The first step in the claims process is opening up claim with any insurance companies that may potentially provide coverage for your injuries or damage to your vehicle or other property. You should immediately report any accident or incident to your own insurance company. All you want to do is open a claim: just tell them there was an accident and you need to open up a claim, that’s it. Do not discuss with your insurance company the facts of the accident or the nature and extent of your injuries. Your lawyer will handle that at a later date. Any statements you make to any insurance company about the accident or your injuries could later be used against you to deny or reduce your claim for damages (monetary relief). Your lawyer will help you open a claim with the other party’s insurance company. Each claim with each company serves its own purposes.
If you were in an accident that was caused by someone else (you were not at fault), the person who caused the accident is responsible for injuries. Their insurance carrier will have to provide coverage up to the policy limits. Your claim primarily will be against the other person’s insurance carrier and you will want to open up a claim with that carrier. But even if you are not at fault for an accident, you should open a claim with your own insurance company within days after an accident. This serves some very important purposes.
In the event that the party who caused the accident is uninsured, you will want to submit a claim for bodily injuries and property damage with your own insurance company. Most insurance policies have a provision that requires you to report an accident within a reasonable amount of time after an accident, or within a state time, for example, within 3 days after an accident. If you delay reporting the accident, your insurance company could refuse to provide coverage or reduce coverage.
Even if the other person has insurance, they may have very low policy limits. If your injuries are severe, their policy limit may not be sufficient to cover all of your injuries. You will need to go through your own insurance company to obtain coverage for the excess, that is, your damages over an above the other person’s policy limits. In such a case, again, the duty to report an accident within a reasonable amount of time will be implicated.
Often, in serious car accidents where injured victims are taken to the hospital, the injured victim will not have had an opportunity to determine the identity of the driver who caused the car accident or the name of their insurance carrier. Waiting for the police report (which will disclose the identity of the driver and their insurance carrier) to be prepared and obtaining it, may take weeks. In the meantime, you could be without a car or without rental car coverage. By opening up a claim with your insurance company, you can have your car repaired faster and immediately obtain rental car coverage. Your insurance company will seek reimbursement from the insurance company for the driver who was at fault, once the identity of the driver and their insurance carrier is determined.
As soon as you know the identity of the person who was at fault and name of their insurance company, you will want to open up a claim with their insurance carrier. Your lawyer will help you do this once you have legal representation, as the other party’s insurer is likely to pepper you with questions in an attempt to pin you down on the facts surrounding the accident and your injuries and use your responses against you. Do not talk to the other party’s insurance carrier, at all, unless directed to do so by your personal injury attorney. If a claims adjuster calls you, do not speak to them. Ask them to contact your lawyer. You and your lawyer will usually decide to wait until you have completed all of your medical treatment, and then submit a claim in the form of a written demand package that details the facts surrounding the accident and the nature and extent of your injuries.