The aftermath of a car accident is often confusing, especially when fault is unclear or disputed, and multiple drivers and vehicles are involved. At the Law Offices of Samer Habbas, one common question that we hear after an accident, is “Should I call my insurance after an accident, even if I wasn’t at fault?”
The short answer is – failing to report a collision you are involved in is not a good idea – and very likely a violation of the terms of your car insurance policy contract. After an accident, notifying your insurance company is not so much a matter of whether you should, but whether you are required to. After that required call to your insurance company, there is one more call that is even more important – a call to an experienced California personal injury attorney.
Why You Need To Report Your Car Accident To Your Insurance Company
Car accidents are traumatic events, and it may be tempting to move on from a collision and not contact your insurance company. Drivers with minor injuries who receive a no-claims discount on their policy may be especially hesitant, believing that any claim will financially hurt them in the long run.
In addition to your required legal obligation to report your collision to your insurer, you should report your accident for several other reasons:
- You don’t know how much insurance the other driver has OR the extent of your injuries. Your injuries could quickly worsen or other parties may file claims, requiring you to pursue compensation from your own insurance.
- The accident could be determined to be someone else’s fault. For example, if a driver runs a red light and hits you in an intersection, you may believe it is their fault. However, the investigation could reveal that a stop light malfunction caused the accident, requiring you to pursue compensation from a third party.
- It is possible the driver believes they have insurance, but it is lapsed, and you will later find out they have no insurance.
When you call your insurance company, you should provide facts only. Even if you are confident you are innocent, you should not speculate on fault or the severity of your injuries.
When an Accident Is Not Your Fault, Is Your Own Insurance Company On Your Side?
If an accident was not your fault, you may believe your insurance company will unilaterally side with you and fight with you for maximum compensation. Unfortunately, this is not necessarily the case for a few different possible reasons:
- Insurance companies often work together to settle claims quickly.
- If the other driver had the same insurance provider as you, the claim will be settled in-house and the insurance company, and the insurance company will look out for their own financial interest
- If the other driver did not have insurance, you will negotiate with your own insurance company to pay you, under your uninsured/underinsured motorist policy.
What About Deductibles – Do I Pay The Deductible If Not At Fault?
Your deductible is the official way you share vehicle property damage risk with your insurance company, and the amount of your deductible (if any) is something you agreed to when you purchased your policy. Your deductible should be an amount you are comfortable with and that you can afford. Typically, the higher your deductible amount, the lower your insurance policy premiums.
If the other driver’s insurance company immediately accepts fault and agrees to cover your vehicle repairs, you will not have to pay a deductible. If you use your own insurance for a property damage claim, you will need to pay your deductible. However, the property damage claim settlement may cover the deductible amount, in which case you can recover the funds when you settle your claim. If you are determined to be partially at fault, the amount may be reduced by your percentage of fault.
What Happens If Someone Hits You And They Don’t Have Insurance?
The law in California is simple: vehicles operating or parked are required to have insurance. California drivers must carry evidence of insurance and this must be provided in the event of a traffic collision. Unfortunately, in reality, not all drivers carry insurance, and actively violate California car insurance laws. The main reasons for this are:
- Insurance is expensive
- Their driver’s license is suspended for previous moving violations or a drunk driving conviction.
- Drivers believe they will never get caught (invincibility complex).
If someone hits you and they don’t have insurance, one of two things will happen: (1) your own uninsured motorist policy will kick in and compensate you; or (2), if you do not have an uninsured motorist policy, you will not be able to recover any compensation. A third option would be to sue the driver, but it may be nearly impossible to recover money if the driver does not have any assets or funds to pay you.
What Happens If The At-Fault Party Doesn’t Have Enough Insurance To Pay A Claim In California?
Many drivers only carry the minimum amount of insurance required by law. In the event you are seriously injured, or there are multiple injured people involved in the crash, the driver’s insurance company may be vastly insufficient. An underinsured insurance claim works similarly to an uninsured insurance claim. You will file a claim an amount with your own insurance company for damages which exceed the at-fault driver’s policy
Why Should I Hire A Lawyer After A Car Accident?
If you are injured in a car accident in California, you should absolutely speak with an attorney. Many people wonder if hiring an attorney is “worth it.” You may be entitled to far more compensation than is initially offered for your medical expenses, lost earnings, and pain and suffering.
Orange County personal injury lawyers at the Law Offices of Samer Habbas & Associates represent victims of personal injury in Irvine, Anaheim, Los Angeles, El Segundo, Riverside, and San Diego. For more information or to schedule a complimentary consultation with an expert personal injury attorney, please call 949-438-5829.
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