What do you need to know about filing a car insurance claim?
This blog entry discusses the basics surrounding car insurance claims, as well as in what instances you would d well to retain the services of a car accident attorney. Q&As include:
What should you do after an auto accident?
What should you tell an insurance adjuster after a car accident?
What is a car insurance claim?
What is a third-party claim?
When should you file a car insurance claim?
What is a no-fault state?
What are threshold conditions in a no-fault state?
Which states are no-fault?
What is automobile liability insurance?
What is automobile collision insurance?
What is automobile comprehensive insurance?
What is a deductible?
Does health insurance cover car accident injuries?
What are “delayed” or “late-appearing” injuries?
What is comparative negligence?
How much does it cost to hire a car-crash attorney?
1. What should you do after an auto accident?
(A). Seek medical attention. You should always seek medical attention ASAP after an automobile accident, even if you feel fine. This is because the effects of physical trauma are often not immediately apparent, and hospitals have the ability to detect injuries that might be temporarily masked due to shock and/or adrenaline spikes (see Q.14).
Some insurance adjusters might suggest that you wait for their referral to seek medical evaluation, but this is not in your best interest. The more time that passes before you seek a medical evaluation after an accident the easier it becomes for the insurance company to assert that your pain and suffering are caused by something other than the accident.
(B). Report the accident to your insurance company. Do so ASAP with the following information:
Which of your insured vehicles was involved
Who was the driver
Location and time of the accident
Basic description of the accident
Severity of damage
Name(s) of the other driver(s) involved in the accident
Insurance information for the other driver(s) involved in the accident
Names and contact info of nondrivers involved in the accident
Names and contact information for witnesses to the accident
(C). File a police report. The “accident report” generated by the police at the scene will have a number that your insurance company will want. If there were no police at the scene and, consequently, no report generated, then visit a police precinct in the same jurisdiction in which your accident occurred and file a report yourself.
(D). Wait for an adjuster. The insurance company will assign an adjuster to your claim and will very likely contact you for more information. He or she will either inspect the damage to your vehicle or request that you take your auto to a certified repair shop to be inspected. Be mindful that any conversation you have with the adjuster will be recorded for use when determining who was at fault. (Important! See Q2)
2. What should you tell an insurance adjuster after a car accident?
Limit yourself to the most basic facts. (E.g., when the accident happened, where it happened, and how many people were in your car). Never speculate about anything, as you can easily say something that inadvertently makes you appear partially culpable for the accident. (E.g., you were coming home late from work and were tired.)
Where you might go it alone without a car accident attorney for an accident that only involved moderate property damage, one cannot emphasize enough, if your accident included personal injuries or someone’s death, it is absolutely crucial that you confer with an auto accident lawyer before speaking with an insurance company adjuster.
Remember, insurance company adjusters are not on your side. They are employees of the insurance company and are thereby tacitly motivated to interpret whatever you say in such a way that weakens your claim and thereby diminishes the amount of compensation they will have to pay you.
Also, never admit fault, even if you think it so because you might be mistaken. Remember that you only witness an accident from your own limited vantage. Thus, you are interpreting events from a single narrow view.
Other drivers, passengers, and witnesses will provide other perspectives. Their statements will offer additional evidence, which will be considered by the police and your auto-accident attorney. They will together determine which parties might be at fault, and how much comparative negligence there might be (see Q.15).
3. What is a car insurance claim?
A car insurance claim is a request for financial compensation that you file with an insurance company after an accident in which your vehicle was damaged and/or you were injured. While the process varies among different states and insurance companies, the basic steps are usually the same (see Q.1). With which insurance company to file a claim depends upon who or what caused the damage.
4. What is a third-party insurance claim?
In the simplest situation, if you are in an accident that is the fault of the other driver, you will make a claim against his or her liability insurance. This is called a third-party claim. I.e., you are “the third party” to the at-fault driver and his or her insurance company, and therein lies a potential problem for you. Consider:
The at-fault driver’s insurance company must process the claim, and it is not in their interest to act quickly. Thus, the insurance company might choose to investigate the accident, with an eye toward asserting that you were partially at fault—if not fully.
The odds of such an investigation on the part of an insurance company grow with the amount of compensation that is in play; and become virtually 100 percent if part of your claim involves a personal injury. In sum, when an insurance company launches an investigation of your claim, you should retain the services of a car accident attorney. Do not go it alone.
5. When should you file a car insurance claim?
You should file a car insurance claim as soon as you can if your car needs to be repaired or replaced, or when you and/or others have been injured in an accident.
If the damage to your car likely costs less than your deductible, there was no damage to other's property, and no one else was involved, then there is no need to file a claim, as your insurance company will not make a payment. However…
If you are at odds with your insurance company about the value of your loss (i.e., you think it exceeds the deductible), you would do well to consult a car accident lawyer to weigh your options. Do not just give in.
6. What is a no-fault state?
In a so-called “no-fault state,” you are required to purchase an insurance policy that covers your own injuries and damage instead of one that pays out to another party. This is called personal injury protection or PIP insurance.
With PIP, all drivers involved in an accident are required to file a claim with their own respective insurance companies without regard to who caused it. Nonetheless, even in a no-fault state, in cases where there are serious injuries or deaths, or if the accident meets certain “threshold conditions,” you must sue the at-fault party to realize fair and complete compensation (see Q.7). (see source).
Of course, bringing a suit against the at-fault party would necessitate the services of a car accident lawyer.
7. What are threshold conditions in a no-fault state?
Depending on the no-fault state in question, when either a certain amount of monetary compensation or the severity of bodily injuries exceed a certain threshold, you can file a case against someone (see source).
There are two types of threshold levels to consider: monetary and verbal.
