While you expect an insurance company to fulfill its contractual obligations and to behave ethically after an accident, that doesn't always happen. This is because many insurance companies prioritize their bottom line over paying injured parties' claims. If they can point the finger at you and pin the accident on your actions or inactions, they almost always will because this helps relieve them of some or all of their financial obligations to you for the accident. Insurance companies are inherently biased.
Hiring a Sebastian car accident attorney as soon as possible after being in an accident is imperative. The sooner you have an attorney on your side, the sooner you level the playing field and may even have the upper hand. This way, your own lawyer can determine who is at fault for the accident and help defend you from any blame.
Never Admit Fault for the Accident
You should understand several critical points about admitting fault in a car accident:
- Never Admit Fault: Even if it appears clear that you might be at fault, refrain from admitting fault. Doing so can make you and your insurance company legally responsible for paying any resulting damages. If you think you might be at fault, only discuss this with your attorney.
- Don't Admit Fault to the Police: When communicating with the responding police officer, share your perspective on what happened and give details only. Even if the other driver places blame on you, it's your job to share your account of what happened and not place blame on yourself or anyone else. Keep in mind that the police officer you talk to may document any admission of fault in the accident report.
- Apologizing Can Be Considered an Admission of Fault: Sadly, an insurance company, police officer, or another driver may interpret an apology as an admission of fault. Avoid apologizing despite any temptation and the politeness you feel you owe the other driver.
Remember, if you believe you share some responsibility for the car accident, strictly limit discussions about those concerns to your car accident attorney. They can guide you on the best course of action and help protect your legal rights.
Potential Liability for a Car Accident
Car accidents are often more complex than attributing blame to a single driver. Liability may involve multiple parties, including those who may not have been present at the accident scene. Hiring an experienced attorney becomes crucial in navigating these complexities and advocating for your legal rights and compensation. Various parties can be held responsible for your damages after a motor vehicle accident, such as:
- Other drivers sharing the road
- Employers of other drivers involved
- Vehicle owners, including companies managing trucks or delivery vehicles
- Government agencies overseeing road conditions, traffic signals, or road signs
- Manufacturers of vehicles or vehicle parts
Your attorney will diligently identify all potentially liable parties and identify their insurance coverages. This strategic approach aims to optimize your claim, ensuring you receive the highest possible compensation for the damages incurred.
Insurance Company Car Accident Investigation
The insurance company's approval of your injury claim hinges on a thorough examination of fault and liability for the accident through their investigative process.
Upon receiving your claim, the insurer will assign it to an adjuster who may reach out to you for more detailed information about the accident. For several reasons, it's best not to speak with them before you consult with an experienced car accident attorney.
A dedicated team of investigators, often part of a Special Investigations Unit (SIU) made up of individuals with knowledge about law enforcement and insurance, will analyze your claim. Their primary responsibility is to investigate and reconstruct the accident while also identifying any potential fraudulent claims.
The investigators will typically perform the following tasks:
- Review the facts surrounding your case
- Visit the accident scene
- Conduct interviews with witnesses
- Analyze evidence, including your vehicle, medical records, police reports, and photographs
Discrepancies between your account of the accident and the findings of their investigation can lead to the adjuster denying your claim or proposing a reduced settlement.
Insurance companies determine fault in a car accident through a comprehensive process involving various steps:
Claims Adjuster Investigation
When an accident victim files a claim, the insurance company assigns a claims adjuster to investigate the accident. The adjuster collects information from all involved parties, including statements, police reports, and any available evidence.
Review of Police Reports
The police report is a crucial document to establish the initial findings regarding fault. Insurance companies analyze the details provided by law enforcement officers, including statements from witnesses and the involved parties.
Statements from witnesses who observed the accident can play a significant role. Insurance adjusters may interview witnesses to gather additional perspectives and insights into the sequence of events.
Inspection of Damages
The adjuster evaluates the damage to each vehicle involved. The extent and location of damages can provide clues about the point of impact and help reconstruct the accident.
Photos taken at the accident scene, including pictures of damages, skid marks, and traffic signals, can aid in the investigation. Insurance companies may request or use available photographs to better understand the circumstances.
Traffic Laws and Regulations
Insurance adjusters consider applicable traffic laws and regulations to assess whether any party violated rules, leading to the accident.
Comparison of Statements
Adjusters analyze statements from all involved parties to identify consistencies or discrepancies. If statements conflict, the adjuster may need to investigate further or make a determination based on available evidence.
In complex cases, insurance companies may employ accident reconstruction specialists to recreate the sequence of events. This can involve using advanced tools and simulations to understand how the accident occurred.
Legal Liability Assessment
The insurance company makes a determination of legal liability based on the available evidence. The party deemed at fault may be held responsible for covering the damages.
