Any victim of an Atlanta automobile crash will begin to wonder if they should file a claim. You’re definitely not alone and should give careful thought into what a claim could do to you. With so many insurance companies upping their rates and premiums for victims as well as the at-fault drivers, it seems unfair. Many drivers have been led to think that not filing a claim will ultimately save them money and make resolving their crash easier. An experienced Atlanta automobile crash attorney can provide some insight.
Is It Cheaper to Avoid Telling Your Insurance About an Atlanta Automobile Crash?
The common misconception is that any crash will skyrocket your premium rates, or what you pay monthly. That’s not always true. It depends on your policy. There is the chance that even if you weren’t responsible for the wreck that your rates will go up. There’s also the chance that your rates won’t change at all.
Ultimately, it’s not cheaper to avoid telling your insurance. If the other driver informs the insurance policy and they initiate a claim, you could get in trouble with your provider. Essentially your provider will want to know why you purposefully did not tell them about the accident. They may refuse to continue coverage, your rates may go up, and it may go on your history that you failed to report.
Even if it was a tiny accident, go ahead and give them a call. You can inform your insurance policy that you have no intention of filing a claim, especially if there was no damage in the crash.
What About Single-Vehicle Accidents?
What if you were driving along a dark highway at night, and swiped a pole. There’s a little bit of damage to your side door but nothing serious. You weren’t hurt, and you weren’t involved with anyone that could report the crash to their insurance.
In these events, it’s always up to you. You could call and inform your insurance policy and tell them you don’t wish to process a claim, or you could not call them. The only issue that this could bring up down the line is the damage caused here but found in another crash. For example, if you were in a crash months later, an appraiser might ask about the damage from the pole and then begin wondering why you’re making a claim now.
You can control these issues to some extent, but it’s another situation where you mind as well call and tell them about the wreck. Again, you don’t always have to file a claim, just be firm and tell them that you’re informing them of damage to your car, not to file a claim.
Consequences of Not Telling Your Insurance Policy About a Crash
There are so many things that could happen in the weeks after a crash. First, is the legal issues. The driver involved in your crash could be one of those people who goes through every medical possibility racking up bills and then filing a massive claim against you. If you failed to notify your insurance of that accident, then it’s more likely that you will be facing that claim without their support.
Second, is that there’s the chance your car took on more damage than you might have thought. While on the outside your car may seem fine, you may have bent a wheel well, offset something under the hood or put off your alignment, which can call for thousands of dollars in repairs. Without a claim, you’ll have a hard time paying the full repairs out of pocket.
Finally, in the instance that you have an invisible injury which can be very serious but also very hard to detect. Injuries that can go for long periods of time without detection, such as soft tissue injury or TBI, do not go away on their own.
Can You File a Claim if You’re an Injured Passenger?
It’s likely that you have a case ahead of you. As an injured passenger, you do have some rights and that includes the right to compensation for your injuries. It’s not common that insurance companies will offer fair compensation to passengers so you will probably at least make it to mediation if not, a courtroom.
Your case will fall under the umbrella of personal injury law. Depending on the situation you may be up against one, two or even three insurance companies. In some rare cases, you may be put against your friend or family member that was driving or the other driver involved.
Insurance companies in these cases like to turn the tables and try to blame the passenger. Not sitting properly or distracting the driver are common allegations in the last-ditch effort to avoid making a payout. These defenses hardly ever hold up, get legal help to pursue your case.
What Happens if No One Wants to Settle a Claim?
There are times that an injured passenger will fall into some grey area between the involved insurance companies. A case may go to trial to determine which company will pay out for what percentage of compensation.
The issue that takes these cases to trial is often that neither side wants to settle because they believe the other company should pay. In Georgia, there is a partial fault where one driver could be 25% at fault and the other driver 75% at-fault. For injured passengers that don’t simply lead to one insurance company paying out 25% and the other 75%. These cases go to trial often and it can be hard for anyone to stand up to two large and intimidating companies.
Passenger Rights – An Auto Accident Lawyer in Georgia Should Cater To You
Every driver promises duty of care to everyone on the road when they are behind the wheel. That guarantee passes over to passengers too. Drivers with a license in the State of Georgia essentially promise to abide by traffic and safety laws while also practicing driving best practices and reacting safely in dangerous situations.
