What Should I Do After My Car Accident? Answers To Frequently Asked Questions

After your car accident there are many questions that come up.  We often hear things like “should I talk to the insurance company?” or  “who pays my medical bills?”  Here are answers to some of those frequently asked questions.

Should I Contact The Insurance Companies After A Car Collision?

The short answer is yes.  First, get the immediate medical care you need, contact your loved ones and recover from the immediate effects of your collision.  One of the next things you should do after your car accident is call your own insurance company. Calling your own insurer quickly is one your obligations under your own insurance contract.

The investigating officer should give you an information exchange form that has the other driver’s insurance information on it.  You should also make sure the other driver’s insurance company is aware of the collision.   Waiting too long to provide notice might give the insurance company an excuse to doubt your claim.   But, all you are doing with this company is providing it notice.

What Should I Talk About With The Insurance Company?

Your first call should be fairly short. Its purpose is only to give the insurance company the basic facts about your accident.  This includes the where and when of the collision.  It also includes information about the other driver’s insurance company.  During the call, the insurance adjuster should not ask to record you or ask you to sign anything. If you get any kind of request, you may be dealing with a dishonest company. you should politely decline and call a lawyer as soon as possible.

Additional Conversations With The Insurance Companies

Ultimately your own insurer or the other driver’s insurer will probably ask you who was at fault for the accident or who was to blame.  Truth is this is the adjuster is looking for you to say something they can use against you later. He might also ask if anyone got a ticket. If this is disputed or you truly are not sure, just stick with what you know is true.

At some point the other driver’s insurance company will likely ask you to give a recorded statement.  Generally these are for the company’s benefit not yours.  Click on this link for a complete discussion of the things to think about before you decide to give a statement.

In any conversation with an insurer, it is important to avoid apologizing or accepting blame just to be polite.  You don’t want an off-hand comment to be taken as an admission of guilt. And if you were knocked unconscious or taken to the hospital, you may not have gotten the full story. One way to get it is to get a copy of the accident report made by the police. Idaho law requires that police release collision reports to people involved in crashes. The reports are also available to your representatives like lawyers or even insurance adjusters.

How Do I Get My Medical Bills Paid?

When you get medical care after a car wreck you have to worry about medical bills and health insurance claims.  They are, unfortunately, a part of an auto insurance claim.   “Who pays the bills?” is one of the most frequently asked  questions.   And the answer can be a bit complex.

Medical Payments Coverage

If you bought medical payments coverage (“medpay”) as part of your auto insurance it will be the first to cover your medical treatment. People often want the bad guy’s insurance to pay for the needed health care immediately. Unfortunately, the system does not work that way. The first responsible payor is your medpay. So give your own auto insurance information to your health care provider.  Don’t give them the other drivers insurance information.

Your Own Health Insurance

The second responsible payer is your own health insurance coverage. This will include co-pays and deductibles according to your plan.  If there are problems, keep in mind that in Idaho you are ultimately responsible for your own medical bills. This is true even if insurance should cover it. That means you should take action quickly if the insurance company refuses to meet its obligations.

When Does The At-Fault Driver Pay?

The bad guy’s insurance does not have to pay until the end of your claim.  They then reimburse you and your own insurance companies for payments made. This can cause financial hardship and auto insurance companies use this part of the law to put financial pressure on injured people.  The carriers try and force them to resolve a claim for less than a fair amount.  We often work with health care providers to get them to wait for payment until your claim is resolved.

How Do I Get My Car Damage And Other Property Damage Compensated?

If you were injured in your collision chances are good that there was also damage to your property. Damage to your car, truck or other vehicle is the most common type of property damage,  But any other property you lost or had to repair because of the accident should also qualify. The same auto insurance policy that covers your injuries should also cover all of your property damage.  In most cases, the property damage claim can be handled before the personal injury claim.

Recovery For Your Totaled Car

Generally, claims of vehicle damage after your car accident fall into two categories.  The first is when the insurance company says your car or truck is “totaled.”  This means the repair costs are likely to be greater than the actual fair market value of the vehicle. That makes it not worth repairing, at least to the insurance company. (You are free to do what you like with a “totaled” vehicle.) The fair market value of the vehicle is determined by its age, condition, mileage, appearance, depreciation and other factors. Each insurer does this differently, and some take into account incidental costs like storage.

Sometimes You Are Left Holding The Bag For Some of the Losses.

Car loans and other financial obligations related to the vehicle are not considered in determining fair market value,  This mean your car or truck might be considered worth less than what you owe for it. This is especially likely with newer vehicles, which lose value quickly within their first few years of use. The insurance company is obligated to pay only the actual cash value of the vehicle immediately prior to the accident, not the cost of repairs you made or your original purchase price.

There is a special type of insurance you can purchase called gap insurance.  It  is designed for this situation.  It pays the difference (or the gap) between actual cash value and any loans you still owe. Gap insurance is optional, but insurers often try to sell it to buyers of new vehicles.

Recovery For A Damaged Car

If the insurance company does not consider the car totaled it will get repaired.  The carrier will pay for repairs by a body shop or a mechanic.  Based on the coverage you purchased, your insurance company may pay for your use of a rental car during repairs.   Or it might compensate you for the temporary loss of your car or truck.  You can always have input on what repair shop fixes your car.  But recognize that the repair reimbursement will be limited to what the insurance company could have purchased it for.   If you disagree with the insurance company’s estimation of the damage, you can sometimes get a second opinion from another repair shop.

If you have collision coverage often you are better off negotiating the property damage claim with your own insurance company. This is true even though there will be a deductible you have to pay. This is because in Idaho your own company is supposed to take care of you and treat you fairly. The bad guy’s insurance company, on the other hand, has no obligations to you. Your company usually can go after the bad guy’s company and can often get you your deductible back.

What If The Other Driver Does Not Have Insurance? Dealing With Uninsured And Underinsured Drivers.

If you were hit by an uninsured or underinsured driver, there is often a difficult task ahead. An uninsured driver is a driver with no insurance coverage at all. An underinsured driver is one with some coverage but not enough to cover the damage he or she caused. Idaho law only requires that people buy $25,000 in liability coverage.  A hit-and-run driver is considered an uninsured motorist.   Being hit by an uninsured or underinsured driver may mean there is no money at all available to cover your injuries. You are free to sue, of course, but the driver has to be a person wealthy enough to make the costs of suit worth the recovery.

We advise all our clients (and friends and family members and anyone we talk to who cares to listen) to buy uninsured and underinsured motorist insurance. Some states require it. Idaho merely requires that your insurance company offer you the coverage. Uninsured/underinsured motorist coverage compensates you for the losses incurred up to the limits of the uninsured/underinsured policy. Unfortunately, the actual cost of your injuries can still exceed those limits.

There May Be Other Ways To Recover With An Uninsured Driver.

If you were hit by a driver without insurance you may think you are out of luck — unable to collect any recovery at all. But before you give up, you should contact an experienced Idaho personal injury attorney. An experienced personal injury lawyer is sure to look at all possibilities for insurance coverage.  This includes insurance covering the driver, the vehicle’s owner, and any user given permission to use the vehicle,. It also includes a client’s own insurance coverage. And whether the negligent person has appropriate personal assets that make pursuing a lawsuit worthwhile.


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