There are an average of 6 million car accidents in the United States each year. That is more than 16,000 accidents taking place each day. But while car accidents may be common, they feel anything but ordinary when you are the one involved.
In the immediate aftermath of a car accident, it can be difficult to focus on what needs to be done. Whether you are dealing with injuries or just the shock of finding yourself driving one minute and in an accident the next, you might struggle to remember what you know that you need to do.
Taking care of your injuries, and the injuries of anyone else involved in the accident should always come first. But once you have sought care, or if you did not suffer injuries, it is important to take care of filing the necessary claims with insurance so that you can get your vehicle repaired and any medical bills paid.
How do you deal with insurance after a car accident? And which insurance company should you contact and file claims with? Here’s what you need to know.
Who’s Insurance Company Pays a Settlement After a Car Accident?
After getting into a car accident, the first thing most people wonder is who is really responsible for paying for the damage. The answer is that it depends on the circumstances of the accident, as well as the state where it occurred.
In most states, the insurance company of the person who caused the accident has to pay. They are responsible for paying for any damage to involved vehicles and medical bills of any victims who are injured in the crash.
If you caused a car accident and have collision coverage on your policy, your insurance company will pay to fix your vehicle. Your insurance company will also be responsible for paying out claims to the drivers of the vehicles or vehicles that you collided with.
Things become more complicated if it is not immediately clear who is at fault for the accident. In the case of minor accidents with minimal damages, both involved parties may choose to submit claims to their own insurance companies.
However, if the damage is more extensive, and if one or the other party is convinced that the other person is at fault, they may attempt to submit claims to the other person’s insurance company.
If these claims are denied, hiring a car accident attorney may become necessary. He or she will help their client build a case with evidence proving why they are not at fault for the accident and why the other person is responsible.
In some instances, the case may need to be taken to court to allow a judge and jury to decide who is responsible for the accident. This is where a car accident attorney really has a chance to show their skills and experience. They will compile evidence, bring in expert witnesses, create visuals for court, and more.
What Does it Mean if a State Has a No-Fault Law?
In some states, even if it is clear who is at fault for an accident, all parties are responsible for their own damages and injuries. These states have so-called no-fault laws on the books. No-fault laws state that every driver is required to file their own claim to their own insurance company after an accident.
Even if another vehicle is clearly responsible for an accident due to a driver’s negligence, you will still need to file your claims to your own insurance company. States with no-fault laws also require that drivers purchase personal injury protection, or PIP, as a part of their car insurance policy.
While drivers do have to pay for vehicle damage using their own auto insurance, they do have the option to sue the other driver. However, they can only do so if the driver or passengers have suffered severe injuries, or are suing for pain and suffering.
In order to sue, a case must meet certain requirements. A car accident lawyer can help victims figure out whether their case qualifies. They can also help them build a case to present in court in order to get a settlement for their injuries and suffering, despite the no-fault ruling.
Which States Have No-Fault Laws in Place?
In total, 12 states have no-fault laws in place, as does Puerto Rico. States with no-fault laws include:
- New Jersey
- New York
- Florida, Pennsylvania
- North Dakota
However, not all no-fault laws are the same. Some feature monetary thresholds, which means that the injuries sustained must reach a certain dollar amount before a legal suit can be brought against the person responsible for the accident. Utah has such a law.
Others have a verbal no-fault law. This means that a person’s injuries have to reach a certain extent before a suit can be filed. This can sometimes be difficult to define and is often largely up to interpretation.
Dealing with Insurance Following an Accident
If you are involved in a car accident, the first thing you should do is seek treatment for any injuries that you have sustained. Even if you were not injured enough to call for an ambulance, or if you did not notice your injuries until the following day, you can still see your primary care doctor or visit an urgent care facility for evaluation in the days following your accident.
If you are not seriously injured and are able to, you should collect some information about the other party or parties involved in the accident before you leave the scene of the crash. This is especially important if someone else was at fault for the accident. However, out of caution, you should also get this information if you were at fault or partially at fault, or if it is unclear who caused the accident.
Information you should get includes:
- Name and address of the other driver
- Insurance provider’s company name and the driver’s policy information
- A statement and the contact information of any witnesses present
- Pictures from the accident scene, including all involved vehicles from multiple angles and the surrounding scenes
Some car insurance companies now offer mobile apps that you can use to document your accident and store crime scene photos. But taking the photos with your smartphone and recording the information in a note or with pen and paper will work as well.
