Regardless of fault, call your insurance company shortly after any car accident. Call your own insurance company, even if you intend to file a third-party liability claim with an at-fault party's insurer.
Knowing when to call your insurance company after an accident can increase your chances of getting compensation for any injuries and other damages sustained. Contact a car accident lawyer for legal guidance.
Reasons for Contacting Your Insurance Company After an Accident
Here are a few reasons why you should call your insurance company after an accident:
Your Insurance Company May Need You to Speak to Them
Even if another driver is at fault, most car insurance providers require policyholders to contact them in the event of a car accident. Failure to do so could do more harm than good, as you may see a significant increase in your insurance rate if the insurer learns about the accident. Some insurers may cancel the policyholder's insurance policy if you don't call them after an accident.
The Accident Occurred in a No-Fault State
Some states in the U.S. have a no-fault policy regarding car accidents. In these states, people's insurance companies will cover the damages resulting from an accident, regardless of who was at fault for the accident.
In most states with no-fault insurance laws, individuals must carry a certain amount of personal injury protection (PIP) insurance that covers bodily injury, death, and property damage.
One exception to this rule is Pennsylvania, which only requires individuals to have sufficient medical payment coverage. You can look up the coverage requirements in your state to determine if you have enough coverage in a no-fault state.
Today, the 12 no-fault insurance states in the U.S. include:
- New York
- New Jersey
- North Dakota
Get Medical Care and Repairs for Property Damage When You Need Them
Another advantage of contacting your insurance company after an accident is obtaining medical benefits and vehicle repairs faster. If you attempt to recover compensation from the at-fault party's insurer alone, the process of recovering compensation and repairs can take longer, potentially taking up to months to complete.
If you reach out to your insurer, you may repair your vehicle sooner. You may also get medical benefits to help cover medical expenses to diagnose and treat injuries.
The Insurance Company May Defend You
Even if you are confident that you were not at fault for an accident, the other driver may attempt to file a claim or lawsuit against you. If this occurs, your insurance company may be able to provide you with an effective defense.
Types of Insurance Coverage to Use in a Car Accident
Different parts of your policy may cover your expenses after a car accident.
You may use collision coverage to repair or replace your vehicle after an accident. You can contact your insurer to use this coverage up to the limits of your policy, and your insurer may then seek compensation from the other driver's insurance company.
Using collision coverage may help you cover the costs of repairs and replacements sooner than you would if you relied solely on the at-fault party's insurer in a third-party claim. In addition, filing a claim against the at-fault party's insurer alone could also force you to pay storage costs when keeping your car in a lot after towing it away.
You may also get towing coverage through your insurance company. This coverage will help pay for the costs of towing a vehicle after an accident, followed by the insurer seeking reimbursement from the at-fault party's insurer. Without this coverage, you might need to cover the costs of towing your vehicle out of pocket.
Medical Payment (MedPay) Coverage
Another type of insurance coverage you may use to help pay for accident expenses is medical payment or MedPay coverage. If you sustain injuries after an accident, this coverage may help cover some of the expenses associated with them.
What Information to Provide Your Insurer
Provide your insurance company with:
- Your name, address, phone number, and other contact details
- The contact details of others involved in the accident
- The name of the law enforcement agency and officers who arrived at the accident scene
- All parties' insurance company and policy information, including the name of the insurer and the policy number
- The date, time, and location of the accident
You’re actually better off asking your lawyer to do this for you. That will ensure the information remains consistent and accurate. Any issues with the information you provide could harm your case and lead to reductions in coverage or a claim denial from insurers.
What Happens if the At-Fault Driver Is Uninsured?
If you get into a car accident, the at-fault driver may not have insurance. You may only recover compensation through the driver's personal assets or funds in this case. However, the driver is unlikely to have sufficient funds to pay compensation if they cannot pay for insurance coverage.
Generally, if you are in an accident and the other driver doesn't have insurance, you should consult an accident attorney. An experienced lawyer who's handled car accident cases of all types may know how to approach this situation.
First, the attorney may learn the details of your insurance policy and determine if you can recover compensation through uninsured motorist coverage, which many insurers include as an add-on policy. You may also have other options to help cover the damages in a car accident case if the other driver cannot provide reimbursement.