This duty of care gives passengers a stack of rights to work with when they are part of a crash. There are a few requirements that passengers must meet such as wearing a seatbelt and not actively distracting the driver.
What is the 50% Bar Rule?
The 50% bar rule ties right back into who is at fault. In Georgia, the driver most at-fault will carry the heaviest burden for compensation. However, there are some limitations that can make this difficult to navigate for passengers.
You cannot go after a driver who is at or below 50% at fault. That means that you don’t have access to their insurance coverage.
In the case that your friend or family member was substantially at-fault, you are likely going to get some compensation from them. Whereas if the other driver was mostly at-fault you’ll likely see some compensation from their insurance provider.
As mentioned above, partial fault or fault that falls into odd percentages can make for a bit of trouble. The 50% bar rule attempts to clear some of that for passengers by eliminating the lesser at-fault driver from the equation.
Fighting these issues is often a struggle that requires legal support.
Why Would Someone Investigate a Car Accident Claim?
Nearly every car accident claim goes through some level of investigation. The car insurance providers involved will want to ensure that everything is on the up and up and that you’re not filing a fraudulent claim. But there are specific red flags that can set off an in-depth investigation that can seriously delay your case.
For example, if your roommate or sibling hits your car with their car in your driveway, it could look like it was planned. Additionally, if your wreck fulfills any of the criteria for common fraud situations, they would initiate a deeper investigation.
Now, you can also launch your own investigation. In the event that you don’t agree with the insurance providers’ determination, you can file a claim dispute. That claim dispute will lead to people going through the investigation, performing an independent investigation of your crash and your claim handling, and more. It’s difficult for people to understand that they have the option to have their claim investigated, especially when it seems like the insurance companies hold all the cars.
If your insurance company refuses to process your claim dispute, then you can go further and take it to the state agency. The Office of Insurance and Safety Fire Commission is in charge of handling disputes between insurance providers and their clients.
Do Insurance Companies Investigate Claims?
Insurance companies do investigate claims, but those investigations are far from unbiased. In fact, when you look at it, it’s pretty clear that insurance investigators are looking for ways to get the company out of paying for the damage or claim.
The insurance adjusters and investigators will evaluate the different pieces of the collision. What they’re specifically looking for are fault and fraud. Fraud is fairly common, and insurance investigators are great at spotting it, mostly because people have been running the same scams for years. It’s not entirely clear how often they identify fraud, but it’s clear enough that it’s one of the things that they’re looking for when you take your car in for an appraisal.
Can You Hire a Car Accident Attorney in Atlanta to Investigate the Wreck?
You can bring on your own car accident attorney from Atlanta to do a thorough investigation. Your investigation can take a different approach. Typically an attorney will go through the investigation with a private or third-party. That means you have someone without an agenda looking at the crash, and the people involved. They may bring in numerous expects or employ someone to rebuild the crash.
Rebuilding the crash can help clear up any suspicions of fraud. Additionally, you can rely on a private investigator to review evidence objectively. The objective nature of an investigation and review will help establish the role of your vehicle and your actions in a wreck.
During the investigation process, it might seem extensive or even intrusive. But an investigation is almost always necessary. The result is that you should be able to showcase what happened and explain how it wasn’t your fault. Your insurance company’s investigation simply won’t be looking for those elements, and if anything, they’re looking for ways to get around paying anything at all.
If you have a dispute, then you need to take it over to the Office of Insurance and Safety Fire Commissioners Office. By filing a complaint and imploring them to do an investigation, you can get additional support.
Getting a Claim Moving Quickly
To get a claim moving quickly, you need a bit of a running start. If you happen to just call your insurance company and inform them of the crash, they might ask some roundabout questions to get a feel for how your claim should go. Unfortunately, this one-size-fits-all approach to claim handling means that complex claims will take much longer than necessary because they weren’t reviewed correctly.
Now, if you start your claim by going to your attorney first and then notifying the insurance company of the crash within the required time frame, you have a bit of a head start. To accomplish this, meet with a few local attorneys and decide which is right for you. Then work with them to draft a statement and a demand letter. You may give that statement over the phone, as most attorneys discourage their clients from providing a detailed written statement.
