Do I have to claim if I'm not at fault?
All kinds of questions swirl in a person’s mind after an accident: Am I seriously hurt? Will my vehicle be drive-able? Will this impact my insurance rates? Will I need to pay a deductible? Though the first questions have the most immediate impact after an accident, the insurance-related questions quickly become pressing.
California is a fault-based accident liability state, so the party who caused the accident is legally responsible for the resulting damages. With this in mind, it may be tempting to cut your own insurance company out of the loop if you were not at fault for the accident. Seems like it would protect your rates and your deductible, right? Here are some reasons you should think again about informing your auto insurance carrier, even if you do not ultimately need to make a claim. Remember, you can always speak with a Los Angeles personal injury lawyer to discuss whether to inform your insurance company.
Duty to report under the policy
You are likely obligated under your insurance policy to report all accidents to your insurance company in a timely manner. What a “timely manner” is may be up for debate, but this is policy language is the way the insurance company protects itself from claims that crop up after a long delay. By receiving timely notice, the insurance company will be able to investigate the claims and prepare for a defense, if needed.
If you were not at fault, you may not see the need for your carrier to prepare for a defense. That leads to the next point…
Counter-claims and cross-claims may arise, potentially exposing you to liability
You may be convinced the other driver was to blame. You may have a police report that says so. But claims turn sideways all the time. The other driver may suddenly claim that you were also partly or entirely at fault. Another party, perhaps your own passenger, may suddenly bring a claim against you. You will need your insurance company to defend these claims and if it did not receive timely notice, it may deny the defense or the coverage.
You may need uninsured motorist (UM) or underinsured motorist (UIM) coverage
It seems obvious that if the other driver caused the accident, his or her insurance will pay for the damage. California’s financial responsibility laws require drivers to carry liability insurance but that does not mean that every driver complies or that their limits will be high enough for your claim. If there is not enough coverage (or any coverage!) available from the at-fault driver, you will need to make a claim under your own policy if you have UM/UIM coverage. If you have not complied with the notice requirements, your carrier could deny your claim.
You will get faster results under your own collision coverage
If you have collision coverage, you may be much better off filing a claim with your insurance company rather than waiting for the at-fault party’s insurance to pay. Your own carrier has a contraction obligation, as well as statutory duties, toward you as a policy holder. To the other party’s carrier, you are just a third-party claimant. This means your own carrier will be required to act quickly to settle the claim.
It may seem unfair that your own carrier pays for the repairs made necessary by the other driver. However, your insurance company will be able to subrogate – to recover the money from the other carrier. It can even get back whatever deductible you may have had for the repairs. And this type of claim generally does not increase your insurance rates.
Have an attorney by your side
You do not need to deal with the insurance companies alone. A personal injury attorney can reduce your uncertainty throughout the process and even handle communications for you. Once you choose a skilled Los Angeles car accident lawyer, he or she can be the designated represented in all claim-related communications. This takes immense pressure off of you when the other side wants to pressure you into a settlement that is just too low. If you or a loved one have been injured in an accident in Southern California, speak with an attorney from Ellis Law. We are focused on serving the needs of those who have been harmed by someone else’s actions. We offer locations in Los Angeles and throughout the region. Consultations are free and we never charge a fee up front.