It's important to note that fault determination can vary based on state laws, and insurance companies may use their own internal guidelines. Suppose the parties involved disagree with the insurer's decision. In that case, the dispute may be subject to further negotiation, mediation, or even legal proceedings.
How Long Does an Insurance Company Investigation Take?
The duration of the accident investigation is a substantial part of the car accident claim processing, typically taking four to six weeks to complete. In cases where the claims adjuster lacks information, or the accident is exceptionally complex, the process may take longer. Timely responses to any requests for additional information can expedite the investigation, but you should let your attorney handle these as well.
Insurance carriers may sometimes deliberately prolong the investigation, aiming to frustrate or confuse the claimant. If successful, this strategy can lead the claimant to miss the statute of limitations or lose interest in pursuing the claim, enabling the insurance company to evade its obligation to pay on a claim indirectly.
Your Attorney's Car Accident Investigation
Without legal representation, you are generally at the mercy of the car insurance company. They get to determine who is at fault on their own timeline. However, when you hire a car accident attorney to represent your claim, it levels the playing field in your favor. Your attorney will perform their own careful investigation into the accident to see who is at fault. In addition to the available evidence, they may also use their own accident reconstructionist. Your attorney will protect your rights and serve your best interests.
When the Insurance Companies Decide Fault
Determining fault in an accident can be a complex process. If you have collision coverage on your auto insurance policy, you have the option to file a collision claim regardless of fault. In this scenario, your insurance company will conduct its own investigation. If they conclude that the other driver is responsible, they will initiate contact with the other driver's insurance company for subrogation to cover your claim. If successful, they will reimburse you for your deductible.
In cases where the two insurance companies can't reach an agreement, they may escalate the matter to arbitration. During this process, an arbitrator will assess the details of the accident and determine fault and the corresponding liability for the damages incurred.
When the Insurance Company and Your Attorney Determine Fault
Following an accident, it's advisable to consult with an experienced car accident attorney to assess the potential of your case, even if you're uncertain about the severity of your injuries or damages to your vehicle. Seeking legal advice ensures that you don't overlook any injury compensation you may be entitled to receive.
If your attorney determines that you have a valid claim, they can assist in filing and pursuing it with the at-fault party's insurance company. In most cases, settlements are negotiated outside of court between the victim's attorney and the insurance company's legal representatives. Although the process may take some time, a mutually agreeable settlement is often reached to provide compensation for damages.
Typically, settlements don't involve an admission of fault or liability by the paying party. Instead, they are a means to avoid the complexities and costs of a court trial. Even though obtaining an acknowledgment of fault may not be part of the settlement, compensation can cover medical bills and pain and suffering.
Settling a car accident case is often a practical choice for injured victims, resolving the matter efficiently to address immediate financial needs. It also spares individuals from the stress of a trial and the public exposure of personal details in court records. Insurance companies, too, find settlements preferable due to the time and cost savings compared to the uncertainties of a trial. Settlements offer control over the resolution of the claim, potentially safeguarding reputations and ensuring a more predictable outcome.
When the Civil Court Determines Fault
A small percentage of car accident claims don't settle outside civil court; instead, a judge or a jury (depending on the jurisdiction) will hear the case at trial. They will decide who is at fault. They will reach their conclusion after hearing and examining evidence from both sides, including the following:
- Testimony from eyewitnesses
- Testimony from expert witnesses, such as medical professionals or accident reconstructionists
- Testimony from the drivers
- The police report
- Surveillance camera footage
- Pictures or videos of the scene of the accident
- Pictures of your injuries
- Medical reports
- Other documents and records, such as cell phone records
After the court makes its decision, either party has the right to appeal the court's decision, which can drag the case on for several more years.
Fighting the Insurance Company
Dealing with insurance companies, especially large ones, can be challenging for policyholders and claimants. The complexity of policy language and laws may work to their advantage, leaving you in a difficult position if your claim if they deny your claim. If you find yourself facing such a situation, it's crucial to take proactive steps to fight for the rightful compensation you deserve.
If the insurance company has denied your claim, or you suspect bad faith practices, seeking the assistance of an experienced car accident attorney is a prudent step. A knowledgeable attorney can thoroughly assess your claim and scrutinize the actions of the insurance company. If they identify unfair denial or bad faith practices, they can guide you in asserting your rights and pursuing the compensation owed to you.
It's worth noting that many car accident attorneys offer free consultations, requiring no upfront payment. This initial meeting allows them to understand the specifics of your situation and determine the viability of your case. Additionally, most attorneys operate on a contingency fee basis, meaning they only collect fees if and when you receive compensation. If they cannot secure compensation on your behalf, you owe them nothing.
Don't let an insurance company blame you for the accident or reject your car accident claim without clarity on the reasons and without exploring your legal options. Take the proactive step of reaching out to a qualified car accident attorney to protect your rights and seek the compensation you deserve under the law.