What to Do When Insurance Companies Drag Their Feet
Of course, there are times when a claim starts out perfectly well and then stalls. Insurance companies are known to drag their feet when there are certain elements at play. It’s possible that some of the injuries involved are not resolved or would require ongoing medical care, or that there’s trouble in calculating the loss of the vehicle.
In this instance, you might need to bring in a professional. If you sustained injuries requiring ongoing medical care, you might need to resource a medical expert or financial expert to calculate the demands of that ongoing care. Additionally, as there’s trouble with calculating the vehicle’s value, it might be worth bringing in a separate appraiser to support or contest the initial appraiser’s review.
Who Should Manage the Claim Process?
A lot of people are told when they are first learning to drive that insurance companies manage the claim process. However, very few people question why they’re handling the claim process when they’re the ones who are also losing money. The fact is that insurance companies don’t lose money, they handle it strategically to make their clients feel as though they’re getting a good payout and keeping as much money in their pocket as possible.
An attorney should handle the claim process because they don’t have any interest invested in the outcome other than your interest. An insurance company is simply not going to fight for your best interest because they have their own interest to worry about. The other insurance company involved for the at-fault driver surely won’t be looking out for what you need to get from this claim process. An attorney offers a third-party that’s working for you to get you the best possible outcome.
If you’re worried about getting the compensation that you need quickly, then involve an attorney early. But also make sure that they understand the restrictions within the claim and can use experts or other resources to keep the claim moving if there’s any delay.
Can You Claim Cosmetic Elements Such as Scratch and Dent Repair?
Basically, you will only have access to cosmetic repairs if you have collision or comprehensive coverage. Collision coverage will handle things like road debris, or scraping a fixed object. Those claims may make your insurance rates go up as they are sometimes seen as at-fault situations. For example, the road debris is often a not-at-fault situation, and the fixed objects likely will result in an at-fault determination.
Now comprehensive coverage can include anything from basic accidents to vandalism. For example, if someone keys your car, that’s vandalism and would fall under your comprehensive policy. Now a shopping car being strung along by the wind would not be vandalism but would still fall under the comprehensive plan if you have it.
Can You Prove the Scratches on Your Vehicle Weren’t there Before?
It is difficult to prove that a scratch wasn’t there before, but honestly, if you’ve had the coverage for a while, most policies won’t care. It’s when you suddenly switch from liability, and then the scratches look like a result of a wreck that they’ll question your coverage extent.
How Can You Have Scratches on Your Vehicle Without a Crash?
From shopping carts, mentioned earlier, to strong winds blowing a trashcan over onto your vehicle. There are many ways that cars get scratches and dents when parked. Someone can walk by with the keys dangling out of their pocket and not even realize that they scratched your vehicle. Additionally, a coworker could open their car door and hit your car, and never say anything.
The ways that cars get scratched and dinged are often the same way that your phone or glasses take damage over the years. Not only will you need to keep a careful eye out for new damages, but you should also have coverage that extends to cosmetic repairs.
What If The Insurance Company Refuses to Cover You?
Your car insurance company can choose not to renew your coverage if you’re a high-risk driver. But being a high-risk driver doesn’t just come from collisions. If anything, accidents are a secondary element in deducing your risk. What car insurance companies look for to determine someone as high-risk is accidents and tickets associated with speeding or driving recklessly. Additionally, if you have multiple DUIs, they may drop you or refuse coverage at the time of the wreck for your injuries and damage.
Everything that it comes down to is that if you’re not a high-risk driver, then you probably should worry about your insurance dropping you. The result is that a safe driver with nothing but misfortune can still retain their coverage without worrying that their police will end unexpectedly.
What is the Difference Between a First-Party Insurance Claim and a Third-Party Insurance Claim in Georgia?
There’s a distinct difference between a first party and third party insurance claim in Georgia. If you drive a car in Georgia, then you’re legally required to carry auto insurance. Some people choose to carry just liability insurance. This kind of policy only covers injuries that are caused to other people in a car accident.
If you have comprehensive coverage, it will cover damages sustained by anybody hurt in an accident, including you. The type of insurance you have usually depends on whether or not you own your car. If it’s still financed, you are required to carry full coverage. If you own your car outright, the decision to carry full coverage is up to you. Your Georgia car accident attorney will pursue the insurance policy of whoever was at fault.
