Even if an accident wasn’t your fault, you should still call your insurance carrier. Notifying your insurer about any crash can protect your ability to pursue a claim for compensation. Not only that, but it also creates a record that the accident happened, which can help you avoid disputes later.
However, your own insurance company isn’t necessarily on your side, even if you know the accident was not your fault. For guidance with your case, a car accident lawyer can represent you in all interactions with your insurer.
Why You Should Call Insurance After Any Accident
When you sign up for insurance, you enter into an agreement with the insurance company. Part of that agreement is notifying a representative following an accident.
Put simply, hiding a crash jeopardizes your contract with the insurer. If you don’t tell it about your accident, you don’t uphold your end of the deal. So, your insurance company isn’t obligated to uphold its end, either.
This is just one reason to make sure you report an accident as soon as possible. Other reasons include:
Your Case Has Deadlines
Even if you’re not sure about pursuing a personal injury claim or lawsuit, you want to keep your options open. If you miss any filing deadlines (like failing to promptly notify the insurer), you could inadvertently lose the right to seek damages. You want to do everything reasonably possible to protect your right to compensation later.
It Protects Your Right to Compensation
You may assume that, since the accident was someone else’s fault, you don’t need to report it; the other party does. After all, you might assume they are responsible for paying for your expenses. In reality, not all cases work like this.
Insurance requirements vary both by state and by insurance company. If you live in a no-fault state, your main option for receiving compensation for injuries and losses is to file through your own personal injury protection (PIP). You may need to file a claim with your own insurance so that they can then go after the other driver’s coverage to pay your costs.
Even if you live in a state that operates on a fault-based system, your own policy may stipulate that you report any crash. Moreover, if you and the other party involved don’t agree on what happened, you may need to assert your version of events. By telling your insurance about the crash, it can help defend your right to compensation.
Reporting Creates a Record of an Accident
Think about the old philosophical question, “If a tree falls in a forest and no one is there to hear it, did it make a sound?” In accident cases, if a crash occurred but you did not report it, did it really happen? Without a record that you reported the accident, insurance companies and liable parties may dispute that it took place or that you suffered injuries.
Reporting an accident to insurance regardless of who was at fault establishes that the accident happened. It may seem like an unnecessary step, but why not cover your bases by creating a record right away? Taking the small step to create a record from the beginning can help avoid other, bigger disputes later.
It Can Help Preserve Evidence
By creating a record by calling insurance after a crash, you also create and save evidence.
Your initial call doesn’t need to—and really shouldn’t—include all details about the accident, but it can establish the basics, such as:
- The date and time of the accident
- The involved parties’ names and contact information
- Any relevant vehicle and insurance information
- Eyewitness testimony
- The fundamental facts of the crash
Notifying the insurer after the collision enshrines these facts on the record, allowing you to use them as evidence later if necessary. Just like establishing that the collision occurred is a simple step that can help avoid complications, preserving this evidence can also help prevent future disputes.
It Establishes Goodwill
This may not seem important, but some personal injury cases can devolve into attacks on your character. Don’t give the other side any additional fuel to question you on that front.
Calling your insurance company can help demonstrate that you are trustworthy and honest. While this isn’t necessarily something that holds up in court as vital evidence, establishing goodwill between you and an insurance company is still helpful.
In fact, you should strive to remain calm and pleasant through your interactions with insurance. As frustrating as car accidents can feel, taking out your feelings on an insurance adjuster will not help your case; it may actually hinder it. Put another way: kill with kindness. It costs nothing to be polite, and it could go a long way in resolving your case.
In Addition to Insurance, Report an Accident to the Police Regardless of Fault
Notifying your insurance provider is just one part of reporting an accident. In most cases, it would benefit you to report a crash to the local authorities. This is even required in some states.
For example, in many states, you must report an accident to the police if it causes:
Injury or death
Property damage up to a certain dollar amount
Additionally, some areas require that drivers file their own accident reports with their state’s Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) within a certain period if the police don’t investigate the accident.
If you aren’t sure what the requirements are in the state where your accident occurred, or you can’t tell whether the property damage exceeds a certain cost, you should report the crash just in case. Furthermore, you may not realize the extent of your or the other party’s injuries. Some injuries don’t even manifest symptoms right away, like whiplash, meaning you could feel the effects days later.
Consequently, to protect yourself from possible legal trouble from the police, take the extra step of reporting any motor vehicle collisions to the local authorities. They can answer any questions about additional steps you need to take.