Monetary thresholds are medical bills you accumulate due to a car accident that exceed your financial coverage. In many states, the threshold is the ceiling of your PIP benefit amount (e.g., Hawaii, Kansas, and D.C.). In others, it might be a set amount. (E.g., $1000 in Kentucky, $2000 in Massachusetts, and $4000 in Minnesota).
Verbal thresholds refer to the extent of injury caused by the accident. Depending on the state, these might include death, dismemberment, significant disfigurement or scarring, displaced fractures, loss of a fetus, or permanent injury within a reasonable degree of medical probability.
8. Which states are no-fault?
The 12 states with no-fault insurance laws are (see source):
9. What is automobile liability insurance?
With the exception of New Hampshire, every state requires drivers to have some degree of liability coverage. It is the part of your insurance policy that provides financial protection should you accidentally harm someone or damage his or her property while driving your car. It only covers injuries to others and damage to their property—not you or yours. [See collision insurance (Q.10) and comprehensive insurance (Q.11)].
There are two elements of liability coverage. (1) Bodily injury covers medical expenses for those involved in the accident (but not you). (2) Property damage covers the costs of repairing the vehicles of others involved in the accident (but not yours) (see source).
10. What is automobile collision insurance?
Collision insurance is coverage that helps pay to repair or replace your car if it is damaged in an accident with another vehicle or object. Collision coverage is always required by lenders from whom you finance or lease your car. However, if you own your car and it is completely paid for, collision coverage is optional.
Subject to your deductible (see Q.12), collision coverage will pay to repair or replace your vehicle if it is damaged from a single-car accident (e.g., rolling or falling over) or a collision with another vehicle or object (e.g., fence, tree, mailbox, etc.) (see source).
It does not cover damage to your vehicle unrelated to driving (e.g. hail or theft), damage to someone else’s vehicle, or medical bills (yours or other persons’).
11. What is automobile comprehensive insurance?
Subject to your deductible, comprehensive insurance pays to replace or repair your vehicle if it is damaged or lost in an incident that is not a collision. E.g., fire, theft, vandalism, or falling objects such as hail or trees. Also known as “other than collision” coverage, it is generally required if you are leasing your car or owe money on it (see source).
12. What is a deductible?
A deductible is a common feature of automobile insurance policies. It is the amount of a covered claim that you will have to pay yourself. E.g., if you purchase automobile “collision coverage” with a “$500 deductible” and your car sustains $5000 in damage, then the insurance company will only pay you $4500 for needed repairs. The remaining $500 is up to you.
Your automobile insurance might have more than one deductible amount. E.g., one amount for your collision coverage and another for your comprehensive insurance. [Liability insurance never has a deductible (see source)].
Also bear in mind that automobile deductibles are not like their healthcare counterparts, the latter of which commonly have one deductible to “meet” each year. Instead, the deductible on your auto insurance policies applies each time you file a claim.
Insurers offer a range of deductibles, most commonly $500 and $1000, although amounts vary across different insurance companies and the policies they offer. The higher the deductible you choose, the lower will be your premium cost, as you are taking greater responsibility for the cost of the claim (see source)
13. Does health insurance cover car accident injuries?
Typically, your healthcare insurance covers medical treatment for injuries whether or not they were caused by a car accident. If some other party was at fault for your accident, your healthcare insurer will likely recover the cost of your medical expenses through a process called subrogation, and thereby compensate you for all or part of your healthcare deductible (see Q.12).
14. What are “delayed” or “late-appearing” injuries?
The term “delayed injuries” (aka “late-appearing injuries”) is somewhat a misnomer because they are not delayed at all. Instead, you just do not immediately notice them. A low-speed crash causing little or no damage to cars or property can nonetheless result in seriously debilitating injuries—some of them lifelong. But how and why are they “delayed?” Blame your endorphins.
Immediately after an injury, even a minor one, your body reacts by producing endorphins, which are the main constituents of your onboard system to temporarily quell pain as you either “fight or flee” after a trauma. But endorphins wear off rapidly. This is why minor injuries typically hurt more down the road than when they actually happened. Hence the “delay.” And so an injury that initially seems minor can turn out to be a serious one later on.
15. What is comparative negligence?
When insurance companies start talking about comparative negligence, it is time for you to retain the services of a car crash lawyer.
Comparative negligence is used to assign blame among drivers involved in auto accidents in proportion to their fault for causing it. For example, it might be determined that you were 20 percent at fault for an accident and the other driver bears the rest of the blame, which is 80 percent. Thereby, the other driver’s insurance company would only pay you 80 percent of your damages.
There are three types of comparative negligence. They are:
Pure comparative negligence—in which you are allowed to collect damages even if you are assigned 99 percent of the blame. In other words, you can collect the remaining one percent. Thirteen states follow this rule (e.g., California and New York).
Modified comparative negligence—in which you are disallowed from recovering monetary damages if you are assigned fault above a certain percentage. This is 50 percent or more in ten states (e.g., Colorado and Maine); and it is 51 percent in 23 other states (e.g., Illinois and Oregon).
Slight/gross negligence—only recognized currently in South Dakota, where fault percentages are replaced by “slight” and “gross” contributions to an accident. The award is greater if your contribution to an accident is slight and the other driver’s is gross, wherein “gross” means reckless and conscious disregard for others’ safety.
16. How much does it cost to hire a car-crash attorney?
Galindo car-crash attorneys charge no upfront or out-of-pocket fees. We are only paid a percentage of the compensation we are able to secure for you. So by working with Galindo Law, you incur zero financial risk.
Remember that proper compensation for pain and damages consequent to an auto accident is your right. You are not asking for charity. You deserve to be adequately compensated for your loss.
Or, if you prefer, email us.
And thank you for reading our blog!