Over six million car wrecks occur in the U.S. every year with more than half of those resulting in injuries. The death toll from these crashes exceeds 40,000 and continues to climb. Many factors contribute to this, including inclement weather, driving under the influence and distracted driving. Being a good defensive driver is important to help you stay safe on the road. Knowing what to do in the event of a car crash can help ease the anxiety from an already stressful situation.
Alabama is an at-fault state for automobile crashes—meaning whoever causes the car crash is legally responsible for any and all financial costs to the victim. However, in no-fault states, each driver involved in a crash is responsible for their own damage expenses—unless an attorney is required and a lawsuit is filed.
According to the Alabama Mandatory Liability Insurance (MLI) Law, every resident of Alabama must carry liability auto insurance to register their vehicle, legally drive and maintain their car registration. If you are in a wreck and do not have proof of insurance, you will be fined. If you are found to be at fault and without insurance, you could be liable for tens or even hundreds of thousands of dollars in bodily injury and property damages to the other driver.
Being in a car crash can be shocking and somewhat disorienting. Once you determine if anyone is hurt, many questions can come to mind that you may need to deal with on the spot. In the minutes, days and weeks after your wreck, there are a few crucial steps that can help both you and the other driver and make your insurance claims process go much more smoothly. Whether there is an injury or not, call 911 immediately. You will need a report of the car crash.
**Be careful that you do not admit fault at the scene or discuss insurance coverage with the other driver. If bodily injury occurred as a result of the crash, contact your attorney immediately after calling 911.
According to the Insurance Information Institute (ILL), the following information will be needed for you to submit a claim:
**Note if there are any security cameras or doorbell cameras from nearby businesses or homes that may have recorded the wreck.
Once you have filed your report with local authorities and safely left the scene of the wreck, contact your insurance agent or claims department. Some insurers have apps for you to submit the info online or you can call and speak to a representative.
In addition to the above information you gathered at the scene, you will also need:
File your claim as soon as possible while the crash is fresh in your mind and in those of everyone involved, including witnesses. There may be other documents that may be requested by your insurer, so the sooner you file the better.
If the other driver is at fault, your insurer may contact the other driver’s insurance company. You can also contact the other company directly to file a third-party claim against the other driver’s insurer. This can typically be done either online or by phone.
An adjuster will be assigned to handle your claim. The adjuster will either take a look at the damage to your car or send you to a qualified repair shop for an estimate to repair your vehicle. You can also request to use your own repair shop. Once the estimate for the repair is submitted, the adjuster will handle further discussions with the repair shop and review all the information you submitted from the scene. If needed, they may also interview the other drivers, passengers and any witnesses to the wreck. The adjuster will then determine how much you will receive for your damages, rental car and any other expenses.
Keep in mind, the insurance company is a business. The adjuster’s goal is to keep the company’s expenses as low as possible, so the amount you believe you are owed may not be what is offered or they may reject your claim altogether.
Claims may be denied based on the nature of the crash, especially if you violated state law. They may also be denied due to the coverage limits in your policy. That’s why it’s a good idea to review your policy and make sure you have adequate coverage before a wreck happens.
If you believe you are owed more than what was offered, have the necessary coverage in your policy and all the documentation to back up your claim, you should request a review. Keep all documentation from the crash, including medical records, police reports and any comparable cases to back your request. The more evidence you provide, the better your chances of receiving higher compensation.
If you are still not satisfied with what is offered, you are not obligated to accept and can contact an attorney to see if your case warrants filing a lawsuit.
Know what your insurance policy covers. If you have a large deductible and only had minor damage, like a scratch or dent that is less than or right around your deductible, do not file with your company. Paying out-of-pocket will avoid any rate increases to your policy. If the other driver is at fault and has adequate coverage to pay for all your expenses, file a third-party claim with their insurance company. However, if the other driver is not insured or under insured, you can also file a claim with your own insurance company. Again, see if the additional amount is less than or equal to your personal deductible before filing.
Rate increases depend on your driving history, who was at fault and the extent of damage from the wreck. If you were at fault, it is likely you will see a rate increase unless you have accident forgiveness through your particular insurer. If the other driver is at fault, you should not receive a rate increase.
As we have mentioned in previous articles, if the car crash involves an injury or you are not satisfied with the settlement offer from the insurance company, do not agree to anything until you contact your attorney to review your case. A good law firm will look at the evidence and advise you if you have a strong case to pursue legal action. Your initial consultation should be at no charge to you.
The Mezrano Law Firm specializes in car crash injury cases and is ready to speak with you and offer you guidance.