Whether you should contact your own insurance policy after a car accident is a matter of contract law, not state law. The liability insurance policy you have with your own carrier is a written contract. The contract generally requires that you pay your premiums and promptly notify your carrier of the accident. If you comply with these two conditions (payment and notice), then the insurance carrier should:
- Investigate the claim
- Pay you directly for any collision damage to your vehicle if your policy includes collision coverage
- Pay you for your medical bills if you have MedPay coverage up to the MedPay policy limit
- Provide representation if you are a defendant in any car accident lawsuits
- Pay your economic and personal damages such as medical bills, lost income, and pain and suffering, if you have an uninsured or underinsured claim and you have that type of coverage
Generally, you do not have a duty to notify the insurance companies for the defendants. That’s the job of an experienced Charlotte car accident lawyer. If the insurance company for any defendant calls you, you should not speak to them about the accident or engage in any settlement discussions. You should refer the insurance company to our experienced car accident lawyers. Any conversation you have with the defendant’s insurance company can be used against you. Remember, there’s no do-over if you make a settlement. The insurance company for the defendant doesn’t want to pay you the full amount you deserve.
How do you report an accident to your own insurance company?
The amount of time you have to notify your own carrier depends on the language in the contract. Generally, it’s a good idea to contact the carrier within 24 hours so they can go to the accident site. Your carrier will also likely want to examine all the vehicles involved in the accident. The carrier will likely ask you questions about how the accident occurred and whether anyone was injured.
If you’re not sure how to answer any questions or have any questions about when and how you should speak with your insurance company, you can direct the insurance agent to speak with your lawyer. We’ll speak for you with the caveat that you must contact us immediately.
What information will your insurance company need?
Your insurance carrier will normally ask for the following information:
- The names and contact information (if you have the information) of every driver involved
- The insurance policy names and numbers for the other drivers
- The make and models of the vehicles and where those vehicles are – such as at repair shops – as of the time of the conversation
- The driver’s license of every driver involved
- When and where the accident happened
- Which law enforcement agency investigated the accident
- How the accident happened
- Whether you have any photographs for videos
- Any other relevant information
One important concern, even when talking to your own carrier, is not to admit fault in any way. Again, while you should be able to provide the contact, insurance, and other specific accident information; you should defer talking about how the accident happened until you speak with our Charlotte car accident lawyers.
What happens after you contact your own insurance carrier?
Your carrier will assign someone to handle your claim. That person will conduct their own investigation. Many car accident victims who aren’t hospitalized and can still drive often focus on having their cars repaired. It’s critical that before any repairs are authorized that you speak with us so we can examine the car ourselves. We may also help negotiate payment of the car repair costs.
In addition to discussing payment for your damaged car or the cost of a new car if your car was totaled, your carrier will also review your medical bills. Your carrier should pay those medical bills up to the MedPay policy limit if you have MedPay.
Should you report minor accidents to your insurance company?
Consumer Reports recommends that you should contact your insurance company if a vehicle other than your own vehicle was damaged. Often car damage is more severe than you might think. Soft tissue injuries such as whiplash may not appear until hours or even days later. If you didn’t report your car accident, your insurance company may not protect you if the other driver files a claim against you.
Whether you should report a single-vehicle accident with minimal damage is a tougher question. Often drivers fear that the cost to fix their car (assuming no personal injuries) is less than the possible premium increases if your carrier pays for the damage. One key consideration is to understand the amount of your deductible. If your deductible is $500 and the cost to fix your car is $300, then filing a claim may not make sense. If you have any doubts, our lawyers can help.
The duty to report an accident to law enforcement
- Someone is injured or dies
- There is property damage in the amount of $1,000 or more
- There is “property damage to a vehicle seized pursuant to G.S. 20-28.3 for forfeiture in an impaired driving case.”
When a car accident occurs in a city, the city police department is the appropriate law enforcement agency. Outside of cities, the appropriate agency is the State Highway Patrol, a local sheriff’s office, or the rural police in the county where the car accident happened. Generally, law enforcement should investigate the accident and file a written report within 24 hours.
Why should you speak to our seasoned car accident lawyers as soon as possible?
Being in a car accident is scary. If you’re injured, your health is your first priority. There are many confusing insurance issues, liability issues, and practical issues. The best thing you can do is call our experienced trial lawyers as soon as possible. We’ll explain what laws, such as reporting an accident to a law enforcement officer, you need to follow.
Our car accident lawyers will explain which insurance carriers you need to contact, what information they need, and what the insurance company will ask you. Generally, we’ll speak for you with your own insurance company and the insurance companies for the responsible drivers.
Take a deep breath. Relax. It’s not as frightening as it seems. At Price, Petho & Associates, we’ve helped numerous car accident victims obtain strong recoveries. Call our office or fill out our contact form to schedule a free initial consultation today. We have offices in Charlotte, Rutherfordton, and Rockingham.
Attorney Doug Petho is the owner and founder of Price, Petho & Associates. His primary focus is the litigation of plaintiff’s personal injury suits, and he has successfully tried hundreds of cases to jury verdict involving car accidents, trucking accidents, pedestrian accidents, slip and fall accidents, and work-related accidents. Contact his office in Charlotte today.