After you’re injured in a car accident that wasn’t your fault, you typically file a claim with their insurance company for your medical expenses and other losses. However, when you file that claim, it’s important to remember that the insurance company does not represent you – it represents the at-fault driver. The insurance adjuster’s job is to minimize expenses for their employer, which means offering you the lowest possible settlement they can.
Further, the insurance adjuster and company may use unethical tactics to force you into a lowball settlement, by stating they can’t go any higher, or that “policy limits” prevent them from offering more. Often, this is not true. Working with a Charlotte personal injury attorney can help you cut through these techniques and put the law on your side.
Our attorneys believe the best way to a successful outcome for your claim is coming into negotiations with as much information as possible. This includes knowing the insurance policy limits of the negligent party. Although most insurance companies will not disclose this information outright, they are required under North Carolina law to provide policy limits upon request (under specific circumstances):
A person who claims to have been physically injured or to have incurred property damage where such injury or damage is subject to a policy of nonfleet private passenger automobile insurance may request by certified mail directed to the insurance adjuster or to the insurance company (Attention Corporate Secretary) at its last known principal place of business that the insurance company provide information regarding the policy’s limits of coverage under the applicable policy.
After this request, the insurance company has 30 days to provide the requested policy limits.
However, there are three caveats:
(1) The person seeking the information submits to the insurer the person’s written consent to all of the person’s medical providers to release to the insurer the person’s medical records for the three years prior to the date on which the claim arose, as well as all medical records pertaining to the claimed injury.
(2) The person seeking the information submits to the insurer the person’s written consent to participate in mediation of the person’s claim under G.S. 7A-38.3A.
(3) The person seeking the information submits to the insurer a copy of the accident report required under G.S. 20-166.1 and a description of the events at issue with sufficient particularity to permit the insurer to make an initial determination of the potential liability of its insured.
Don’t worry if any of this sounds confusing. Our car accident attorneys are here to explain everything and answer all of your questions.
What if my losses are beyond policy limits?
Say you’re in a car accident and suffer over $100,000 of injuries and losses, but the at-fault driver’s policy limit is $25,000. What do you do next? You can’t make an insurance company pay beyond its policy limits. However, you can take legal action against the driver by filing a lawsuit against them. Of course, this depends on whether the driver actually has the funds.
Your lawyer can work with you to pursue other avenues of compensation for your losses. Your own car insurance policy may kick in to cover those losses (sometimes under an umbrella policy), or there may be other liable parties responsible for your injuries. These parties can include other at-fault drivers, manufacturers of defective vehicle parts, or trucking companies, if you were injured in a commercial truck accident.
Talking to the insurance company after an accident
Issues with car insurance can get complicated after a car accident, even when it wasn’t your fault. You do have to report your accident to the insurance company, but you don’t have to tell them every last detail – in fact, we strongly advise against it. When speaking with your insurance company after an accident, stick to the facts:
- Be honest, but don’t offer any details or unsolicited information. Anything you say might be used against you later, so don’t try to fill in the blanks with anything you don’t quite remember.
- Don’t assume any blame, even if you believe it was a tiny percentage. Your interpretation of what happened to cause the accident is only that – an interpretation. Leave the investigation to the right people, including your attorney.
- Don’t take the first settlement offered to you. Review any offers with your attorney first to ensure it’s fair. Your Charlotte attorney can also negotiate with the insurance company on your behalf.
- Don’t sign anything and don’t agree to be recorded without talking to your personal injury attorney first.
Your lawyer can also help you understand the various parts of your own insurance policy, including your:
- Deductible. The amount of money you need to pay out of pocket before the insurance company will pay out on a claim.
- Liability limits. The maximum amount the insurance company pays if you cause damage to another person or property.
- Collision coverage. This is the amount of coverage for damage to your vehicle caused by a collision with another vehicle.
- Uninsured/underinsured motorist coverage. This protects you in the event of a hit and run, or in the event the at-fault driver is uninsured or underinsured.
- Medical payment coverage. Sometimes called MedPay, this coverage is optional in North Carolina and pays for medical expenses incurred in an accident. It also covers passengers in your vehicle.
- Rental car reimbursement. Another add-on, this provides payment for a rental car while your vehicle is being repaired after an accident.
As you can see, the insurance process can be more complex than expected after a car accident. However, the Charlotte attorneys at Price, Petho & Associates understand how to handle the insurance companies and secure the information necessary for a successful claim. Call us today or complete our contact form to schedule a free initial consultation. We represent injured clients in Charlotte, Rutherfordton, and Rockingham.