Have you just been in a car accident and need to know how to file a claim against the at-fault party? Navigating insurance companies can be confusing and scary, especially when you are filing a claim. Insurance companies, despite what we are led to believe, are not on our side, and they do their best not to pay out - if they can get away with it. So, after you’ve gathered all of the necessary information (names of other parties, their details, emergency responder’s names, photographic and video evidence, and so on), and you’ve sought medical treatment, if the auto accident was caused by another party, here’s how to file an auto insurance claim against someone else.
Don’t Admit Fault
No matter what, whenever you’re on the scene do not admit fault. The other party is gathering any evidence against you, and if you admit fault it could be the nail in your figurative coffin. The same goes for not seeking immediate medical treatment: a talented insurance or legal team can spin any action to say your injuries weren’t serious enough for you to address them straight away. The best way to protect yourself in any claim against an insurance company is by hiring an attorney. An experienced attorney can help advise you on what to say and not to say to build up the strongest case in your favor.
As alluded to in the introductory paragraph, you need to gather evidence. Gather anything and everything that will help with your case. You need to find all of the puzzle pieces and piece them together (an attorney can also help with the bigger puzzle picture too).
It’s important to do the following:
- Exchange details with any other drivers: names, addresses, phone number, insurance details, etc. If the person refuses details, take a picture of their vehicle registration number.
- Take photos and videos of the scene - up close and far away to get the scope of the accident.
- Take down any notes.
- Note traffic conditions, weather conditions, important traffic signs, and other information that could be key.
- Take statements from any witnesses.
- Get the names and badge numbers of any police on the scene so you can obtain police reports for your records.
- Keep any medical records you obtain as well as document any time you’ve missed at work, any loss of income, childcare expenses, rental car expenses, and so forth.
- Show your insurance certificate or cover note to the police, or take the relevant documents to the police station within 7 days of the accident.
- The driver at-fault needs to report the accident to their car insurance company, but you can also inform their insurer that you’ve been in an accident with their policyholder.
- Even if you are not at fault, contact your insurance company as well, but do not speculate and give anything more than facts.
Some car insurance companies have mobile apps with an accident checklist to help you gather the correct evidence as well.
Go to the Hospital or your Doctor’s Office
Seek medical treatment even if you do not feel that you’re injured immediately because injuries can crop up later and you’ll need a complete, documented medical checkup. Insurance companies will pick up on any claims you make after the fact, so it's important to have a trusted attorney to advise you and monitor your medical progress with you. You do not have to provide the names and details of your doctor to the insurance companies. Give out as little information as possible, and only share information that your attorney has advised.
The Four Circumstances to File a Claim (from the DMV)
- Injured Passenger: you can file a claim against the driver’s insurance to receive compensation for medical treatment, lost wages, and other damages.
- Hit by a driver when you are not at fault: you can file a claim against the other driver’s insurance policy.
- Company vehicle operator: most companies have auto insurance policies used for business purposes. Notify your company of the accident, and they should make any necessary claims for you.
- Driving personal vehicle for business purposes: for work-related driving, contact your employer’s insurance company to file a claim.
What if the other person doesn’t have insurance?
If the other driver is at-fault but they do not have insurance, you’ll have to file a claim with your own insurance company, but only if you have enough coverage.
A basic liability policy won’t cover personal damages. It’s a good idea, therefore, to add an uninsured or underinsured motorist coverage to your policy for these unfortunate circumstances, which will protect you from drivers who don’t have enough insurance to cover your injuries.
Consider also collision coverage to pay for any damages to your vehicle, which are useful for any hit and run accidents. Collision coverage, though, won’t cover injury claims.
In extreme cases, you can file a lawsuit if you’ve suffered extensive injuries and have accumulated large medical debts. You will need an attorney to help you with this type of lawsuit as it’s complicated to navigate alone against insurance companies who’d rather not pay out.
First Party vs Third Party Claim
A first party claim is one you file against your own insurance if you were at-fault. You’d have to know your deductibles and understand what damages you’d be personally responsible for.
A third party claim is the type of claim that you file against another person’s insurance if they were at fault and caused damage to your vehicle.
In first or third party claims, unless you have extensive legal knowledge, you'll need an attorney to help you navigate the claim.
Steps to Filing a Claim Against Someone
Once all of those details are squared away, here are the steps to filing a claim:
- Assign your case to a professional at your car insurance company who will work on your claim.
- You complete this step by contacting your insurance company and the other at-fault party’s and you write a claims letter detailing the compensation you think is fair.
- Usually this figure will be more than you hope to get in the settlement because the insurance company will talk you down and you’ll have to negotiate.
- An attorney can help you determine a fair settlement figure to present to the insurance company.
- Provide any evidence needed but do not say you’re at fault in any way.
- Present only facts.
- Your attorney can advise on what to say and what not to say when dealing with tricky insurance companies.
- If the claims adjuster comes back with a figure and you agree, you can settle.
- If you don’t agree with the figure, negotiate for what is fair.
- The best way to get a higher or fair settlement is by using an attorney as it’s difficult to navigate big insurance firms alone - who are used to fighting claims day in day out.
- If you have haggled and negotiated a few times and your claims adjuster comes back with a settlement you’re happy with, you may accept the settlement and the case will be resolved.
- However, the best and most fair outcomes often happen with the aid of an attorney. Insurance companies are experienced at knowing how to manipulate customers into settling for amounts far lower than what they deserve, often because they know their customers are not armed with the knowledge to get a fair settlement, but your attorney has experience and can help you resolve your case fairly - and in your favor.
- Once the settlement has been agreed to, put everything in writing and send it to the insurance company to finalize (and legalize) the agreement.
- Your attorney is the best person to help you resolve the final settlement and check everything that was agreed is in writing, and that all the i's are dotted, and the t's are crossed.
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Contact Coxwell & Associates, PLLC., for a FREE case consultation.
At Coxwell & Associates, PLLC., we have over 36 years of experience dealing with personal injury cases in auto accidents. We can advise you on settlements and how to get the best possible outcome for your individual case.
Disclaimer: This blog is intended as general information purposes only, and is not a substitute for legal advice. Anyone with a legal problem should consult a lawyer immediately.