Police Reports Are Evidence, Too
Calling the police after a car accident once again creates evidence and records that could come in handy later.
While accident reporting procedures vary by area, most police reports include information like:
- The time of the accident
- Traffic and road conditions
- Weather conditions
- The point of collision
- Chain of events
- Physical damage
- Eyewitness accounts
- Citations of fault
- Analysis of the crash
As you can imagine, this information could prove crucial later in an insurance claim. A police collision report can help clear up questions of fault, especially if the officer cites the other driver for violating a traffic law or causing the accident.
Reporting a crash to the police can also lend credence to your case. Although officers are not perfect and usually arrive on the scene after the fact, they still have a respected position of authority. Furthermore, they know how to look for details and have experience investigating traffic collisions. All of this can make their evidence extremely useful for liability disputes.
You Don’t Need a Police Report to Talk to Insurance
Although there are benefits to calling the police on top of calling insurance after a crash, you don’t have to have a police report to pursue an insurance claim. Your crash may involve injuries and property damage, but your state may not require reporting. You could also live in a state where you must file your own accident report in lieu of a police collision report.
Also, keep in mind that police reports are just one piece of possible evidence and depend on one person’s point of view. Insurance claim worth and even injury lawsuits rest on multiple forms of evidence.
Some accident scenarios are even outside of the police’s jurisdiction, like if you were hit while riding your bike on private property. Parking lot accidents are another situation in which the police likely won’t get involved. In all these scenarios, you should still talk to insurance. Don’t assume that because the police weren’t involved, the accident isn’t serious enough to warrant insurance involvement.
How to Talk to Insurance if an Accident Wasn’t Your Fault
Although you shouldn’t make the mistake of not saying anything to your insurer, you also shouldn’t make the mistake of saying too much, either.
Remember the evidence that a report to your insurance can help preserve? That is all the information you need to provide when you call contact info, date and time, parties involved, etc.
Do your best to avoid mentioning anything else.
Some common mistakes made when calling an insurer after an accident include:
- Going into detail about what you think happened
- Speculating about the other driver’s actions or reasoning
- Guessing about the exact cause of the crash
- Apologizing or expressing regret in any way
- Assuming you know what happened
- Downplaying or minimizing your injuries
You can likely spot what almost all these points have in common: uncertainty. If you don’t know something, don’t say anything. Since you can’t know for sure what the other party did or didn’t do, thought or didn’t think, odds are, you can’t determine much about the accident’s cause.
Even your own point of view is not necessarily accurate, especially if you suffered injuries. After all, your focus was likely on getting treatment——not making a mental note of small details. For that reason, you can utilize an attorney to investigate the evidence and then communicate their findings to your insurer.
Don’t Get Pressured into a Recorded Statement
You have heard plenty of advice on what to say and what not to say when giving your statement to insurance. However, you may not have heard that you don’t have to give a statement at all.
Insurance adjusters make it seem like you must give an official, recorded account of what happened. They may even try to pressure you into giving a statement when you initially notify the insurer. Not only is this not required, but giving a statement so soon after an accident is sometimes a trick insurers use to take your words out of context.
While you can and should call your insurance even if an accident wasn’t your fault, you are under no obligation to do more than report it and give basic facts. Car accident attorneys can handle any other case-related statements or communications. They also know the tricks adjusters use to trip up accident victims and can help you avoid them.
Keep Insurance Adjusters Accountable
You don’t have to go on the record about the minutiae of your case, but you can keep your adjuster on the record. You’re not the only one who should exercise caution when sharing information; so should the claims adjuster.
When calling your insurance, jot down:
- The name and contact details of the adjuster in charge of your case
- The claim number assigned to you
- Any policy terms mentioned by the adjuster
- A timeline of events for processing your claim mentioned by the adjuster
- Any promises made, however minor, about your claim
- Any action you need to take on your end
By keeping track of what the claims adjuster expects, you can make sure they don’t contradict themselves later by requiring you to jump through additional hoops. Likewise, writing down the expected timeline can help prevent representatives from dragging out your claim. These are examples of bad faith insurance practices, and having written proof can help protect your rights if an insurer behaves badly.
Car Accident Attorneys Can Call Insurance for You
If you have any questions about calling insurance after an accident that wasn’t your fault, you can talk to a car accident lawyer about your case. Your personal injury attorney represents you—and that includes in interactions with your own insurer. If you are at all worried about reporting your crash, they can take over that step.