No matter who was at fault, you should always contact your own insurance company after an accident. In fact, your policy may require it, and they may even have a time limit in which you must do so. If you fail to report an accident to your insurance, you may lose your right to file a claim if it becomes necessary to do so.
When You Need to Call Your Insurance Company
Unless you live in a no-fault state, the at-fault party’s insurance company will be responsible for the damages in an accident. Some of the following situations would make it necessary to file with your own insurance company regardless of who was at fault.
Collision and Comprehensive
Not every accident involves another vehicle. This is where your own collision and comprehensive insurance coverage comes in. This coverage would cover your damages up to your plan’s limit if you collided with a tree, wall, or other objects. It would also cover you if your car was damaged by vandalism or a natural disaster.
The number of uninsured motorists is on the rise because many people can only afford the bare minimum coverage required by the law. The damages from a car accident can be far more than the limits of an underinsured driver’s policy. When this happens, you’ll need to rely on your own coverage to make up the difference.
In the United States, approximately 13% of all motorists are uninsured. That means if you are involved in an accident, there is a 13% chance that the other driver will not have insurance. You will have to rely on your own uninsured motorist coverage to pay for your damages in these cases. You would also rely on this coverage if you were hit by a hit-and-run driver.
Determining and proving fault in a car accident may not be as cut and dried as it seems, even if to you it’s obvious whose fault the crash was. From a legal perspective, who is at fault will depend on more than the circumstances of the accident. It will also depend on where you live.
If You Live in a No-Fault State
If you live in a no-fault state, you will be required to carry your own insurance. If you’re in an accident, your personal insurance plan will cover your damages up to the plan’s limits. If your damages exceed your plan’s limits, you may have to file a personal injury lawsuit against the at-fault driver.
In some no-fault states, your injuries will have to meet certain criteria before you are allowed to file a lawsuit. This may be because of either verbal or monetary threshold laws.
In a Fault-Based Accident Laws State
If your state’s laws require the at-fault driver to pay, you’ll need to report the claim to your own insurance and the other driver’s insurance. It is the other driver’s insurance who will have to pay to compensate you for your damages.
If More Than One Party Was at Fault
If there was more than one party at fault or you were also partly at fault for the accident, you may want to consider getting a lawyer because determining your percentage of fault can be a complex process. You may not have any experience handling personal injury cases, so you’ll need a legal professional to explain your options.
If the accident is determined to be more than 51% your fault, you may not be able to get any compensation at all. An attorney will collect eyewitness statements, bring in expert witnesses, and create a diagram of the accident scene to prove that you did not exceed the acceptable level of fault and that you deserve compensation.
When You Don’t Need to Report a Crash to Your Insurance
There is only one scenario that does not require you to report an accident to your insurance. This would be a wreck that only involved your vehicle, with no passengers in the car, on property that you own. If the damage is minimal and you can cover it on your own, you can leave your insurance company out of it.
What to Do After a Car Accident
Aside from reporting the accident to insurance, there are more steps you’ll need to take after an accident. The evidence you gather at the scene can help prove that you were not at fault or determine your level of fault. You’ll need to get the contact information of any witnesses and take as many pictures as possible. Photograph the scene, the vehicles, and your injuries.
Call the police to have an official police report filed, then be sure to get a copy of it as soon as one is available. This will be one of the most important pieces of evidence you’ll have when you’re ready to negotiate.
Whatever you do, do not admit any degree of fault, even if you do believe you were at least partly responsible. Leave that up to the lawyers, insurance reps, or judge and jury to decide.
Why You Shouldn’t Speak to the Insurance Rep
You will need to report the accident to your insurance and to the at-fault party’s insurance, and you can expect to hear back from a claims adjuster right away. They do this because they want to talk to you before you consult with an attorney. They know you will have medical bills to pay and possibly also lost wages. Without a lawyer, you’re likely to settle for less.
It’s best if you don’t speak with the insurance adjuster at all and let your lawyer do the talking instead. These insurance reps will try to act like they are your friend and they want to help, but what they really want is to keep as much of their employer’s profits as possible. They achieve this by trying to settle with you quickly and for as little as possible.
One strategy the insurance claims adjuster will try is to get you to talk about your accident so they can get you to make a statement that will reduce the value of your claim. They will also tape your conversations so they can use it as evidence against you if you end up in court.
According to federal law, it is legal to record conversations with only one party’s consent. That means as long as the insurance rep knows the call is being recorded, they are under no obligation to tell you. Only 11 states make it illegal to record someone without their knowledge and require the consent of all parties. Those are:
- New Hampshire
Unless you live in one of these states, you should always assume you are being recorded when you speak to an insurance claims adjuster.
The insurance rep will also try to get you to sign away your rights. Don’t fall for it. Once you’ve signed their claims documents, you will no longer be able to claim additional damages if they arise. Until you have been medically cleared, you won’t know if your injuries will require more treatment in the future. Settling too early can leave you without enough compensation.
A car accident can involve tens of thousands of dollars in damages and a lifetime of pain and suffering, so this is not something you want to try to settle on your own. You may tell your insurance claims rep the basic facts of your case, but don’t tell them anything else without your lawyer’s help.
How Your Insurance Company Can Help
The other party’s insurance company will not help you, even if they act like they will. However, the same is not true for your own insurance company. There are a few ways they can be helpful to you in the aftermath of an accident, and you don’t need to give them any information they can use to offer you less to reap these benefits.
One of the biggest ways your insurance can help you is by covering the car repair costs long before your case has settled. It can take months or even years for a case to settle, especially if it goes to trial. You need your vehicle now, and that’s when your insurance company will make sure your car is fixed or replaced.
Your insurance company can also help negotiate your settlement. They can help you get your money faster, too. If the other party tries to claim you are at fault, your insurance may provide you with a defense. This will depend on the specifics of your policy.
There’s a lot to deal with after an accident, and if you’re injured you’ll need to keep your primary focus on your recovery. An attorney can take some of the burdens of getting back to normal off your shoulders so you can take care of your health. Remember, your injuries may be more serious than they initially seem, so it’s important to get checked out by a doctor.
By Cheryl Roy
Author’s bio: Passionate writer and contributor to several professional websites. I like to debate complex topics and I’m always up for new challenges. Doing research and discovering new information are two aspects marked as a priority when I’m writing my articles and ideas.