If you’ve been the victim of a recent car or motorcycle accident, the short answer is yes, you should always call your insurance company; however, you should know a few key things before making that phone call.
Following your accident, you’re likely facing more obstacles and challenges than you expected. If you were hurt in the accident, those obstacles increase tenfold. I’ve written many blogs about the types of insurance you should have so that you can afford to cover your damages and injuries (even though you’re the victim), but in the days following a car accident, what are the questions you should ask your insurance company? I’ll outline several of those below. I will also outline the things you should expect from your own insurance company. Finally, because it bears repeating, I will highlight some of the things to beware of from your insurance company and the other driver’s insurance company.
This article assumes you were the victim of someone else’s negligent driving.
Remember: insurance companies are never your friend. Even your own insurance company will do everything in its power to minimize their exposure and risk. They want to pay you as little as possible and they may try some pretty underhanded tactics to limit what they pay.
Questions to Ask Insurance Companies After a Car or Motorcycle Accident
Let’s start with the questions you should ask your own insurance company and the other driver’s insurance company in the hours, days and weeks after an accident. This article assumes you were the victim of someone else’s negligent driving.
Rule #1: If you were hurt in the accident, do not speak to the other driver’s insurance company without first consulting with a personal injury attorney. (This consultation should be free.) By Colorado law, insurance companies cannot contact you for a recorded statement within 15 days of being in care or treatment after an accident. For more about the cautions you should take, read the next section of this article.
Now, as soon as you can after an accident in which you were the victim, call your insurance company and report the incident. At that time, you should ask for the following information:
- Please send me a copy of the Declarations Pages for every vehicle I own and for my homeowner’s insurance (if applicable). These statements will provide you – and your attorney – with all the information you need to access every “bucket” of coverage that might help you pay for damages and medical bills. (If your insurance agent says he or she cannot do this, immediately call your attorney. Those Declarations Pages should be made immediately available to you.)
- Do I have collision insurance? Collision insurance can cover damages to your own car. Most people who are victims in a car accident don’t think to ask about their own collision insurance because they want the other driver to pay for everything. Sadly, it often doesn’t work like that. Many other drivers don’t carry much (or any) insurance, so find out how much your own insurance will pay. You have paid for this insurance; use it!
- Do I have underinsured motorist coverage? How much? Hopefully you have UIM (underinsured motorist coverage). It can cover medical deductibles, medical bills, medical co-pays, pain and suffering, lost wages and more.
- Do I have UIM on my other vehicles? How much? If your injuries are grave and you require significant care, you can “layer” the UIM coverage that you carry on each of your vehicles, often doubling the amount of money you can receive. But insurance companies rarely tell their customers about this benefit. You may need to fight hard to receive the full amount you’re due, which is another reason to hire a Denver personal injury attorney.
- Do I have medical payments coverage? How much? In Colorado, insurance companies must offer this no-fault insurance coverage, which means that no matter who is at fault – you or the other driver – you can access this money to help pay your medical bills. Hopefully your agent didn’t convince you to waive this coverage.
- Do I have coverage for a rental car? What are the stated benefits? You may need wheels while your car is being repaired. Yes, the other driver’s insurance might cover this, but find out what your policy states just so you can act quickly if necessary.
- Who is the adjuster assigned to my case and what is his or her contact information? Always write this information down.
- Is that adjuster handling everything related to my case or is there a separate adjuster for property damage? Get names and contact information for anyone assigned to your case.
Yes, your own insurance company will immediately do all they can to limit the amount that they must pay you.
Things You Should NOT Give Any Insurance Company After a Car or Motorcycle Accident
So, those are some of the things that you should ask your insurance company after an accident. The problem is the questions that they might ask you! Yes, your own insurance company will immediately do all they can to limit the amount that they must pay you. Here’s my advice: give them as little information as possible in your initial call with them. Then, if you were injured in the accident, call a personal injury attorney for advice. As I said above, that initial consultation should be free and you will probably learn a lot about how to protect your rights.
For example, if you call your insurance company to report the accident – which you must do – the agent on the line will probably behave compassionately and ask questions like, “Where were you? How far away were you when you saw the other car?”
Remember: that agent is not compassionate, nor is she asking these questions just to be friendly. She has an agenda and she is likely recording your call or writing down every word you say.
Here is a scenario we often hear about from people who were not represented by a personal injury attorney.
Let’s say that a motorcycle rider was riding down the road when a car pulled out in front of him, doing a left-hand turn. The rider hits the car, totaling his bike and he sustained injuries. During the initial call to report the accident, the insurance company agent asks him, “How far away were you when you first saw the car?” The rider says, “I’m not sure.” The agent keeps pushing, “I understand. These things can happen so quickly. Do you think you were two blocks away?” The rider says, “No… not that far.” The agent says, “Three blocks? Three or four car lengths?”
The agent keeps pushing and finally the motorcycle rider says, “Yes, maybe it was half a block.” He just wants to give an answer. Later, the insurance company’s lawyer will use the notes from this call to say that the motorcyclist had enough time to react, so he was 20% at fault. The might only offer 80% of the rider’s claim, or less.
I always advise my clients to be truthful, but there are ways to share the truth that won’t limit the coverage you can receive.
If you have any questions about this article, or if you think an insurance company is taking advantage of you, please contact me today.
What Insurance Companies Don’t Want You to Know — Even your own insurance is NOT on your side after an accident.
Healthcare Billing Fraud in Denver — Hospitals are using illegal billing practices to get more money that should be going to victims in accidents.
“Let our New Year’s Resolution be this: we will be there for one another as fellow members of humanity, in the finest sense of the word.” ~Goran Persson
January: A Good Time to Review Your Auto Insurance
‘Tis the season to set unrealistic New Year’s Resolutions. So, in the interest of setting you up for success in the new year, I have a suggestion for a resolution that’s easy to keep, won’t take a lot of time, and might end up protecting you from financial ruin one day in the future: Review your auto insurance! Make sure that you have the following coverage:
- Medical Payments Coverage: In Colorado, insurance companies must offer this no-fault insurance coverage, which means that no matter who is at fault – you or the other driver – you can access this money to help pay your medical bills. Typically, the amount is $5,000 and the only way you don’t have this coverage is if you waived it in writing. But, a lot of people sign away this insurance when their agent tells them they don’t need it. Make sure you have it.
- Collision Insurance vs Liability Insurance: You probably have collision insurance, which protects your car when it is involved in a crash with another vehicle or a stationary object. Liability coverage, on the other hand, takes care of damages that you cause to other people’s property. But remember: these types of coverage will not pay for any medical bills you incur, which is another reason you need MedPay.
- Underinsured Motorist Coverage: Everyone should have Underinsured Motorist Coverage (UIM) on every car that they own. UIM kicks in when you’re the victim in a car accident and the other driver doesn’t have enough coverage to pay for your bills. For car and truck drivers, I recommend a minimum of $250,000 of UIM. For motorcyclists, I recommend $1 million if you can afford it.
If you’re confused about which insurance you have, give me a call. I’d be happy to check your paperwork and let you know if you have what you need. 303-388-5304.