You may have questions about your next steps when you have a car accident. Do you have to call your insurance company? When do you have to notify the insurance company about the accident? A car accident lawyer can help you understand your rights and responsibilities under your state’s laws, including how to best ensure you adhere to those requirements as you manage the aftermath of a car accident.
When to Contact Your Insurance Company?
You may need to consider several factors when determining when to contact your insurance company after the car accident.
1. Will You Need to Use Your Insurance Coverage for Any Reason?
Under several circumstances, you may need to use your insurance coverage to handle the aftermath of an accident. You may know immediately that you will need to use your insurance coverage, or you may discover that need as the process progresses.
Your PIP Coverage
In many states, drivers must carry no-fault coverage to help provide immediate help with medical costs in the event of an auto accident. In other states, you may have the right to obtain that personal injury protection coverage, or PIP insurance, as part of your insurance policy, even if your state does not require it.
No-fault insurance helps ensure you do not have to jump through hoops or wait for the resolution to an injury claim to get your injuries treated. You may, however, need to notify your insurance company of your intent to use that coverage to ensure that all claims go through smoothly.
Your Uninsured Motorist Coverage
If you get into an accident with a driver that does not carry auto insurance, you may need to take care of the damages to your vehicle through your own insurance coverage. Most policies include uninsured motorist coverage that will provide compensation when a driver who does not carry insurance hits your vehicle.
Across the country, around 12.6 percent of drivers do not carry insurance despite their regular time on the road, uninsured motorist coverage can prove essential in providing that compensation. You will need to notify your insurance company of your intent to use that coverage and, in many cases, go through a similar process to filing a claim through the other driver’s insurance.
Your Underinsured Motorist Coverage
The driver that hit you may have insurance, but that does not necessarily mean that the driver’s insurance will cover the full cost of damages to your vehicle. Suppose you drive a vehicle with a value exceeding the coverage offered by minimum state insurance.
In that case, you may end up with more damage to your vehicle than the liable party’s insurance company will pay for. Underinsured motorist coverage, however, can help offer compensation for those damages. In general, your underinsured motorist coverage will offer help for the damages not covered by the other driver’s policy.
2. Does Your Insurance Company Have a Policy That States You Must Notify the Insurance Company About Any Accident, Even One for Which You Are Not at Fault?
Some insurance companies have policies that state you must provide information about any accident you get involved in, even if you did not cause the accident. You will need to notify your insurance company about the accident within its stated timeline, or you could miss out on the ability to use your insurance coverage or even lose it altogether. Make sure you know your insurance company’s policy and how it has the potential to impact you in the event of an accident.
3. Do You Need Help From Your Insurance Company for Any Reason?
Sometimes, you may need to contact your insurance company because you need help from your company. If you find yourself in a complicated investigation process that may mean long delays as you seek compensation, you may need to temporarily use your comprehensive or collision coverage to cover the cost of damages.
4. Did You Suffer Significant Property Damage or Injury Because of the Accident?
Some accidents involve more significant property damage and injury than others. In cases where you may have sustained severe injuries or damage in an accident, you may need to report the accident to your insurance company. Minor accidents that involve relatively minor or no property damage may not get reported because you do not need to use any insurance coverage.
5. Do You Need to Cancel Your Auto Insurance?
After an accident that totals your vehicle, you may need to cancel the coverage on your former vehicle or take out a policy on a new vehicle. In that case, you would need to get in touch with your insurance company to change your policy.
Remember that canceling your former policy may interfere with your personal injury protection coverage. You should not stop paying your insurance premiums while dealing with the aftermath of an accident since that could prevent you from having full coverage for those damages. A lawyer can provide more information about when you can reasonably cancel your former policy after an accident.
Police Reports May Go to the Insurance Company
In some states, when a police report gets filed after any type of auto accident, it will go directly to the insurance company. That means your insurance company will receive notification of the accident, and any information about your potential contributions to the accident, even if you do not share that information. Make sure you know your state’s laws. In many cases, you may have an average of 10 days to report your accident to the state, and your insurance company will receive notification shortly after.
Sometimes, however, paperwork may get tied up, and your insurance company may not get that notification. Make sure you connect with your insurance company to ensure that they get a copy of the police report and all information they need before you need to process a claim.
Will My Rates Go Up After an Accident I Did Not Cause?
