I was injured in an automobile accident, should I call my insurance company to report the claim?
As a personal injury attorney in Fort Lauderdale, I am oftentimes asked by friends and family, “If I was injured in an automobile accident, should I call my insurance company to report the claim?”
The answer is “yes”; Regardless of fault, it is important to call your insurance company and report any accident that involved injuries or property damage. That being said, when reading this article please remember that EVERYTHING you report to (either) insurance company could be used against you to reduce or exclude certain coverage.
Your only responsibility is to NOTIFY your carrier (i.e. “I was involved in an accident on “X” date at “X” time at “X” location with “X” vehicle) and receive a CLAIM NUMBER; You are under NO obligation to discuss the facts of the case, your theory of liability, the nature of your injuries, release your medical information, or list what doctors you have visited or plan to visit. Politely decline to answer any additional questions or give a recorded statement until AFTER you have spoken with legal counsel. Rule of thumb – seek a free consultation from an experienced personal injury lawyer prior to providing any statement to your carrier.
Why should I call MY insurance company if I was not the at-fault party?
Plain and simple – the answer is NOTICE. It is important to place your insurance company on notice of the accident to preserve possible coverage claims. Insurance companies are in the business to make money – not pay out claims; Do not give them any reason to exclude a benefit under your policy by failing to comply with their reporting requirements. Stated another way, your insurance company MAY decline benefits if you fail to place them on notice of the accident.
In the event you are injured … you MUST report the accident to your insurance company to provide for your personal injury protection insurance (PIP) to cover the first $10,000.00 in medical bills and lost wages. PIP coverage is required in the State of Florida; PIP benefits are paid by YOUR insurance company regardless of who was at fault for the accident. PIP benefits pay for 80% of your medical bills and 60% of your lost wages – up to $10,000.00 (some restrictions apply beginning in January 2013). EVEN IF YOU ARE NOT THE AT-FAULT DRIVER, YOU WILL SEEK TO HAVE YOUR MEDICAL BILLS PAID THROUGH YOUR PIP COVERAGE. Contrary to popular belief, there is no “penalty” for utilizing your PIP benefits after an accident.
If there is property damage … A common reason to contact your insurance company is when the at-fault driver’s insurance company is slow to accept responsibility for the accident. Contacting your insurance company can oftentimes expedite the process – in the event your policy contains collision coverage – (i.e. the faster your vehicle is repaired or replaced). No fret, your insurance company will later seek reimbursement from the at-fault party’s insurance. Your insurance policy may also contain towing and/or rental car coverage. You paid for the benefits – you might as well use them.
The most overlooked reason to contact your insurance company is that the other driver may claim that YOU are at-fault and pursue a claim against you for damages. Under the terms of your automobile insurance policy, your carrier is required to defend your claim for free – assuming they are properly placed on notice.
Finally, in the event you purchased uninsured and/or underinsured motorist (“UM/UIM”) coverage, you can file a claim with your insurance policy if the at-fault driver did not purchase insurance or purchased inadequate insurance.
For example, let’s assume that you are involved in an automobile accident where you are seeking $45,000.00 in past and future medical bills and pain and suffering. The at-fault driver only purchased a $10,000.00 insurance policy. You purchased a $25,000.00 UM/UIM policy.
As a result, once the at-fault driver tenders their policy ($10,000.00), you could seek to recover UIM coverage under YOUR policy ($45,000.00 = $10,000.00 (at-fault driver) – $10,000.00 (PIP) – $25,000.00 (UIM coverage). Of note, Lyons, Snyder & Collin advises all of our friends and family to purchase adequate UM/UIM coverage – especially in South Florida.
The bottom line – call you insurance company after any accident involving injuries or property damage to put them on NOTICE of the accident and to preserve any claims. Please remember that any statement you provide to an insurance adjuster concerning the events leading up to and including the accident could be disastrous in future litigation. Even an innocuous statement such as “I feel OK, I guess?” when asked by an insurance adjuster days following the accident could cost you tens of thousands of dollars in litigation. Take the prudent course – decline to answer any questions and/or give a recorded statement until after you speak with an accident attorney.