While it is important to get in touch with your insurance carrier after a car accident, you can do it once you get back home or the next day. You might need a little time to deal with the trauma of the crash, which is understandable. However, reporting a car accident to your carrier is a must. Beyond seeking necessary medical attention and exchanging contact information with the other driver, it should be one of your highest priorities after being involved in a car accident.
There are many important reasons you should notify your insurance company after an accident — chief of which includes that the insurance may help ease financial burdens. If you need to file a claim or lawsuit one day, you must be able to show that you contacted your insurance company as quickly as you could after the accident. You should know what your personal policy says in terms of how many days you have to report an accident. If you miss that deadline, it is entirely possible that the insurance company will refuse to honor the claim.
There are other important reasons for you to contact your insurance company too. For example, your car might have suffered extensive damage, and you may need a rental while your vehicle is being repaired. Depending on the type of coverage you purchased, your carrier may pay for all or most of the cost of the rental. If you have suffered injuries as a result of the accident, your coverage may pay some of your medical bills — but they cannot do that until you notify them that you have been in a crash.
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Should I Report an Accident to My Insurance If It’s Not My Fault?
This process is particularly important in Pennsylvania, as it is a no-fault state. The term “no-fault” means that most car accident costs are covered by your insurance company rather than the other driver’s insurance company — regardless of who is at fault. For this reason, you should still report an accident to your insurance even if you are not at fault.
Your policy may cover items like damage to your car, medical expenses and lost wages. If your policy says that you must report an accident within a five-day period, for example, and you do not report it within that timeframe, you may lose the chance for your company to cover you.
Pennsylvania’s no-fault auto insurance offers limited “tort” or full “tort” coverage. “Tort” functions as a legal term for “injury.” These policies differ in the type of compensation you may receive after an accident.
Here are some characteristics of limited tort insurance:
- Limits your rights to financial compensation for injuries when another driver causes a car accident
- Allows you to seek recovery for all medical treatments and out-of-pocket costs
- Does not allow you to seek compensation for pain and suffering or nonmonetary losses
- Exceptions for nonmonetary loss recovery exist for certain “serious” injuries
- Less expensive than full tort insurance
Here are some characteristics of full tort insurance:
- Gives you unlimited rights toward compensation for injuries and losses when another driver causes a car accident
- Allows you to recover costs for medical treatments and out-of-pocket costs
- Allows you to recover compensation for pain and suffering as well as nonmonetary losses
- No “serious injury” qualification for full tort pain, suffering and nonmonetary claims
- More expensive than limited tort insurance
It is helpful to understand the type of policy you have when reporting an accident that was not your fault to your insurance company. An important note to remember is that Pennsylvania’s no-fault insurance approach doesn’t apply to vehicle damage claims. If you were not at fault and your vehicle was damaged in an accident, you can file a claim for compensation against the at-fault driver.
Being informed about your rights and insurance is one of the best ways to make sure you are prepared to take appropriate action after an accident. To be safe, check your policy now in case you do have an accident one day.
Should I Contact the Police If I Have Been in a Crash?
Yes, you should. You should take several steps if you been involved in an accident:
- After you have checked to make sure that no one has been injured or needs you to call emergency services, exchange information with the other driver, including their license and insurance information.
- Take pictures of the accident and any injuries to you or your passengers.
- Never admit fault. Never say that you think you are fine and not hurt. If the other driver or a police officer asks if you are okay, simply reply “I am not sure, I will not know until I see a doctor.” You and the other driver may disagree about the facts of the accident, so it is a good idea to call the police. An investigating officer will record interviews with you and the other driver, any passengers and possible witnesses to the crash.
- Keep in mind that while the testimony of a police officer about who is responsible for a car accident can be used only in a Small Claims Court or in negotiations between your lawyer and the insurance company, the information that the police officer records about the causes of the accident, the conditions of the passengers and the state of the vehicles can play an important role in helping to determine what or who caused the crash.
- Remember that calling the police is also important if the other driver is uncooperative or if you suspect that they do not have any car insurance.
In Pennsylvania, the police do not have to report to the scene of an accident when there are no or only very minor injuries and no or very limited damage to property. Instead, both drivers are required to report the accident to the Department of Transportation within five days using the AA-600 form.
The form requires you to collect the same kind of information that police would at the scene of the accident, including the other driver’s license information, tag number and insurance information. It will also ask you to describe in your own words what happened.
Police will also not investigate any accident that takes place on private property, such as in a Walmart, Target or McDonald’s parking lot. However, you still need to report the accident to the Department of Transportation.
Should I Contact My Insurance Company After a Minor Accident?
If the accident has been a serious one, there is no question that you need to contact your insurance company as soon as you can, taking into account any injuries you may have suffered.
If you are not badly injured or in need of hospitalization, it is best to contact your insurance company either after the police have gathered all the information they will need for the report. In the case of a minor accident, contact your insurance company after you have collected all the necessary information from the other party involved.
Many people hesitate to contact their insurance company if they have been involved in minor collisions. There are two main reasons you may also consider this behavior:
- You assume your interest rates will go up if you report a minor accident.
- You believe that you can “work things out” with the other driver without having to get your insurance companies involved.
