AFTER AN ACCIDENT
Call the Police
Call the police and wait until they get to the scene of the accident unless emergency medical attention is required. Their investigation will be crucial in determining who is at fault for the collision, or even that a collision took place. Simply exchanging information with the other driver may be a mistake if there is a dispute over who caused the collision.
If at all possible, do not move the vehicles until the police arrive. If the vehicles are moved, the police officer has to guess as to what happened.
Although the police report is important, it is not the determining factor as to responsibility for the collision. If the other driver was cited, it does not necessarily mean that they are “at fault.” The same is true if you were cited.
How to Report an Accident
If you are making a claim against the other driver's insurance company, an adjuster will be assigned to your case. The insurance adjuster is a highly trained employee of the other driver's insurance company. His/her job will be to get as much information as possible from you regarding your property damage and personal injuries. Although he/she may appear to be helpful, remember that it is their job to pay you as little as possible for your claim. Anything that you say to the adjuster can and will be used against you. It is for this reason that you should generally decline to give the adjuster a recorded statement. Moreover, if you are injured, it is wise to consult with an attorney prior to speaking with the adjuster.
How to Contact the Other Driver's Insurance Company
Typically, the other driver's insurance company will attempt to contact you after a collision. If they don't, you will need to contact them to open a claim against their insured. The information that you need to contact the other driver's insurance information is usually found on the police report. However, if at all possible, it is important to get the other driver's insurance and personal information at the scene of the collision. Experienced accident attorneys will know how to contact the other driver's insurance company and open a claim.
When to Sign an Authorization or Release
The insurance adjuster's primary goal will be to pay you as little as possible for your claim. As a result, he/she will ordinarily attempt to get you to sign a release of claim with the promise that he/she will pay for your medical expenses up to a certain amount. He/she will also request your written authorization to allow them to obtain your medical records and talk to your doctors. Be aware that a release of claim relinquishes your rights to pursue the other driver's insurance beyond the amount of money he/she promised to pay you. Moreover, a medical release will allow the insurance company to snoop into your private, medical information. You should always read any document given to you by the insurance company very carefully before signing it. If you are unsure about signing the document, consult an attorney.
If You are Injured
Seek immediate and regular medical care from a qualified professional. Your health is top priority, and it is only through medical care that you can prove your bodily injury claim against the other driver's insurance.
Where to Get Medical Care
Emergency or urgent medical care is always vital. However, most injuries need follow-up treatment. If you have health insurance, you should call a doctor on your plan to schedule an appointment. If you do not have health insurance, there are doctors that will agree to treat you and wait for payment until you settle with the insurance company.
Paying Your Medical Bills
If you have health insurance, your health insurance should cover the bills. However, some health insurance companies, if organized pursuant to the federal ERISA statutes, have a right to be reimbursed for any medical treatment that they pay for from any recovery that you get from the other driver's insurance. It is for this reason and others that despite the fact that your health insurance pays your medical bills, you can still recover money from the other driver's insurance for your medical bills.
If you don't have health insurance, and the other driver is responsible for the collision, the other driver's insurance should be responsible for your medical bills when the case resolves.
Repairs to Your Vehicle
If the other driver is responsible for the collision, and has liability insurance, then the other driver's insurance company should pay for the damage to your vehicle. An appraiser will inspect your vehicle and determine whether your vehicle is repairable or a total loss. Your vehicle is a total loss if the repairs would cost more than your vehicle is worth. If your vehicle is repairable, in Arizona, you can have your vehicle repaired at any shop of your choice. The shop should then deal with the insurance company directly.
If Your Car is Totaled
If the repairs to your vehicle cost more than your vehicle is worth, you are owed the actual market value of your vehicle. The actual market value is not what your vehicle was worth to you, rather what your vehicle would have sold for in the market place prior to being damaged. The insurance company will hire a firm to research the value of your vehicle. However, you should always do your own research. Classified ads and the opinions of people in the business of selling used cars can be used to establish the value of your vehicle.
Your Insurance Company
If you are not satisfied with the other driver's insurance company's response time to dealing with your car, you can choose to have your own insurance company handle your property damage. If you do, you will have to pay your deductible, but your own insurance company may resolve your property damage claim faster than the other driver's insurance. Moreover, you should be able to recover your deductible from the other driver's insurance at a later date.
The Other Driver's Insurance Company is not Obligated to Rent You a Substitute Vehicle.
You should contact the other driver's insurance to arrange for a rental car while yours is being repaired. Although they are not obligated to provide you with one, some companies direct bill with the rental agency. If they refuse to pay for a rental vehicle through a direct bill, you can rent a comparable vehicle at a reasonable rate and present the bill to the other driver's insurance for reimbursement, or if you go without a rental you can claim a reasonable amount for the “loss of use” of your vehicle.
When to Return the Rental Vehicle
It is important to return the rental as soon as your vehicle is repaired or at the time the first reasonable total loss offer is made to you. You may be responsible for rental charges if you keep the vehicle after your vehicle is repaired, or for an unreasonable period of time after the negotiation of the total loss amount. Remember, the other driver's insurance company is only responsible for reasonable rental charges.
Monetary Compensation for Your Damages
Following a collision, if the other driver is found to be responsible, you are entitled to recover monetary compensation for your property or bodily injury damages. These damages include that which has been outlined above, in addition to pain and suffering damages. If you do not understand your rights, contact an attorney.