How to Protect Yourself After a Car Crash

While every car crash is different and each person has many questions, ultimately, the question is: “How do I protect myself after this crash?

Most people want to know what to do in the firsts few hours, few days and few weeks. They want to confirm that they are sharing the “right information” with an insurance company and they want assurances that the insurance company will pay. Hmmm…it is not hard to guess why many are so dubious about whether an insurance company will hold up their end of the bargain. If insurance companies actually acted as they represent themselves in televisions commercials, we would practice something other than serious motor vehicle collision injuries.

The Most Common Questions are: What is it going to take to get through this ordeal?

Who do I contact? What do I say? What am I obligated to do? Do I have any rights? Do I have to take an adjuster’s advice? What if I’m hurt?- Who pays? How do I know the insurance company will cover this?

Ultimately, every person in a motor vehicle collision wonders, “What is it going to take to get through this ordeal?” If you are hurt, it is a much bigger ordeal. It is not a good time. If you are hurt, it is going to take time to get help and get the correct treatment. We do not call it a “journey” as that makes it sound like something you look forward to or schedule. No, if you are hurt, you need to speak with an attorney about how best to get through the ordeal. Car crash attorneys offer free consultations for several reasons. One, you may need an attorney to successfully get the compensation you will need. Two, we would much rather give critical information at the beginning of your process to help you protect your claim even if you do not use our legal services. We give free information daily. If we can assist one more person in navigating this really unpleasant process, we are happy to do it.

Some Easy Guidelines if Your Crash is Property Damage Only–

Disclaimer: If you are hurt or need medical treatment, contact an attorney. What you disclose to an insurance adjuster if you are hurt it critical

  1. Who do I contact? You have a duty to notify your auto insurance carrier if you were in a crash. You do not have to do it the same day. If you are hurt, wait!
  2. Do I have to give a statement to the insurance carrier? You do NOT have to give a statement about how the crash occurred as soon as you notify. You may at some point. Again, if you are hurt–you should wait.
  3. Do I have to give a statement to the insurance carrier of the other party? You do not have to do this immediately. If you are hurt, again, you should absolutely wait. Do not give statements of any kind if you are taking medication that may impact your ability to recall ie: pain medication, etc. If you are hurt, the landscape changes and you need an attorney. A consultation at the minimum.
  4. If there is another vehicle involved in the collision and if the crash does not seem to be your fault, you can contact the other driver’s insurance carrier to make a property damage claim. Again, if you are hurt, you absolutely should NOT contact them or give a statement right away. By all means–DO NOT MAKE ANY STATEMENTS ABOUT YOUR INJURY OR MEDICAL TREATMENT
  5. Are you obligated to give a statement? No, you are not obligated to give a statement right away. You should know that the insurance carrier will most likely record your phone conversation with or without your permission and will ask you questions specific to your injuries and how the crash happened. You should not give information about your medical treatment in the first few days for one reason alone–no one knows the full extent of their injuries or how they will recover.
  6. Do I need to give the auto insurance company my health insurance information? NO, Again, if it is only a property damage claim, your health insurance is none of their business. Sometimes an adjuster will tell you are obligated by law to give them your Medicaid or Medicare information. It is a self-serving question/statement on behalf of the auto insurance carrier. If you are hurt, your injury claim is not going to be resolved in the first two or three weeks. Refrain from sharing your health information with any auto insurance carrier. If you are hurt, consult an attorney
  7. How long does it take to resolve my property damage claim? In theory, it should not take long. Your property damage (your vehicle) is not going to “heal” over time. The property damage is the same on day two as it is the day of the crash.
  8. What can cause delays in resolving my property damage claim? There are so many causes of delays, it is hard to enumerate them all. If you have full coverage, your auto insurance has a contractual obligation to process your property damage. Sometimes your insurance carrier will tell you that you have to make the claim against the other driver. If you have full coverage, you will not be at the mercy of the other driver’s insurance carrier. If you only have liability, then it will take awhile. The other party’s insurance carrier has to talk to their insured and may spend days/weeks deciding if they will accept liability.
  9. Get a Copy of the Police Report. Hopefully, you did call the police after your crash. It can take 5-10 working days for the crash report to be completed depending upon the municipality. Your own insurance carrier can easily get the incident report and usually do. They may tell you that you have to do it for them. You should get the report for your own records. The reports range in price from $3.00 to $25.00 depending on the municipality. Many offer online options.
  10. If you are having pain, seek immediate medical treatment.

There is a Theme–Do not discuss your injury with any Insurance Adjuster.

Ultimately, if you are physically injured then stop, seek medical treatment and do not engage in conversations with the auto insurance carrier. Use your health insurance to seek medical treatment. Do not start giving out various auto insurance policy numbers at the ER or other medical providers. You should not implicitly trust an auto insurance carrier to look out for your best interest.

Your Insurance Agent is One of Your Friends?

It is highly likely that you personally know your insurance sales agent. They live in your community! However, you will not be buddies with your insurance “adjuster”. That is by design of the auto insurance industry.

