There is no short, sweet answer to this question. If you were involved in an auto accident that was wholly or partially someone else’s fault, you will need to notify the at-fault driver’s insurance company. However, you should definitely not make a recorded statement to the other driver’s insurance company before you have consulted with an attorney. In most cases, it’s also not wise to enter into discussions with the other driver’s insurance company until you have consulted with an attorney.
What happens after an accident
If the other driver was totally or partially to blame for the accident, you may be entitled to what is known as “damages.” These may include reimbursement for medical care, physical therapy, a rental car, lost wages if you were unable to work, and compensation for your pain and suffering. These damages would be paid for by the at-fault driver’s insurance company.
Since Arizona is a “comparative negligence” state, you and the other driver will be compensated according to the percentage you were both to blame for the accident. If you were 30 percent at fault and the other driver was 70 percent liable, you could be compensated for 70 percent of the total amount of damages.
For more information on what damages you may be entitled to, read our article here.
The insurance company’s modus operandi
An insurance company is a business, and no business wants to constantly pay out tens or hundreds of thousands of dollars. The at-fault driver’s insurance company is motivated to pay you as little as possible. The insurance adjustor may say you were totally liable for the accident, and that their driver did nothing wrong. He or she may say both drivers were liable, but their driver was less to blame than you claim. The insurance agent may adopt a friendly tone and subtly induce you to admit some of the blame. Or he or she may pressure you to settle quickly by offering a “one time only deal” that is actually much less than you deserve. It isn’t personal; it’s just business.
You may be tempted to take a quick settlement because it’s easier and you may be in need of money to cover your costs. But do not accept a settlement from the other driver’s insurance company until you have consulted with an experienced personal injury attorney.
Notifying the insurance company
After an auto accident, whether you were at fault or not, you should inform your own insurance company. We’ve written about the benefits of doing this, and how you should go about it, in more detail here.
As to whether you should notify the other driver’s insurance company, the answer hinges on the meaning of the word “notify.” If you are simply informing the insurance company that an accident has occurred and not making any kind of official statement, you are probably fine merely informing them. However, even this can be problematic in some cases. If you feel you may have a difficult time getting what you deserve from the other driver’s insurance company, and/or if you were severely injured and a lot of money is at stake, you would be wise to consult with an attorney before notifying the company.
If you merely want to notify the other driver’s insurance company but they want to get into lengthy discussions or pressure you to make a recorded statement, politely decline. Say you would like to consult with your attorney first.
How can an attorney help your claim?
The Lamber-Goodnow Personal Injury Law Team offers free case evaluations to people who have been involved in an auto accident. There is no obligation. There are no upfront costs. We get paid only if and when you receive a favorable settlement.
An experienced attorney will first determine whether the other driver was negligent and discuss your injuries, your medical bills and other costs, and your legal options.
If you decide to retain the attorney, he or she will conduct a full investigation. This may include examining police reports, the accident scene, photos, witness testimonies, and medical records. Your attorney may consult with accident reconstruction experts, medical experts and technical experts. In some cases, your attorney will subpoena video surveillance footage and information from the vehicle’s black box.
Your attorney will then submit a demand letter to the opposing party. The Lamber-Goodnow Personal Injury Legal Team goes a step further than many other attorneys. We send a demand package on an iPad loaded with videos, photos and all the documentation.
An experienced attorney will also handle all the communication with the other driver’s insurance company and attorneys. For more information on the step-by-step process of a personal injury claim, read our article here.
For more information on what you should do after an accident to help build a strong personal injury claim, read our article here.