Frequently Asked Questions About Car Accidents
Have you been involved in a car accident or collision? Here is what you need to know if you ever are involved in an automobile accident.
SHOULD I CALL THE POLICE AFTER A COLLISION?
Yes. After you have been in an accident, it is a good idea to call the police to come to the scene. The police officers will examine the vehicles and accident scene, interview the drivers and witnesses and document what happened in the collision. The police officers will create a “Peace Officers Crash Report”. The crash report will help protect your legal rights in disputes over liability.
Even if the other driver leaves the scene, it is important to call the police to investigate and prepare a report so you will have documentation for your insurance claim.
Keep in mind that under state law, drivers involved in a collision must stop at the crash scene and call the police if the collision causes bodily injury or death or causes damage greater than one thousand dollars to one or more vehicles.
You should also take photographs of the accident scene and vehicles, if possible, and write down the contact information for any witnesses.
SHOULD I CALL MY INSURANCE COMPANY IF I WAS NOT AT FAULT
Yes. You should report the accident to your auto insurance company. The other driver’s insurance company may delay in accepting liability or may dispute liability. If the other insurance company delays in adjusting the claim, it is important to have your car moved to the insurance company storage lot or a repair facility so that you do not incur storage fees. You may also have rental car coverage under your policy, enabling you to rent a vehicle while yours is being repaired. If your insurance company pays for the damages to your vehicle when the other driver is at fault, your insurance company will attempt to collect your deductible from the other insurance company and reimburse you.
SHOULD I TALK TO THE INSURANCE ADJUSTERS?
You have an obligation to cooperate with you own insurance company, so you should speak with them. However, if your insurance company requests a recorded statement, it is best for you to have an attorney to assist you with this process.
You are not required to provide a recorded statement to the other driver’s insurance carrier. Keep in mind that the insurance adjuster will act in the best interest of the company, not in your best interest. The adjuster will be looking for ways to reduce the insurance company’s liability, and the damages they will have to pay. The insurance company will use your recorded statement against you. It is particularly important to speak with an attorney before you give a recorded statement to the other driver’s insurance company, so that your interests are protected.
HOW DO I GET MY CAR REPAIRED?
After the collision, you will need to contact your insurance company and the other driver’s insurance company about evaluating the damage and the cost of repairs to your vehicle. If the other driver’s insurance company delays in accepting liability, you may want to use your own insurance coverage to pay for the repairs and to supply you with a rental car. If your insurance company pays for the repairs of your vehicle, they will then attempt to collect your deductible from the other insurance company and if they are successful, they will reimburse you. If your insurance company repairs your car, then depending upon the type of coverage you have, your insurance company may also supply you with a rental car. If they do not, save your rental car receipts for reimbursement by the other insurance company.
WHAT HAPPENS IF MY CAR IS TOTALED?
If your car is totaled, the insurance company will pay you the actual value of the vehicle, not the cost to replace your vehicle. If you have a loan on the vehicle, you may have to continue to pay the loan, until the loan is paid off by the insurance company. If your car is worth less than you owe on the vehicle (i.e. if you are “upside down”), then you may have to continue paying the loan, even if your vehicle cannot be driven, unless you have Gap Insurance. Gap Insurance will pay the difference in the value of the vehicle and the loan amount.
When your car is totaled, you may be able to negotiate the offer with the insurance company. Be sure to supply documentation of any upgrades or special accessories you have added to the car. Also, do you own research on the value of the car. Kelly Blue Book and Edmunds can be helpful in determining the value of your vehicle.
AM I ENTITLED TO A RENTAL CAR?
If the other insurance company accepts liability, you are entitled to loss of use (a rental car). Some nonstandard insurance companies will only reimburse you after you have incurred rental car charges. Major insurance carriers, such as State Farm or Progressive, will usually rent a car for you through Enterprise or another rental car company.
If the other insurance company does not accept liability or delays in accepting liability, then you will have to pay for the rental car out of your pocket, unless you have rental car coverage under your own policy. If you must pay for the rental car, save your receipts for reimbursement when your property damage claim is resolved.
You are entitled to “loss of use” (the cost to rent a vehicle) until it is determined that your car is totaled. Once your car is totaled, the insurance company will expect you to return the rental car quickly.
HOW DO I RECOVER FOR THE DIMINISHED VALUE OF MY VEHICLE?
If your car can be repaired, you may be entitled to recover for the diminished value of your vehicle. The newer your car is, and the more damage is done to your vehicle, the more your diminished value claim is worth. If your car is older, has high mileage, or has been wrecked previously, your diminished value claim will be worth less. Here are some websites to help you determine what your diminished value claim is worth.
WILL THE OTHER INSURANCE COMPANY PAY MY MEDICAL BILLS?
It is critically important that you seek medical attention for injuries you sustained in the accident as soon as possible, so that you can begin to recover from your injuries and to ensure that your condition does not worsen. Additionally, it is important to document the injuries that you sustained. If you do not seek treatment right away, the insurance company will use this against you, arguing that if you were really injured, you would have sought treatment sooner.
The at-fault driver’s insurance is not likely to pay your medical bills as treatment is ongoing, even though they may be ultimately responsible for paying for your treatment when your case settles. Typically, cases are not settled until after you have completed treatment for injuries sustained in the accident. Your medical insurance and/or personal injury protection coverage can cover the cost of your care until your personal injury claim is settled. In some circumstances, medical providers will treat you and wait for payment until your case is settled.
HOW CAN I RECOVER FOR LOST WAGES?
If you are unable to work due to injuries, you may be able to recover for lost wages, even if you used “comp time”. It is particularly important that your doctor notes in your medical records that you are unable to work due to the injuries you sustained in the collision. The doctor’s work excuse and documentation from your employer as to the time you missed from work will be crucial in proving your lost wage claim. You may also be able to recover lost wages from your personal injury protection coverage.
At Wham & Rogers, we have over sixty years combined experience handling personal injury claims. At Wham & Rogers, we will treat you like family. Contact Us
The information contained in this FAQ is not, nor is it intended to be, legal advice. You should contact an attorney for legal advice regarding your individual situation. Contacting us does not create an attorney-client relationship. Please do not send any confidential information to us until such time as an attorney-client relationship has been created.