Submitting a Claim to the Other Driver’s Insurance Company
After seeking treatment, the next step is to submit claims to the correct insurance company. If the other driver is at fault for the accident, they should submit a claim to their own insurance provider. However, many drivers are reluctant to do so. They may fear their policy increasing. Or they may hope that you choose not to submit a claim if the accident was minor.
Regardless of whether you think that the driver will submit a claim, you should submit your own to their insurance provider. Use the information you gathered to reach out to the provider. Let them know the name of the driver, and that you have been involved in an accident with them.
Explain the circumstances of the accident as they happened, going into as much detail as you are able. The explanation of the accident should let the provider know that their client is responsible for the accident. If it does, you do not need to come right out to say that the other driver is responsible.
Keep in mind that law enforcement officers on the scene of the accident will determine fault on their own when they issue tickets. The insurance provider will likely launch its own investigation as well.
When contacting the insurance provider, the goal is not to lay blame, but to relay the facts of the accident. If the insurance provider believes that their client was not at fault, you will have a chance to prove otherwise later on in the case.
Contacting Your Own Insurance Company
If you were at fault for the accident, you will need to contact your own insurance provider right away to let them know what happened.
But even if you were not at fault, it is a good idea to contact them anyways. This will let them know that something has occurred in case the fault in the accident is later called into question. It may also be useful later on if the insurance provider of the responsible driver fights back about paying your claims.
If you were involved in a car accident in a state with no-fault laws, you will also need to contact your insurance provider. In this case, you will submit a claim for damages to your own provider, regardless of whether you caused the accident or not.
What Happens if the Other Driver Was Uninsured?
A stunning 13 percent or one in every eight drivers on the roadway today are uninsured. Unfortunately, if you discover that the driver of the vehicle who caused the accident does not have insurance, you will have to submit all claims to your own insurance provider. This includes drivers who had insurance but did not have an active policy at the time of the accident.
You can choose to sue an uninsured driver. However, this is usually ill-advised. In most cases, drivers are uninsured because they cannot afford insurance. Even if you sue and win your case, they may be unable to pay the settlement.
You can then take the individual to court again over their refusal to pay. But in most cases, the courts will recognize that an individual is unable to pay. They may require that a payment plan be set up if the defendant does have some money. Payment plans often include very low monthly payments, which are unlikely to go very far in helping you pay the bills that you have incurred as a result of the accident.
Taking the individual to court in the first place will likely only add to your bills, and cost you your time with no guarantee of getting anything in return.
Another course of action you have after being in an accident with an uninsured driver is to file a claim under your own insurance’s uninsured motorist coverage.
Getting Your Vehicle Repaired
Whether your vehicle is drivable or not after the accident, you are likely eager to get it repaired. If you cannot drive it, you are even more so. However, think twice before taking it straight to a repair shop after the accident.
Most insurance providers require that drivers get the repairs authorized through them before they are made. Taking your car right to an auto repair shop to be fixed before you have filed claims with the insurance provider or while they are processing is a big mistake. This could result in your claims being denied. That means you may be responsible for paying for all damages.
Instead, wait until your claims have been processed and the repairs have been approved. Most insurance providers will send a representative to check out your car first. Others now allow you to submit proof of damage via email or using a mobile application.
When you do take your vehicle in for repairs, you can choose any repair shop you would like. Many insurance providers will have a list of repair shops that they recommend. But they cannot require you to use one of these shops for your repairs.
Dealing with Insurance After a Car Accident
Dealing with insurance providers following an accident can be stressful and confusing. It is important to file your claims correctly and in a timely manner to avoid any delays in their being approved. If the insurance provider pays your claims right away and you did not suffer injuries, you will not need an attorney.
However, if the insurance provider refuses to pay, or if you suffered injuries, especially severe injuries, having a car accident lawyer on your side can make all the difference in getting the settlement that you deserve. Your attorney will help ensure claims are filed correctly. They will be able to provide additional evidence and testimony to insurance providers in an attempt to get claims approved. And if they are not approved, your lawyer will help you take your case to court.