Often in life what starts off as a simple task ends up being complicated and taking up a lot of time. In Seattle, there were 5,766 serious and minor traffic injuries in 2011, according to the Washington Department of Transportation. Almost all of these injuries resulted in some sort of insurance claim being filed by one or more parties involved in the crash.
Insurance claims can be simple when parties cooperate but often turn complicated, especially when insurance companies try to use deception to get out of their responsibilities. Further legal action can be an appropriate remedy when insurance companies use these tricks, but there are many actions leading up to litigation that people can take to ensure they get fair treatment from insurers.
What to Do after the Car Accident
The first thing any driver should do immediately after an accident is to check their health, the health of the people in their vehicle, and the health of the other driver to make sure that everyone is safe and without serious injury. Medical attention should always be sought after an accident when necessary. Once it is clear that the situation is stable, drivers should exchange names, addresses, phone numbers and insurance information. Also try to get contact information from witnesses to the accident.
Call the police to file an accident report. Accident reports contain lots of valuable information, including roadway condition, weather, driver actions, vehicle conditions, and sobriety of the drivers. Drivers should notify their insurance companies of the accident as soon as possible.
Filing the Insurance Claim
Drivers with optional personal injury and property (PIP) insurance can file a claim with their insurance companies after the accident, regardless of who is at fault. Whether you file a claim on your own policy or the other driver's, contact your insurer to inform it of the accident.
Washington is an at-fault insurance state, so drivers usually will file claims with the at-fault driver. When drivers file a claim with the at-fault driver's insurer, they need to contact that insurer, explain that they were in an accident with its insured, and provide basic personal information like name, address and phone number. You do not have to submit to interrogations from the insurer and should not provide any statements or information about the crash beyond the basic facts. Before providing any additional details, talk to your attorney.
Drivers should never sign any medical records releases or employment records releases with insurance companies without first checking with their lawyer. Additionally, once a claim is filed, the claimant has rights to timely and clear explanations of claim decisions, explanations of how insurers will pay claims, timely responses to any questions and timely payment of claims.
Legal Options If You Have Difficulty with a Claim
Insurance companies often lowball claims and use interviews with claimants to fish for excuses to reduce their insured’s liability or the claimant’s right to collect compensation. In these cases, it may be a good idea to file personal injury lawsuits against the at-fault driver and his insurance company. Generally, if a driver proves that the other driver was more at fault in the accident than that person’s insurance company lets on, the responsible driver wins a higher award than the insurer offered.
Max Meyers Law protects Seattle drivers’ rights from the moment they are in a car accident. Contact our office at 425-399-7000 to set up a consultation about your case.