In this blog, we will discuss what you should—and should not—share with your and the other driver’s insurance agencies after you are involved in a car accident. We encourage you to follow this advice to avoid saying something that could be used against you in a subsequent civil case.
Contacting Your Insurer Following an Auto Accident
You might think it is unnecessary to inform your insurance company that you have been involved in a motor vehicle collision with another driver, because everyone seems okay or little-to-no vehicular damage resulted. However, since having absolute certainty about your own or someone else’s injuries is nearly impossible to ascertain right after a crash—and the other driver involved might have different opinion about whether they are hurt and how badly their car is damaged—your best bet is to contact your insurance carrier right away.
Please remember that what you say to insurance investigators matters. With that in mind, we suggest you bookmark this post for future reference should the need to report a crash arises.
What to Expect from Your Automobile Insurance Agency
According to California law, you must notify your insurance provider immediately after a car accident occurs—certainly within 24 hours. It is a good idea to check your specific insurance policy to see if they have their own timetable for reporting and adhere to that.
You should hear back from a claims representative within 15 days or less. At that time, you will be asked for details about the accident, your injuries, and other losses. Note that what you say will likely be recorded (the agent should inform you of this beforehand).
You will be asked for proof of any claims you plan to make stemming from the accident. These may include, but are not limited to, the following:
- Medical bills and reports on your condition
- Lost wages due to the accident (current and anticipated)
- Professional assessments of property damage from a licensed mechanic/garage
- List of any other personal property lost or damaged in the crash
- Police report and/or information about the driver(s) of other vehicles involved, including their insurer
When you speak to your insurance company, stick to the facts. Even though they are ostensibly on your side, ultimately the agent works for the insurer, not you. Avoid editorializing about the crash as you might to a close friend or family member. For example, confessing things like, “I was probably going a little faster than I should have been” or “I looked away for a moment to check a text” could come back to bite you. Under California’s Pure Comparative Negligence, it could be decided that you share fault for the crash and thus assigned a percentage of responsibility for the accident that will come back to bite you financially. Or worse… your insurer might decide that you were primarily at fault and respond by denying you claims, raising your rates, or even dropping you as a customer.
Be Extra Cautious Speaking to Another Party’s Car Insurance
Talk to your insurer about how to file a claim against the other driver if you believe they were entirely or at least partially at fault for the accident. Your insurer might prefer to contact them directly or you might have to notify the other side of your intent to file a claim. Alternately, the other driver’s insurer could contact you first.
When speaking to the other driver’s insurance company representative, it is vital that you remember to focus on the facts of the accident without embellishing or editorializing. Insurance adjusters are trained to come across as being on your side, lulling you into a false sense of security that you are talking to a friend. Remember that this is a professional whose entire job is to minimize their company’s liability. Be honest in your responses but keep your guard up. Do not speculate, agree to any insinuation that you might have done something wrong, or otherwise help the adjuster develop a case against paying your claims. Specifically, avoid doing any of the following:
- Apologizing in any way, shape, or form for the accident
- Accepting any blame for the crash
- Admitting you might have made a mistake behind the wheel
- Minimizing your injuries or even describing your injuries beyond stating that you suffered them. Refer the adjuster to your attorney if they want details
- Giving permission to see your medical records
- Providing permission for them to record your conversation
Ideally, to avoid saying or doing anything you might later regret, you should contact a car accident attorney before you speak to the other side’s insurance investigator. This allows you to consult with your lawyer about exactly what to say. You can also ask your attorney to participate in any conversations with the other driver’s insurance investigator to prevent the possibility of implicating yourself or otherwise weaking your case. Your lawyer can also help you construct a written account of the accident and review it before submission to the other driver’s insurance agency for consideration.
Let a Skilled Auto Accident Lawyer Speak for You
The safest thing you can do following a car accident is secure a highly experienced car accident attorney to guide you through the insurance process. Doing so will minimize the likelihood of your claims being rejected because you said or did something to damage your case. As soon as you are able, give Scott J. Corwin, A Professional Law Corporation, a call to schedule a complimentary, no-obligation consultation about the facts of your accident and what you should do next to ensure your rights are protected throughout the claims process.
Contact our office today by calling (310) 683-2300 or filling out the online contact form to discuss the details of your case and learn more about how we can help you. We offer free consultations, so there’s no reason not to reach out to someone from our team right away.