What to do after a car accident.
As a personal injury attorney, 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?”
First off, NEVER speak to the at-fault insurance company BEFORE speaking with a personal injury attorney. Anything you say can be used against you – especially concerning pre-existing injuries, treatment or liability.
As it relates to your insurance company, you SHOULD report the claim. Regardless of fault, it is important to call your insurance company and report any accident that involves injuries.
Your only responsibility, however is to NOTIFY your carrier of the crash (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 speak with a lawyer.
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. If you file a claim against the at-fault insurance, your insurance will still be notified. Insurance companies keep records of every claim.
Remember, 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 as your auto insurance (personal injury protection or PIP) will 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 (if you have an emergency medical condition). 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 worries, 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 under-insured 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 $35,000.00 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.
Assuming the at-fault driver tenders their policy ($10,000.00), you could seek to recover UIM coverage under YOUR policy ($35,000.00 = $10,000.00 (at-fault driver) – $25,000.00 (UIM coverage).
FINALLY, YOU SHOULD NEVER DISCUSS YOUR INJURIES, TYPE OF INJURIES OR SEVERITY OF INJURIES TO EITHER YOUR INSURANCE OR THE AT-FAULT INSURANCE. IF POSSIBLE, YOU SHOULD NEVER SPEAK WITH THE AT-FAULT INSURANCE.
If you have and questions or concerns, you can always have your personal injury attorney’s office report the claim to your insurance.