Protecting your rights and easing your stress after a car accident does not have to be difficult. Whether you call an elite personal injury firm, like Gage Mathers, or want to handle things by yourself, there are a few important things you should know.
Arizona law requires drivers to have automobile insurance. Most people are insured by State Farm, Allstate, Progressive, Geico, USAA, Liberty Mutual, and Farmers. However, some drivers are uninsured or are insured by small, non-traditional companies that provide minimal coverage. This is one reason we recommend ensuring “full coverage” includes protections for when the other driver is uninsured or underinsured.
What does my insurance have to do with this; I didn’t cause the crash?
Your insurance coverage is a legally binding contract with your insurance company. This contract includes a “cooperation clause” that requires you to notify your insurance company of a car accident and cooperate with their investigation. Failure to timely notify your insurance company may allow the insurance company to deny coverage.
This is especially important when someone else causes the crash. If you have an insurance policy that covers damage to your vehicle, your insurance company is legally bound to help you get your car fixed. If your insurance company covers the repair costs, minus your deductible, then it will go after the other driver’s insurance company to reimburse it for the repairs. This includes paying back your deductible!
Notifying your insurance company of the crash is also important if there is any question about who caused the crash or how your injuries resulted from the crash. Your insurance company needs an opportunity to investigate the crash, including analyzing your vehicle and obtaining any available electronic data, before it can pursue the other driver’s insurer or provide you benefits. When someone else causes the crash, the insurance company’s investigation can be the difference between you being fairly compensated for your injuries and you getting nothing.
Do I still have to notify my insurance company if there is no visible damage, or no one is injured? YES.
Your insurance policy requires you to report any accident. No matter how big or small. No matter who is at fault. No matter if anyone was injured at the time of the crash.
Immediately after a crash, most people’s heart races, their mind races, and they cannot focus. Maybe they are worried about other people involved in the crash or notifying someone that they will be late. They may not feel pain while at the crash site. They might not notice damage to their vehicle, especially underneath. Reporting the claim to your insurer protects you later if you end up having an injury or your car develops problems. Worse, you cannot control whether the other driver or any passengers later claim they were injured, which they can do up to 2 years after the crash. If your insurance company first hears about the crash in a lawsuit filed two years later, then it may decline to defend you, decline to provide coverage, decline to renew your policy, or even cancel your policy. Thus, it is in your best interest to be the first one to notify your insurance company.
Documenting the crash soon after is helpful to ensure your memory is fresh and your recollections are accurate. There are free apps available for iPhone and Android devices that can simplify the insurance reporting process. These apps guide you through the process of gathering information and starting a claim. Alternatively, an elite personal injury firm like Gage Mathers can assist you in gathering information, opening a claim with all relevant insurance companies, and controlling what is provided to the insurance companies.
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