When an auto accident occurs, a vital question is always who is at fault? If you’re in an accident that is not your fault, dealing with insurance adjusters can be challenging and stressful.
Making a successful accident claim might depend on your demonstrating the other driver is at fault. But by knowing what to do after the accident you can save yourself, time, money, and headaches.
In many states the driver at fault for an accident has the financial responsibility of injuries, damage, and property loss. This responsibility is generally assumed by the driver’s insurance company, and when you are not at fault, you’ll need to deal with the at-fault driver’s insurance provider.
Protecting Your Interests
At-fault drivers have been known to give false information, statements, or not report an accident at all. Here’s what you need to do to safeguard yourself.
What to Do Immediately
The first thing to ascertain is if you or other people involved in the crash are injured and procure medical assistance. Call 911.
Severely injured people should not be moved unless absolutely necessary, and then they should be moved by trained medical personnel. What appear to be minor injuries at the scene may prove to be more serious, so getting a medical examination or care promptly can save your life and support your case for reimbursement.
If you are able, photograph or video record the vehicles involved in the crash positions before moving them to the side of the road to prevent obstruction and other accidents.
Collect Information at the Scene
An at-fault driver must report an accident. However, this does not mean that everyone will. You need to gather evidence as soon as possible after the accident and before you leave the scene. This is what you need to collect to support any insurance claim you make:
- The at-fault driver’s name and address and driver’s license number. Make sure it hasn’t expired.
- The name of the at-fault driver’s insurance company, and the number of his or her insurance policy. Here again check to see it hasn’t expired if possible.
- The names, addresses, and phone numbers of witnesses as well as statements about what they witnessed.
- Photographs of the accident scene and vehicles involved including the at-fault driver’s car with the license plate clearly in view.
Call Local Law Enforcement
If the other driver feels that you were at fault, it’s important to get law enforcement involved. Calling the police and making a police report can help your claim. If you are not at fault, a police report detailing the dynamics of an accident can help you reach a settlement with the other driver’s insurance company.
Write a Memorandum When You Return Home
If you suffered only minor injuries and you can return home, write down everything you can remember. Include all details so that you conserve a written record of what took place.
Call Your Insurance Provider
The best time to call your insurance company is immediately following an accident. Accidents generally take place within a few seconds. You may not have all the details, and may even be partially responsible, but alerting your insurance provider can give you a head start on dealing with the aftermath.
Plus, the at-fault driver’s insurance provider may not want to cover medical expenses and damage costs resulting from the incident. Your insurance provider may be required to contest the other insurance company’s position, so the sooner they know and the more they know, the better equipped they will be to defend your interests and theirs.
Should you be partially at fault, your provider may be called upon to cover some expenses as well.
If the Insurance Provider Denies My Claim, Can I Sue?
Most insurance companies of drivers proven to be at fault for causing an accident will pay for repairs, medical expenses and treatments, and replacement of property damaged in an auto accident. There may be an exception, an insurance company that denies responsibility and refuses to pay.
In this case, your insurance company can cover any losses of the accident victims and then sue the insurance provider of the at-fault driver, or accept the terms of a settlement with them.
Even so, it may be in your best interests to hire your own legal counsel and sue the at-fault driver’s insurance company for compensation. Consider all options thoroughly before accepting a compensation settlement.
Damage compensation may include:
- Disabilities temporary or permanent
- Loss of consortium
- Loss of wages
- Loss of or reduced earning capacity
- Medical costs
- Property damage expenses
- Pain and suffering
- Reduced quality of life
If you feel uncertain about how to proceed, getting a car accident attorney for guidance is a smart move.
What If I Am Injured in the Accident?
Should you be severely injured during an accident which is not your fault, you can request compensation from the guilty driver’s insurance company. Should the at-fault driver’s policy prove to be less than your medical expenses. In this case you can use your uninsured driver’s coverage to seek payment for the remainder of your bills.
What If My Vehicle Is Totaled or Severely Damaged?
If your car is wrecked, the at-fault driver, they must pay you the car’s worth in cash. An insurance provider will calculate the replacement cost and then subtract the depreciation cost. The at-fault driver must also cover any applicable sales tax for a replacement vehicle.
Do I Still Have to Pay My Deductible if I Am Not at Fault?
Theoretically, the at-fault driver’s insurance provider should pay your deductible. However, this can drag out time wise. If you need your car for work or family reasons, you may need to pay for it yourself to save time.
What Happens to At-Fault Drivers?
For at-fault drivers, insurance premiums generally rise, and the driver will receive demerits on his or her driving record. In some cases, an at-fault driver may face criminal charges such as in the case of DUIs or reckless driving.
No-Fault Insurance States
Approximately a dozen states are “no-fault” or implement a hybrid system. In no-fault states, a car insurance claim is made directly to your own insurance company.
No-fault states have laws that mandate a person’s insurance company to assume financial responsibility for damage incurred regardless of which driver is at fault. You will not need to prove the other driver involved is at fault.
Several of these states may offer a hybrid system that provides claimants with several options of how to make a claim. In no fault states PIP or personal Injury protection can be used to cover any accident-related medical expenses.