Insurance sales agents live in our communities, may be your neighbor or part of your church. Unfortunately, your sales agent will have no influence over your property damage claim or your injury claim. It does not matter how much they like you. Discussing the matter with them actually puts them in a weird spot. Your insurance sales agent may really like you–maybe you’ve been friends for years. Their natural response will be to try to listen to you and have sympathy. Even if they know that you probably need an attorney to pursue the claim, it is a bit of a conflict for them to tell you to do so.

Sales agents sell insurance in the communities in which they live and often, they know everyone in town. However, the insurance adjuster handling your claim most likely is not located anywhere near your local community. The adjusters are in centralized locations and their goals are not necessarily the same as your insurance sales friend. The insurance industry is set up this way on purpose. It is far harder to low ball or deny a person’s claim when you have to sit three rows behind them at church or encounter them at the local store. Your sales agent has no influence in whether or not a claim is paid. Thus, keep your friends and hire an attorney.

Car Crashes, Are They “just accidents”?

The definition of an “accident” is “an event that happens by chance or that is without an apparent or deliberate cause“. Further definition include: An accident is a term that implies nobody should be blamed, but the event may have been caused by unrecognized risks”. In the real world, how many car crashes have you seen where it was sheer coincidence and without a cause? Rarely–in fact, less than 1 percent. A motor vehicle crash may have several causes. Predominantly, driver error is the cause of 99 percent of all motor vehicle crashes. Insurance companies love to say “accidents happen” as that is a perfect way to share the fault to all parties and reduce the amount of their liability and costs. This is nonsense.

There is a reason that your local police department and state patrol do not call car crashes, “car accidents”. The terminology is “incident report”. Whether a driver is traveling too fast for conditions, loses control, fails to yield or fails to see another vehicle–those are causes. Driver error is the number one cause of crashes. So, why do we call them “car accidents”? We do so because it has become a part of our common language. However, we do not call motor vehicle crashes anything other than incidents, crashes, collisions or injury event in legal language. There are “acts of God” or nature that make up a small fraction of crashes. Example: a tornado suddenly erupts without warning and blows your car off the roadway. Still, your full coverage auto insurance protects you in such situation.

No, It is Not Just an Accident

When two or more vehicle collide, there is a cause or multiple causes. Actually, despite the refrain from the insurance adjuster that “accidents happen”, the rest of the world including those in crashes are actually really concerned about the “cause” or “causes”. There are entire federal safety organizations devoted to it studying crashes, increasing safety and investigating horrible fatalities. When we look at car crash fatality data, we are all concerned about the causes if for no other than reason than improving our own individual safety. Rules of the roadway are in place to promote safety. Traffic lights, signage and speed limits are all designed to decrease the number of crashes and improve safety for all of us. The cause of a crash is rarely a faulty traffic light but more often, a driver’s failure to follow a traffic light.

Riding in a motor vehicle is one of the risky things most of us do on a daily basis. We make those risks so that we can leave our homes for work, social events and see family. Roadways are part of the social contract we make with one another. We all pay some taxes in order to build and maintain roadways. Likewise, in order to operate a motor vehicle, we agree to get a driver’s license, have auto insurance and most importantly, agree to the rules of the roadway. Operating a motor vehicle is not a personal right guaranteed by the Constitution. Thus, if we fail to comply with the rules, we can lose that privileges.

Most the time, car crash incidents are definitely not purposeful or thought out, they are mistakes that result in incidents. Being at fault for a crash does make you a bad person nor does it insult your character. Drivers make mistakes. We have all made mistakes. We can all agree there are some mistakes that seem far worse than others. There are some driving errors such as distracted driving, drunk driving, dangerous speeding, aggressive driving and road rage are not simple “mistakes” but choices. In fact, you can be criminally charged for dangerous behaviors such as driving under the influence, careless and imprudent and excessive speeding. Predominantly, people are hurt in crashes that are not criminal in nature. A simple driving error such as failing to yield can cause a fatal crash.

For the safety of each of us, we are obligated to pay attention, follow the rules of the road and be as safe as we possibly can. We are all hurling down the highway with literally tons of metal traveling 50-90 mph. We have an obligation to everyone in the community to practice reasonable care and safety.

Questions After a Crash?

No matter how many blogs/DIY articles you read, you will have questions after a crash. Even if you have been in a crash before, every crash is different and most often it will bring some new, unpleasant experience. We are available seven days a week to answer your questions. We help guide injured clients through the long process of recovery, both physical and financial. It is a process if you are hurt.

If you simply have only property damage, you probably will not need a lawyer. If you hurt, we can predict you will need an attorney and guarantee you will have a better outcome with legal assistance. In fact, if you are seriously injured, you cannot afford to not get an attorney. Either way, we are happy to share the information and guide through this unpleasant event in your life.

Call us toll free 1.800.685.3302 or locally 314.276.1681

Contact Us Today

The Cagle Law Firm serves accident and injury clients throughout St. Louis and the greater St. Louis metropolitan area, including the eastern Missouri and southern Illinois communities. If you or a loved one needs legal assistance with your personal injury case, call The Cagle Law Firm at (314) 276-1681 or use our online contact form to schedule a free consultation.

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