You’ve been in a car wreck and it’s not your fault. Now you have no car, you do have expensive medical bills and you wonder how you are going to pay for all of it. You know that you need to get the automobile insurance companies involved, but who should you report it to and when? This post answers some of your questions.
Should I report an accident to my insurer?
Automobile insurance policies typically require that car wrecks be reported to them as soon as possible, but you should look at your policy for its specific requirements. As result, the safest course of action often is for you to report the accident to your insurer even if you are not at fault. Just because you report the loss does not mean that you have to file a claim. If the other driver is at fault and they have insurance, you may want to pursue their insurance first.
However, your insurance company may have to step in down the road if the other party’s insurance company denies fault or if the damage or injuries exceed the amount of the other persons insurance. Under your insurance policy, you will have a duty to cooperate with your insurance company. As result, if your insurer asks you to give a recorded statement, you should do so.
Should I File a Claim with the Other Driver’s Insurance Company?
If the other driver was at fault and has insurance, you should file a claim with their insurance company. As a result, if you don’t hear from the other party’s insurance company within the next few days after the accident, you should contact them. They should be listed on the police report.
When they contact you, they likely will ask to take a recorded statement. However, you do not have to speak to them immediately if you are not comfortable doing so and it may be wise to see a lawyer before answering extensive questions or giving a recorded statement. If you do choose to talk to the other insurance company, be careful to make sure that your answers are correct. For instance, be careful about telling the insurance company that you are “okay” unless you know for a fact that you are. Many injuries can take a few days to manifest themselves and the insurance company might try to use the statement against you later on. A better answer would be to tell them that you will get back with them about your condition after seeing your doctor. In summary, be careful and completely honest.
Low ball settlement offers
Some insurance companies will try to make lowball settlement offers immediately after an automobile accident. Be very careful about accepting such an offer. Allstate, in particular, began this practice in the 1990s in an effort to prevent injured people from obtaining attorneys and to keep Allstate’s costs low. Immediately after an accident, you likely will not know the full extent of your injuries and will not have received all of your medical bills. In addition, if you have private health insurance, Medicare, or Medicaid they will need to be reimbursed for amounts that they have paid for your care. As result, taking a lowball settlement offer can leave you uncompensated after the payment of medical bills and reimbursement for amounts paid by others.
You should also be careful about signing any paperwork from the other insurance company. For instance, you would not want to sign any type of release unless you are absolutely sure that you were not going to seek any further compensation.
Should I file a Claim with My Insurance Company?
Whether you should file a claim with your insurance company depends upon the specific facts of your accident.
Quick Help With Your Medical Bills
For instance, if you have significant medical bills such as emergency room care that need to be paid right away, you may be able to file a claim on your policy’s “Medpay” coverage. “Medpay”, or medical payments coverage, will cover your medical expenses resulting from an accident up to the limit. Often the limit for this type of coverage is $5,000, but you can purchase more.
The Other Driver Doesn’t Have Insurance or Does Not Have Enough.
If the other driver does not have enough insurance, or even worse, does not have insurance at all, you will need to file a claim for uninsured or underinsured motorist benefits on your insurance policy. You should do this as soon as you have any reason to believe that this coverage may be necessary. In order to know this, you will need to know the amount of your potential injuries as well as the amount of insurance that the other driver has. You can find out the amount of the other driver’s insurance by asking the cost for a copy of the declarations page from the insurance policy in effect on the date of the accident.
If you do file a claim for uninsured or underinsured motorist benefits, you will need to tell your insurance company about any offer for settlement that you get from the other driver’s insurance company. Under Alabama law, your insurance company has a right to either give you permission to accept a settlement or to advance the same amount to you and leave the claims against the other driver pending. If you have an uninsured or underinsured motorist claim, you likely will want to retain counsel.
If you have been in an accident and have questions about this process, we will be happy to answer your questions and to provide you with additional information.