When you get into an accident due to someone else’s negligence, you may worry that it will increase your overall insurance costs.
In most cases, insurance will not go up for an accident for which you do not bear fault. Sometimes, however, if you have to use your insurance coverage to help cover some of the damages from the accident, you may note that your rates do go up. Talk to your insurance company about its specific policies and what you can expect after an accident so that you can budget and plan accordingly.
A lawyer can evaluate your policy and give you a better idea of whether your policy should go up due to an accident that you did not cause.
Let Your Lawyer Talk to the Insurance Company on Your Behalf
In many cases, you may want to call your insurance company quickly so that you can start the claim process or so that you can get much-needed information about your coverage. However, in most cases, you do not want to talk to your insurance company directly. Instead, you may want to let your lawyer talk to the insurance company on your behalf.
A Lawyer Can Calculate the Compensation You Really Deserve
You might assume that your insurance company will offer you reasonable coverage for the damages you sustained because of the accident. You may have a great relationship with your insurance company: perhaps you have multiple vehicles insured through the same company, no significant accidents on your record with that company, and more.
However, that does not necessarily mean that the insurance company will offer you reasonable compensation for your sustained damages. In fact, in many cases, you may find yourself fighting with the insurance company to get fair compensation for the damages you suffered in your accident.
Conversely, a lawyer can help review the damages you sustained because of your accident, which may offer you more information about how much compensation you should expect for your injuries.
A Lawyer Can Help Review Your Insurance Policy to Identify Key Areas Where You May Deserve Compensation
When selecting your insurance policy, you may have deliberately selected specific riders and coverage you knew you might need. For example, some people may deliberately add more PIP coverage.
In contrast, others may want to ensure that their insurance policy covers a rental vehicle for the duration of repairs since they cannot afford to go without one for very long. However, over the years since you selected that policy, you may have forgotten what type of coverage you selected or have more questions about how much coverage you have. Furthermore, many insurance companies will hide coverage types in the fine print, which means you may never realize you have coverage in those areas.
A lawyer can help look over the details of those policies and ensure you know what coverage you have and how you can best obtain compensation through your policy.
A Lawyer Can Ensure You Do Not Accidentally Minimize Your Compensation
In many cases, talking to your insurance company can feel like navigating a maze filled with landmines. The insurance adjuster may want you to comment on how much you have recovered or how well you see things going after the accident, which might mean that you do not deserve all the compensation you originally asked for as part of your claim.
On the other hand, the insurance company might try to trip you up and pressure you into accepting partial liability for the accident, which might change the coverage you have or pressure you into accepting a settlement offer that does not really reflect the damages you sustained in the accident.
Many people let their guard down when talking to their own insurance companies. You may assume that you have a friendly relationship with your insurance company and that you can confidently share details of your recovery.
Unfortunately, that might not prove as accurate as you hope. Often, your own insurance company will also try to minimize the compensation it has to pay out after your accident, which could leave you without the funds you really need to manage your recovery. Letting your lawyer take care of those conversations reduces the odds that you will miss out on essential compensation.
A Lawyer Can Help Fight for the Compensation You Really Deserve
The insurance company may make it very difficult for you to get the compensation you really deserve for the damages that occurred because of a car accident. In many cases, simply having a lawyer on your side will help the insurance company take you more seriously. In others, a lawyer can help fight to get you the compensation you really deserve.
Having a lawyer on board from the beginning also helps ensure that the lawyer has a better idea of exactly how your claim has progressed. If you bring on a lawyer later in the claim process, it can take longer for the lawyer to get up to speed and get a feel for dealing with the insurance company. By bringing in a lawyer early, you can get more overall support as you navigate your claim.
Contact an Attorney for Help Dealing With Your Insurance Company
No matter how long you have had the same insurance policy or how well you usually deal with your insurance company, you want to ensure that you have the right coverage and support after an accident and that you do not miss out on anything you deserve.
Contact a personal injury attorney in New York as soon after your accident as possible to get a better idea of the steps you should take next and how to talk to your insurance company.
Mr. Finkelstein is the Managing Partner of Finkelstein & Partners, LLP. He has become a noted consumer activist through his representation of injured individuals against corporate wrongdoers and irresponsible parties.
An accomplished litigator, Mr. Finkelstein has represented Plaintiffs in wrongful death and catastrophic personal injury cases. He has successfully handled dozens of multi-million dollar cases.