When you are at fault, you’ll need to file a claim against your own policy. This is called a first-party claim. If the other driver was at fault, then you’ll have to file a claim against their policy.
This is why it’s important that you call 911 immediately after your car crash. They’ll do a thorough investigation of the crash scene. They’ll also put together a police report that indicates who they believe was at fault for the accident. This will help your attorney determine what sort of claim you need to file.
Why Would the Insurance Company Deny Your Car Accident Claim?
There are all sorts of reasons why an insurance company may deny your claim. The reasons are different depending on what sort of claim you’ve filed. If you filed a first-party claim, it could be denied for any of the following reasons:
- You didn’t pay your premiums and the policy was cancelled for non-payment
- You cancelled your policy
- The automobile you were driving was not listed on the policy
- You have a history of filing auto claims
- They do not think you were injured
Of course, if you’re filing a claim against the other driver’s policy, it’s a different story. This is called a third-party claim. Usually, this is the sort of claim that an Atlanta personal injury lawyer would handle. If you’re not at fault, there’s a better chance that you’ll have a valid insurance claim for damages. If your third-party claim is denied, it could be for any of the following reasons:
- The insurance adjustor believes you were at fault
- You failed to submit the proper paperwork
- You didn’t report the claim in a timely fashion
- You weren’t injured or they think you’re exaggerating your injuries
If your insurance claim is denied, let your Georgia personal injury attorney know this. They can reach out to the insurance adjustor and find out the reason for the denial. They can also try to negotiate payment of your claim. If this isn’t possible, you’ll have no choice but to file a lawsuit against the defendant.
Evaluate Your Damages Independently
When it comes to property damage, you will need to specifically look at your car’s value (before and after the crash), and the estimated cost of repairs. It can be a challenge to do this if it looks like your car will register as a total loss. However, when you’re evaluating the damage of your claim independently, you can adjust for a total loss.
When evaluating the total loss, most insurance companies will pay the “book” value at most. You will never receive more than blue book value, but you also shouldn’t expect to receive full book value without a battle. Most insurance companies will pay about 75% of book value for a vehicle.
Knowing the evaluation of your car’s value can drastically change your claim. For example, you could easily argue that if your car were pieced off that the value of the parts is worth more than the car in its whole state.
If it’s possible, have a local mechanic that is not affiliated directly with the insurance provider to provide a repairs estimate.
Understand the Differences in Costs and Charges
The costs and charges that an adjuster will estimate could vary drastically from what you have to handle at the end of the day. For many, this is shocking, but experienced adjusters will always know from the start that the costs they receive and the charges normal individuals receive are drastically different.
How this works is that you may receive a bill from a medical network for say, $8,500. That included a night in the hospital and diagnostic testing. However, the costs negotiated with an insurance company are much different.
The different costs happen because medical networks and insurance companies will usually negotiate the charges to much lower levels.
Although it should be easy to get compensation for medical bills, the exact amount is hard to pin down. Additionally, there’s the challenge of not receiving bills after the claims settle for other outstanding elements of medical care.
Bring Up Your Estimates and Charges During Negotiations
As you begin to enter into settlement negotiations, you’ll want to have a clear outline of what your medical network wants to charge you. They may receive a drastically different figure, but they aren’t going to discuss that outright until you start talking about your charges. Usually, this isn’t something sorted through unless the victim starts talking dollar amounts first.
Additionally, negotiations are the time to talk about your repair estimate and the exact value of your car. One of the great opportunities that arise during negotiations is the ability to talk about value.
Negotiations will likely not result in you getting everything you want, but it should definitely cover all of your damages for medical charges and the damage to your property. You can fight the use of generalized calculations that don’t include elements such as pain and suffering or emotional distress.
Should You Get an Atlanta Automobile Crash Attorney to Represent Your Claim?
If you have already decided not to tell your insurance company, then you may be outside of your window to submit it for compensation. After a crash, you may still have options available to pursue compensation as long as you weren’t the one at fault. Talk to a local Atlanta automobile crash law firm and learn what you can do even if you may have gone past the date to file your claim.
The Weinstein Firm helps individuals pursue options to financially and legally recover from a crash. This often means handling odd or unexpected situations with notifying the insurance providers and working around issues that the driver may not have known would be a serious problem.