Protecting Your Claim After a Car Accident (Legal & Insurance Advice)

Driving away from the scene of an accident you're involved in is illegal. In the moments following a collision, you must be proactive and document as much information as possible.

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UPDATED: May 13, 2020

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This is a guide of practical steps a person should take immediately after a car accident in order to make an accurate record of the accident scene and improve the likelihood of success in winning a car accident claim brought against the other party.

A driver must be proactive to preserve as much evidence as possible while memories are fresh and before some physical evidence permanently disappears. A person will want to make every effort to protect their interests immediately after a car accident and to later assist third-parties such as insurance carriers and judges in understanding the accident scene.

If there is a lawsuit after the accident, then any evidence that is preserved may be helpful in proving the party at fault.

It is also worth noting that a person should never drive away from the scene of an accident, even a minor accident; doing so is illegal. And of course, remember that any injuries to oneself, passengers, or the other driver should be the immediate priority after a car accident.

wrecked car, black car, ford, front end, totaled, bumper, fender bender, accident, crash

Exchange Car Insurance Information

A person should exchange car insurance information with the other driver immediately after an accident. The purpose of exchanging car insurance information is to identify the parties involved in the accident and verify the identities of the parties involved in the accident.

In due course, insurance representatives can obtain testimony from all the involved parties and hopefully apportion fault and liability based on the statements from the drivers.

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Make Sure the Police Take an Accident Report

A party to a car accident may want to have the police file a report in case there is conflicting testimony from the parties as to who is at fault.

A police report will provide a record of the officer’s reporting to the scene along with the pertinent information related to the damage of the vehicles, third party witness statements, and other material facts.

Take Photos & Record Video Evidence

The power of photographic evidence of a car accident is very powerful. Most people carry their smartphones with them everywhere they go nowadays, and this provides an excellent way to record the scene of the accident in the form of video or still shots.

It is important to take as many photos and videos as possible at various angles to preserve a complete photographic record of the car accident.

File a Claim on Your Own Policy

A person that was involved in a car accident may file a claim for reimbursement of costs from the damages of a car accident under their collision coverage. A person that lists a specific vehicle on their auto insurance policy that is subsequently damaged in a car accident can file a claim under the collision coverage for that vehicle.

Collision coverage is not legally required in most states.

If a driver files a claim under their collision coverage, their insurance company must pay up to the amount of coverage that the driver has elected to purchase, minus any deductible.

The obvious downside of filing a claim on a collision policy is that the driver must pay their collision deductible in order to get their car repaired. It is much preferred to have the at-fault party’s insurance cover the full costs of repair.

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File a Claim on the Other Driver’s Policy

If a driver was directly responsible for causing the car accident, then the person that is at fault is held liable for the costs of those damages. In circumstances in which the other driver’s negligent behavior was the reason that led to the accident, an insurance claim should be filed against the other driver’s insurance policy.

It is not uncommon for an insurance company to delay paying a claim until they determine which driver is at fault. Typically, an insurance carrier will try to settle the claim, which means they will offer an amount of money in order to induce the party not to go to court.

In circumstances in which an insurance carrier does not offer any money or offers a settlement that is unreasonably low, the person has a right to file a lawsuit to recoup their full accident-related losses. However, the person or their attorney will need to prove that the other driver was at fault.

Filing a Claim and Pursuing Litigation

A person that doesn’t have collision coverage or who may not want to accept a low settlement is permitted to bring a lawsuit against the at-fault driver.

The claim for damages could include:

  • Vehicle repairs
  • Full replacement (based on the Kelley Blue Book value)
  • Towing costs
  • Car rental fees
  • Medical bills
  • Pain and suffering

Drawbacks to a Lawsuit Against the At-Fault Driver

A lawsuit may seem like the best way to go, but it is best to speak to a qualified automobile accident attorney before bringing a lawsuit. A lawsuit is oftentimes costly and time-consuming, with no guarantee of recovery for any damages and financial losses that the at-fault driver caused.

A person considering bringing a lawsuit should measure the expense and effort in pursuing litigation with how much money they could potentially win.

In situations where the at-fault driver had no insurance or minimal amount of coverage, then it might not even be worth the time to bring a claim. Filing a claim and personal lawsuit after a car accident can be emotionally draining, may take several years from start to finish, and can even delay the receipt of compensation.

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Protect Yourself and Your Claims after an Accident

It is important for a person to keep their emotions in check after an accident and to intelligently gather the necessary evidence for either insurance or legal purposes.

Speaking with the driver’s insurance company right after a car accident will help to assess the value of any potential claims and allow a person to determine whether it is in their interests to take a settlement, bring a lawsuit, or simply pay the opposing party on their claim.

Insurance agents are experts at knowing the value of a claim, so it is advisable to listen carefully to any advice given by the insurance company to help guide decision-making.

Author Bio:
David Reischer, Esq. is a licensed car accident attorney with over 15 years of legal experience and the Founder and CEO of LegalAdvice.com

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