Insurance Dos and Donts
If you have been involved in a car accident, there are some specific things you should do and some things you should avoid doing. Some of these include:
What You Should DO Following a Car Accident
Seek medical attention – even if you believe your injuries are minor, it is imperative that you seek medical attention after an accident. Oftentimes, injuries are masked immediately following an accident because you have an adrenaline rush caused by the fear you may feel during an accident. Immediately documenting your condition after an accident may help you later. In addition, if you suffer any health issues following an accident, follow up with your doctor for attention.
Contact your insurance agent – as quickly as possible after an accident, you should notify your insurance company. Let them know what damages were suffered, and provide information about injuries to your agent. If your insurance company wants you to provide a written or recorded statement simply defer telling them that you want to consult with a lawyer first. Your insurance company may be adversarial to you later should you need to make an underinsured or uninsured claim.
Review your car insurance policy – this is important because your insurance company will likely try to get you to settle for less than what you may be entitled to. Reviewing your policy can give you a better idea of what losses are covered ensuring you understand what a fair settlement is. Pay particular attention to how much your insurance company will pay towards replacing your vehicle, and note any exclusions.
Respond to questions and requests – chances are your insurance company will be contacting you for additional information after an accident. There is no benefit to you to delay providing them the information they request nor is there any value in denying them information. Delays or denial of information may be grounds for denying your legitimate claim. Always decline to provide a written or recorded statement until you have consulted with an attorney.
Details of the accident – if you are involved in any accident, it is important to record as many details as possible. In addition to securing a copy of the police report, you should also attempt to get witness names and contact information and whenever possible, get photographs of the entire scene. Make sure you photograph not only the vehicles involved but any road signs, lights, etc. that help provide a more detailed picture of the scene. Information such as vehicle placement before and after the accident, and damages should also be included. A diagram of the crash scene is always useful.
Documenting communication – one of the most important things you can do is document all communication you have with everyone involved including the other person involved in the accident, your insurance agent, the other party's insurance agent, etc. You should carefully write down the date, time and a summary of all conversations that involve the accident and whom you spoke with.
Saving receipts for the record – any expenses you incur that are related to the accident should be documented including saving bills and receipts. Documentation will be required for rental cars, work on your vehicle, medical bills including rehabilitation costs, test costs and prescription drugs associated with the accident. In addition, if you are losing time from work, you may want to secure a letter from your employer stating your “normal” income and any benefits you may be receiving while out of work. If your doctor tells you to take time off work because of the crash make sure he writes you some type of note verifying your time off of work.
Review other policies – keep in mind that in addition to your auto insurance policy, many homeowners have blanket umbrella policies that may be able to help you defray some of your expenses. Your insurance agent may not inform you of this so it is imperative you speak with an auto accident attorney and provide them with all policies to ensure you are getting the maximum settlement.
What to Avoid After An Auto Accident
Avoid volunteering information – when you are discussing the accident with law enforcement, other victims or insurance companies answer their questions but avoid volunteering any unnecessary information. Keep in mind, any information you provide could be used to reduce a potential claim. Never ever discuss the circumstances of the crash on Facebook or anywhere else.
Avoid claiming liability – a statement like “this may have been my fault” could cause you all types of problems including the loss of a settlement with the negligent driver and your own insurance company. Never admit any type of liability when discussing the accident with law enforcement, other victims or your insurance company, even if you believe the accident was your fault. Remember, Utah is a comparative fault state and any liability you claim could reduce your ability to secure a settlement.
Avoid insurance company statements – never offer an insurance company anything in writing pertaining to the accident as long as you are unsure about your insurance policies and what they may cover. If you have any unanswered questions, speak with a personal injury attorney who has experience reviewing policies.
Avoid releases and waivers – insurance companies may send you a document to sign and hidden in those documents may be releases of information or liability waivers. Never sign any document until you have consulted a personal injury attorney to ensure you are not forfeiting any rights.
Avoid accepting offers – while your insurance agent may make an offer to you it is seldom going to be for the full amount you may be entitled to. Make sure you do not make the mistake of thinking they have the last word. Any payment you accept could contain a caveat stating it is “full and final payment”. Until you have spoken with an attorney, avoid cashing any checks you are sent for your claim.
During 2013, there were more than 50,000 accidents on Utah roadways resulting in more than 20,000 injuries. It is important if you are involved in an accident that you are doing everything possible to protect yourself from insurers who will attempt to settle your claim for as little as possible. Keep in mind, under Utah personal injury statutes, you have up to four years to file a lawsuit to recover financially after an auto accident. However, if you make some of the common mistakes many motorists make, your settlement could be much lower than you deserve. Anytime you are involved in an auto accident and you have suffered an injury, follow these do's and don'ts and seek the assistance of a qualified Utah personal injury firm.