generating profits—taking in premiums and denying claims.
Approach conversations with any insurance company with healthy skepticism. Even better, let an attorney handle communications with insurers. Personal injury attorneys are skilled negotiators and, if an insurance company refuses to settle fairly with you, they are ready to bring a lawsuit in civil court on your behalf. For more guidance through the chaotic insurance claims process, reach out now.