Tips for Dealing with Insurance Companies After a Car Accident
You were unlucky enough to get into a car accident. You did everything right. You called the police, swapped insurance information with the other driver, and sought medical attention. If you were able, you took pictures of the scene, wrote down notes about what happened, and got the names of any witnesses.
Now it’s time to deal with the insurance companies, which can be tricky. Follow these steps.
1. Call Your Insurance Company
No matter who was at fault in the accident, it’s important to call your insurance company as soon as you can to report the accident and any injuries and/or property damage. Even if it’s clear the other driver was at fault, this is still important as you may have other coverages on your policy you could use.
If your vehicle is totaled, for example, and your policy covers towing, you’ll want to take advantage of that service. If the other driver is at fault, your company will likely pay the costs and then seek reimbursement from the other driver’s insurance company.
If that company is slow to accept responsibility and you need to get your car repaired right away, your insurance company may help you do that. Afterward, they will seek reimbursement from the other company.
Keep in mind that the other driver may not have insurance. In that case, you could be on the hook for covering all the expenses on your own unless you report the accident to your insurance company.
Don’t let the fear of increased rates stop you from taking this step. Reporting the accident to both law enforcement and your insurance company can help protect you in the event of a lawsuit. On top of that, most insurance policies have verbiage requiring you to report accidents, so if you don’t, you could face hefty penalties or denied coverage down the road.
2. Don’t Admit Fault
Whether you’re talking to your insurance company or the other driver’s, don’t admit fault in the accident. These companies have adjusters and other representatives that will examine the facts of the case to determine who was at fault and how much money should be paid out.
As the saying goes, anything you say can be used against you, so stick to the bare facts of the incident and encourage the agent to refer to the police report.
3. Realize You Don’t Have to Talk to the Other Driver’s Insurance Company
You are not legally required to speak with the other driver’s insurance company representative. In general, you probably shouldn’t if you or one of your passengers has filed a claim for serious personal injuries. If you have a car accident attorney or an insurance adjuster representing you, they can speak on your behalf, which is usually the better option.
There are exceptions to the rule. If the other driver was clearly at fault but is lying or has refused to speak with his/her insurance company, that company may need your input to proceed. Again, it’s better if your attorney or insurance representative speaks on your behalf, but if it was a minor accident, you may want to explain what happened yourself.
4. Be Careful of What You Say
Keep in mind that the other driver’s insurance company’s goal is to pay out as little as possible. That means the representative may be seeking a way to deny responsibility for some of your property damage or injuries.
Never admit fault, and answer only the questions you’re asked—don’t provide any extra information. Don’t agree to have your statement recorded, and when in doubt, say, “I don’t know.” Stick with the basics, such as when and where the accident occurred and the names of witnesses or the police officers. Better yet, have your insurance adjuster or car accident attorney on the line while you’re talking.