How Long Do You Have to Contact Your Insurer and Start a Claim?
Following a car accident, speaking with your insurance company immediately is important. Like third-party accident claims, you will have limited time to reach out to your insurer and file a claim.
Most insurers will give you about 30 days, or one month, to report an accident to them, but you can find out specifically how much time your insurer gives by reviewing your policy details.
Steps to Take After a Car Accident That’s Not Your Fault
If you get into a car accident and you're not at fault, there are key steps to take to build a potential claim with your insurer or against the at-fault party's insurer.
The following are the specific steps to take:
Seek Medical Treatment
Even if your injuries appear minor, you should seek treatment with a medical professional immediately after the accident. A doctor can identify and address any injuries you sustained from the accident and help you begin the recovery process. Seeing a medical provider will also provide you with medical documentation that may help prove the extent of your injuries and support your insurance claim.
Once you've sought treatment, it's also crucial to stick to your doctor's treatment plan. This will provide you with consistent documentation and prove the severity of your injuries while facilitating a full medical recovery.
If you have any issues with your treatment plan, speak with your doctor before you cease or change treatment. Your doctor may be able to work with you to develop a treatment plan that works better for you.
Gather Sufficient Information and Evidence to Provide Insurers
As you prepare to reach out to your insurer, you should collect as much relevant documentation as possible to support your claim. First, you'll want to gather the contact and insurance details of the other people involved in the accident, including their names, phone numbers, license plate numbers, insurance carriers, and policy numbers.
In addition, obtain as much evidence as you can to build a successful claim with your insurer and against a negligent party's insurer, such as:
- Medical records, receipts, and bills, including documentation of diagnostics reports, ambulance rides, and treatment
- Police report from officers who arrived at the scene of the accident
- Photos and video evidence of the accident scene, injuries, and property damage
- Witness statements from anyone present at the accident scene
- Proof of lost income, including pay stubs and tax documents
If you cannot get a hold of any of this evidence when building a claim, you may get help from an attorney. A lawyer may reach out to medical professionals, police departments, witnesses, and others to get sufficient evidence to present to insurers.
Consult an Attorney
One of the most important steps before contacting your insurer is to speak with a car accident lawyer. An attorney may be able to review your case's details and determine your options. If the attorney decides to handle your case, they may negotiate with insurers on your behalf. A lawyer can prepare statements that detail the facts of the case and help keep you from inadvertently compromising your case.
Contact Your Insurer
After consulting an attorney, you may contact your insurer on your own or through your attorney. When speaking with insurers without representation, stick to the facts of the case and be as accurate as possible in the details you provide.
Being careful with your statements to insurers will help prevent you from doing or saying anything that might give the company a reason to either reduce or deny your claim.
When to File a Third-Party Liability Claim
If you get into an accident and believe the other driver or another party is liable, you may file a third-party personal injury claim against the other party's insurance company. While you will want to notify your insurer in any case, you may demonstrate the other party’s negligence and recover compensation from the party's liability insurance coverage.
Compensation in Third-Party Personal Injury Claims
In a third-party claim, you may recover compensation if one or more negligent parties caused your accident, including:
- Economic damages - You may recover certain economic damages from liable parties, including all medical expenses, lost income, physical therapy, and rehabilitation costs, and the cost of repairs or replacements for vehicles.
- Non-economic damages - In addition to economic damages, you may recover damages that account for the pain and suffering victims and their loved ones experience. These damages could include physical pain, psychological distress, and loss of enjoyment of life, among other personal losses.
- Wrongful death damages - If an accident resulted in a person's death, the victim's loved ones may recover damages for the costs of burial and funeral expenses and other losses suffered because of the person's wrongful death.
- Punitive damages - If a case goes to trial and a judge or jury finds a liable party acted with egregious negligence or malicious intent, victims may recover punitive damages. These damages make an example of negligent defendants to prevent similar behavior.
Take the Right Action After an Accident to Build a Claim
Following a car accident, always contact your insurer to report the accident, even if you plan on filing a third-party claim against a liable party's insurer.
Taking the right steps after an accident may help you hold any responsible parties accountable and seek compensation for all damages sustained.
Contact a personal injury attorney in Vero Beach as soon as possible to protect your rights.