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No matter how careful a driver you are, accidents can happen. If you’ve been involved in a car crash where the other driver suffered an injury or vehicle damage, you may have an insurance claim filed against you, and possibly even a lawsuit.
This can be a scary experience, especially if you’re also recovering from injuries of your own. But understanding how the whole insurance claims process works can help you regain a sense of control and prevent you from making the situation worse.
Let’s take a look at exactly what happens when an insurance claim is made against you and how you can act to protect yourself and your finances. And if you’re ever in doubt as to your best legal options, an experienced car accident lawyer can provide the guidance you need.
When an auto accident happens, the very first thing to do is leave your vehicle and get to a safe location. If anyone’s hurt, call an ambulance and offer any assistance you can. If you’ve sustained a serious injury, focus on getting emergency treatment.
Also, call the police right away. Even if you believe it was a mild accident with no significant harm caused, it’s important to call the police so that the incident is properly documented. You’ll be able to attain the police report later on.
For a similar reason, you should always see a doctor immediately after an accident. Even if you feel physically and mentally fine, you might have delayed injury symptoms. And the doctor’s records may help you to prove any medical damages later on.
You’ll need to exchange your driver’s license details, vehicle information, and insurance details with the other driver. And while you’re still at the scene, it pays to keep a clear head and start thinking of evidence that will later help you to either defend against an insurance claim or prove your claim.
As well as police reports, witness statements are often important evidence, so collect the contact details of any eyewitnesses. Also, try to take photos and videos of the cars involved, any vehicle damage caused, skid marks on the road, the weather conditions, your injuries, and the other party’s injuries or lack thereof (with their consent).
When communicating with the other driver, be careful in what you say, as anything you state may have legal ramifications later on. It’s best to keep conversation to a bare minimum, and don’t get emotional.
Beware of admitting fault while talking to the other driver. At this early stage, you might not even be sure who was at fault. Even if you think that you caused the accident, it’s quite possible that liability was shared.
If you carelessly admit to fault at the scene, it might make it harder for your insurance company to dispute a false collision claim against you later. And likewise, if you later seek compensation for your own injuries, any early admission of fault will diminish your attorney’s ability to prove the other driver’s liability.
In the days following the accident, if the other driver files an insurance claim against you, your insurance company will contact you to let you know. The insurance adjuster will explain your options and start investigating the accident.
On rare occasions, the other driver may contact you directly via email or letter. If this happens, inform your insurance company immediately.
After experiencing a car accident, it’s usually best to inform your insurance company right away. This is because insurance policies frequently contain terms requiring the policyholder to immediately inform the insurer when an accident occurs.
Some drivers put off telling their insurance company for several days or weeks after an accident, waiting to see whether or not the other driver will file a claim. But if you put this off, by the time the insurance claim is made, you may have violated the notice requirement in your insurance contract.
Any such insurance policy violation, no matter how small, may be used by the insurance company as grounds for denying a claim. So to be on the safe side, don’t hesitate to contact your insurance company to warn them of a potential incoming claim.
There are three main types of insurance claims: at-fault claims, partial-fault claims, and non-fault claims. If the other driver is filing a claim against you, you’re likely to be facing an at-fault or partial-fault claim.
With an at-fault claim, the other driver is filing an insurance claim against you, and you are deemed to be entirely responsible for the accident and their injuries. If successful, an at-fault claim will find you to have been driving negligently, perhaps because you failed to obey the traffic laws, you were distracted, or your vehicle was poorly maintained.
In these cases, the other driver will file a third-party at-fault claim with your insurance company. Your insurance company will then investigate the accident and either dispute it or make an initial settlement offer, in which case the injured driver’s attorney will often negotiate until a final settlement agreement is reached.
With a partial-fault claim, both parties are deemed to have shared responsibility for the accident. Both you and the other driver may have acted with some degree of negligence, each contributing to the accident in some way. In these cases, an auto insurance claim may be made against you, and you may also file a claim against the other driver’s insurance company.
The amount of compensation you receive for your injuries, property damage, and other losses will depend upon how much of the fault you bear for the crash. The insurers and attorneys of both parties will investigate the accident, determine the amount of fault each driver holds, and then come to a settlement agreement based on their assessment.
For example, it might be that you are deemed to hold 75% of the fault while the other driver holds 25% of the fault; the final settlement payouts would then reflect this decision, weighing 75/25 in the other driver’s favor. Negotiations in partial-fault claims are often drawn-out affairs and can sometimes even end up in court to be decided by a judge and jury.
A non-fault claim is when you’re filing an insurance claim against the other driver who is deemed to be wholly responsible for the accident and your injuries. Both partial-fault and no-fault claims are best handled with an experienced personal injury attorney by your side, who can gather evidence and negotiate a fair settlement with the other driver’s insurance company.
A third-party claim is an insurance claim made against another driver’s insurance company rather than your own insurance company. And if you file an auto insurance claim with your own insurance policy, it’s a first-party claim.