Yet this strategy is not a very good idea for a number of reasons. Consider the following:
- Say you and the other driver decided to “work things out.” But once you get home, or a day or two later, you realize that you have been hurt (even minor accidents can lead to the development of whiplash after an accident) or that your car has been damaged worse than you first thought. If you have not contacted your insurance company, they can deny your claim, and it will end up costing you even more in the long run than any possible increase in your insurance rates could.
- People change their minds. The driver who seemed so agreeable to the idea that you did not need to report your fender bender to the insurance company can turn around and say they have been hurt or that their car has been damaged more than they believed. Once again, even if you are not hurt and your car is fine, your insurance company may not provide you with protection if you have not reported the accident.
When is it okay not to report an accident to the insurance company? If you back into your garage door by accident or knock down a mailbox while backing out of the driveway, you probably do not need to report to the insurance company. In these cases, it was only your car that was involved, and on your property. There is no other person that you need to exchange information with about an accident and really no question of who is going to pay for repairs if there are any.
It is always a good idea to report any collision, no matter how minor, to your insurance company. Even if nothing comes of the claim, you and the other person are fine, and the damage to your cars is relatively minor and not expensive to repair, contacting your insurance company means that you are covered in cases where injuries developed after a few days or your car has been damaged more than you initially believed.
For instance, the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) ran a test that shows how much damage can occur in a low-speed crash. In a simulated 10 mile-per-hour accident involving a Toyota Corolla and a Toyota RAV4, both manufactured in 2010, the IIHS reported that there was little visible damage. But upon further examination, the Corolla required $3,800 in repairs and the RAV4 $6,000.
In several similar trials, the lowest cost for repairs reported was $3,000 for both cars. Remember, most insurance deductibles are $500, so that “out-of-pocket” expense not covered by the insurance company is $2,500.
These simulated crashes also did not involve humans. Think of the possible medical costs that might be added to a $2,500 total — none of it covered by your insurance company because you did not get around to reporting it.
How Do I Report an Accident to My Insurance Company?
Research shows that most drivers can expect to be in an accident that involves a claim or lawsuit at least once in a decade. That is why it is important to understand the information required by your insurance company and why you should avoid trying to pay out of your own pocket after “working it out” with the other driver.
The information that you should provide to your insurance company includes:
- When the accident happened
- Where the accident occurred
- The number of your insurance policy
- Your description of the accident
- Information about the other driver, including name, license plate, address and their insurance information
- The VIN number of both cars
- Details about whether or not the police were involved in the accident, and if so, the name of the officer
- The number of the police report, if one was filed
After you have called your insurance company, it will open a claim and start its own investigation to determine the details of the accident and whether or not you are entitled to damages.
What Should I Not Say to My Insurance Company After an Accident?
The insurance company will probably ask you additional questions about the accident, and it is essential to know what to say, and if you should not say anything when your claim is being investigated. Here are a few tips:
- If you need to report an injury, do not give a self-diagnosis: Simply say that there has been an injury, but that you will not have details until after you have seen a doctor or been to an emergency room. Remember, the insurance company is not, first and foremost, your friend. They do not want to pay you if they do not have to. So do not tell them that your injuries or the damage are not that bad, because the insurance company will use that to deny your claim.
- Do not embellish: You do not call your insurance company to chat. Stick to the facts of the crash. Do not say something about being on your cell phone or any other details that they do not require. Do not say anything that could involve a degree of negligence on your part.
- Answer only the questions asked: If you do not have the answer to a question, say you do not know or that you do not have the information at this time. Do not provide information that the insurance company does not request.
- Never make a recorded statement: Politely say that you do not wish to be recorded for a statement. A recorded statement can be used against you if the circumstances of the case change.
- Resist the temptation to make an immediate settlement: Insurance companies save millions of dollars trying to settle claims within the first two or three days of an accident. People desperate for money will often sign a car accident settlement that frees the insurance company of paying any money in the future. Some insurance companies will even dispatch adjusters to the scene of the accident and offer you a settlement check on the spot. Do not do it. Never sign anything without speaking to a car accident lawyer first.
- Do not lose your cool: Regardless of the amount of pressure that the insurance company applies to you in an effort to get you to settle, be polite, be nonconfrontational, but be firm. Getting emotional can only cause problems for you down the line.
Do I Need a Lawyer?
You should have a lawyer in this situation. In fact, the first call you should make after an accident is probably to your personal lawyer, who can refer you to a good car accident lawyer. The insurance companies will do everything they can to pay you less. Insurance adjusters deal with claims day after day and know all the loopholes and ways to get people to settle early and for less cash than they deserve.
You need someone on your side who can be an advocate for you. After a car crash, you are often confused or not feeling your best, especially if you have been injured. And if it was a minor car accident that the police did not investigate, you have only five days to file your own report. A good car accident lawyer will make sure that all the papers are filed on time, that the insurance companies do not take advantage of you and that you recover all the money for which you are eligible.
Contact KBG Injury Law For Help If You Need to File a Car Insurance Claim
While there are many instances where people can report a car accident to their insurance company on their own, you might need the help of an attorney at other times. If, for example, your insurer refuses to pay your claim, an attorney can work to make sure your rights are protected. Learn more about how KBG Injury Law may be able to help you by contacting us online or calling 717-848-3838.