Getting into a car accident can be a traumatic experience, even if no one is seriously injured. Not only are you dealing with the stress of assessing the damages to your vehicle, but you also have to go through the hassle of filing an insurance claim. Even though you have auto insurance to help cover the expenses of an accident, it can still be an overwhelming process, especially if you’re dealing with the other driver’s car insurance company.
You will likely be contacted by the insurance companies of the other parties involved, regardless of who is considered to be at fault. If this happens to you, you need to be prepared and understand how to respond. Make sure to protect your rights after you have been in a car accident.
What steps to take after a car accident
No one plans on getting into a car accident, but the reality is that every time you get behind the wheel, the drive could potentially result in a crash. We all hope for the best, but it is important to know what steps to take in the event of your Sunday drive taking a left turn.
- Ensure your safety. Assess the scene, and check yourself and any passengers for injuries. If possible, move your car away from traffic. Do not leave the scene.
- Call 911. First responders need to evaluate everyone for injuries, and in most cases it is best to file a police report.
- Collect information. Gather information from all parties involved, including contact details, insurance provider names and policy numbers, and license plate numbers.
- Record the scene. Document the location and time of the accident. Take photos of damages to all vehicles and property, not just your own. If you have a dashcam, make sure you back up the video recording as soon as possible.
- File a claim. Claims take time to process, so it is in your best interest to file a claim as soon as possible following a car accident. You can file a claim online, through an app, or over the phone.
Legally Speaking, Do I Have to Talk to an Insurance Investigator After a Car Accident?
Your car insurance policy will state that you are required to report all collisions, regardless of the amount of damage or who is at fault. If you did not cause the accident and plan on getting your car repaired privately to avoid impacting your coverage, assuming the at-fault driver won’t contact insurance would be a mistake on your part. Suppose you fail to report a car accident to your insurance company and the other driver submits a claim. In that case, their insurance company may contact your insurance provider in the process of settling the claim, and the result could impact your insurance rates.
If you believe the other driver may be at fault, their insurance company may not agree and attempt to dispute the claim. This is where your insurance company may step in and cover the costs for repairs and rentals, depending on your coverage. If you were injured in the accident, you could incur medical expenses in addition to vehicle repairs. Medical treatment is expensive, and most people do not have the financial means to pay for it out of their own pockets.
You should contact your own insurance company immediately after an accident to open a claim for treatment benefits. It is important to cooperate with your own insurance company in an injury claim in order to get the best treatment possible. You will open what is known as a Section B claim with your own insurance company, which provides coverage for your treatment benefits after an accident (such as physiotherapy, massage therapy, and so on). An auto claims adjuster (otherwise known as an insurance investigator) will be assigned to your claim to determine who was at fault and what damage will be covered.
How to talk to an insurance claims adjuster
The type of information you disclose to a claims adjuster depends on which insurance company you are talking to — yours or the other driver’s.
Providing your claims adjuster with as much information as possible will help them accurately assess the details of the claim and the benefits you are entitled to. Your own insurance company has what’s called a “duty of good faith” towards you, according to your contract of insurance with them (also known as your insurance policy). This means they are required by contract to act in your best interests.
Unlike your own insurer, the other driver’s insurance company does not owe you a duty of good faith. You do not have a contract of insurance with them. Their duty is to their shareholders, which means they will generally try to avoid paying you fair compensation. You are under no legal obligation to speak with the other insurance company’s representative. Their primary goal is to pay you as little as possible, or none at all if they can help it. Bringing a claim against the other driver’s insurance company is known as a Section A Claim. If they call you after an accident to ask questions, you do not have to talk to them, and you should never sign any authorizations or consent forms they send you.
Tips if the Other Driver’s Insurance Calls After an Accident
Even though you are not required to speak to an insurance adjuster for the other driver, this rarely stops them from calling you. You always have the option to refuse to talk to them, tell them to contact your claims adjuster, or say that you will only speak to them if your lawyer is present.
Anything you say can and will be used against you
Adjusters are skilled at making questions seem innocent and not related to the accident to draw answers out of you that they can use to force a settlement or use against you in court if your claim goes to trial.
They will want a recorded or written statement
If you hear the other company’s claims adjuster say, “we can speed this process up if you provide a recorded statement,” — run. A simple misstatement or answer taken out of context can be used to undermine a legitimate claim, and you are left covering the costs for property damage and injuries.
Your medical situation is not clear
If you sustained injuries from the car crash, and even if you know what these injuries are, you are not a medical professional. You could misrepresent the extent of your injuries or significantly undervalue the cost of your medical treatment. The other party’s insurance provider is trying to estimate what the case could be worth so they can set what is known as a ‘reserve value’. This valuation could be less than what you are seeking and less than what you are entitled to.
It is also important to remember that your body produces a lot of adrenaline following a car crash. You may not feel the effects of an injury for days or even weeks. Never comment on the amount of pain you may be experiencing. Instead, say that you are waiting to hear back from your doctor.
Do not admit fault
This rule applies to the accident scene and when talking to the other driver’s insurance company. Never apologize or admit fault for the accident. It does not matter if you feel responsible. You can seriously damage your case by even hinting at the notion that you may have been responsible for the crash.
Never agree to a settlement on your own
Adjusters will try and save time and money by getting you to agree to a settlement as soon as possible, especially if they believe their client is the driver at fault. You have no idea what the cost of your bills will be for medical expenses, car repairs, or if you will need time off work to recover. Always keep in mind that their goal is to pay you out as little as possible. If you agree to a settlement without proper advisement, you will most likely be settling for far less than you deserve.
Is it Ever a Good Idea to Contact the Other Driver’s Insurance Company?
The only instance where it may be considered a good idea to contact the other driver’s insurance company is if the driver has refused to speak with, or has lied to, their claims adjuster. The other insurance provider may not even be aware of the full details of the collision or the extent of any injuries you sustained. Their lack of information or cooperation from the other driver may prolong the time it takes for you to receive a settlement cheque, if you get one at all. Even in this situation, you should have an attorney or representative from your insurance company handle the conversation with the other driver’s claims adjuster.
If you are bringing an injury claim forward, the other driver’s insurance company will, at some point, need to know certain information about the accident and your injuries. You are not in this alone. An experienced personal injury lawyer from Valent Legal can advise you on what kind of information is necessary to support your claim and when, how, and to whom it should be disclosed.