Drivers might file a first-party claim if there isn’t another vehicle involved in the accident or if a minor accident occurs in a no-fault state like Kansas. In these cases, the injured driver deals directly with their own auto insurance company, not a third-party insurer.
Once the other party files their claim, your insurance company will have their insurance adjusters speak to you, investigate the accident, and handle the entire claims process from thereon. Provided that the claim is valid and meets the terms of your policy, they’re then likely to offer an initial settlement figure to the injured driver.
The injured driver may accept the initial offer or attempt to negotiate for a higher settlement. The ensuing negotiation process and final settlement agreement are between the insurer and the injured driver. Ordinarily, you won’t play a part in it.
You’ll only need to take further action in a few situations. If you find any reason or evidence to dispute the claim or prove partial fault on behalf of the other driver, you should let your insurance company know at once.
Insurance companies appreciate this because it allows them to deny the validity of a claim or at least reduce the claim payment, thus saving them money. Successfully disputing a claim or proving a degree of shared negligence may also prevent your own auto insurance premium from rising.
You’ll also need to take action if the insurance company refuses to provide an adequate insurance settlement and this causes the other party to file a lawsuit against you or you suspect bad faith behavior on behalf of an insurance provider. In these cases, your next step should be to consult with a good car accident or insurance claim lawyer.
Unfortunately, your insurance premiums will almost certainly increase when a claim is made against you. You’ll also lose your no-claims bonus if it’s the first claim you’ve been on the receiving end of a claim.
The amount by which your insurance rates increase may vary a great deal. Most insurance companies will assess the new insurance rate based on the degree of negligence demonstrated, the extent of the damages they need to pay, and your overall claim history.
When car insurance companies raise a policyholder’s insurance rates, it’s not always irreversible. But it will usually require you to prove that the insurance claim was false or the insurer is somehow acting in bad faith, which almost always requires the help of an attorney.
Car insurance excess and car insurance deductible payments only apply when the insured party is making a first-party claim with their own insurance provider. So neither excess nor deductible payments apply to third-party liability claims made by another driver against you.
When a claim is made against you, you’re only likely to see the claim affect your insurance premium. And you might also lose your no-claims bonus.
You may believe that a false claim is being made against you. Perhaps you don’t agree that you were at fault for the accident, or you think that the other driver shares some of the blame. Or maybe you don’t recall being in an accident at all.
When the party seeking compensation has filed a false claim, you can dispute it. This is why gathering evidence at the scene of the accident is so important.
When auto insurance claims are initially filed, the insurance adjuster from your insurance provider will contact you. They’ll ask whether you believe it to be a valid claim or a false claim.
If you dispute the claim, tell the car insurance adjuster and provide any evidence you might have. They’ll then investigate the accident and build a case against the claimant.
You may have initially agreed that it’s a valid claim but then later come to consider it invalid, perhaps because new evidence arose. In this case, you can contact your insurer at any time to make a formal request to dispute the insurance claim. Insurance companies usually have an appeal or dispute form for dealing with false claims.
If you have any trouble disputing a claim with your insurance agent, you may need the help of an attorney. You might also consider hiring an attorney if your insurer increases your premiums when an insurance claim is made but then refuses to decrease the rate again or return your no-claims bonus after the claim has been proven false.
An attorney can also help you gather evidence to prove the other driver’s liability for the accident. This evidence might include eyewitness statements, surveillance camera footage, and the testimony of expert witnesses such as an accident reconstruction expert.
Consider hiring an insurance claim lawyer if you believe that either your insurance company or the other party’s insurance company isn’t acting in good faith. Bad faith insurance is when an insurance provider acts outside of its duty to treat you with good faith and fair dealing.
Car insurance claims that are ignored, wrongfully denied, or undervalued may constitute bad-faith car insurance. Failing to properly investigate accidents or misrepresenting the terms in insurance policies might also be considered bad faith.
In these instances, an experienced car accident attorney can explain your legal rights. They can also help you take legal action against the insurer.
If your insurance company refuses to meet the claimant’s settlement demands, the other driver might file a lawsuit against you. In this case, your insurer is likely to provide you with an attorney to defend you in court.
But if you aren’t provided adequate legal defense, consider hiring your own attorney. A lawsuit against you doesn’t necessarily mean the case will end up in court. It’s still possible for your insurance provider to settle out of court with the plaintiff.
When you believe the other driver to share fault for the accident or even be entirely at fault for the accident, your chances of winning a full and fair settlement are increased with an attorney by your side. A car accident lawyer becomes especially important when you have large medical bills and property damage to recover or there are multiple parties involved in the claim.
An attorney can investigate the accident independently, build a strong case based on robust evidence, negotiate with the other driver’s insurance company, and even file a lawsuit against them if necessary. And when you’re pursuing compensation with your own claim, your attorney will usually work on a contingency fee basis and take their legal fees from the final settlement when your insurance claim is successful.
If you’d like an experienced car accident attorney to defend your rights, contact Wendt Law Firm P.C. at 816-542-6734 for a free consultation and case evaluation. Our award-winning lawyers have won over $100,000,000 for our clients in over 1,000 successful cases.