Within a few days after you are involved in a car accident in Austin, an adjuster from your insurance company or the other driver's insurer will likely call you to discuss what happened. It may seem like a routine call. You may not even think twice about taking it and talking with the adjuster.
However, you should be careful. What you say to the insurance adjuster can have a major impact on the outcome of your claim and, in turn, it could have a major impact on your life after an accident.
Why Should You Watch What You Say to an Insurance Company?
Texas follows a "proportionate responsibility" system. It can also be called a modified comparative fault system or the "51 percent rule." In our state, if you are 51 percent or more at fault for your auto accident, you can be barred from recovering anything for your losses. Otherwise, you can recover damages even if you are partially at fault, but your damages will be reduced in proportion to your degree of fault.
For example, let's say you are in a car accident in Austin or a nearby area. You suffer $100,000 in damages. It is determined that you are 51 percent at fault. As a result, you would be prevented from recovering any compensation.
However, if you were found to be 25 percent at fault, you could recover compensation. Your compensation would be reduced by 25 percent. So, the most you could recover would be $75,000 in damages.
So, any insurance company that speaks with you is likely looking for information that can be used to either deny your claim or minimize what you recover.
In fact, many people believe that the primary role of the insurance adjuster is to find ways to offer you as little money as possible, which will save the insurance company as much money as possible.
Tips for Dealing with Auto Insurance Companies
First, let's discuss how to approach dealing with the other driver's insurance company. If a claims adjuster from that company calls you, you should not accept a settlement offer or give a recorded statement until you have spoken with your lawyer first. A settlement offer may be for far less than what your claim is actually worth. A recorded statement could end up being used against you.
For instance, the insurance adjuster may take a statement you make as an admission of fault - even if it is not as obvious as saying, "I did it." For instance, if you admit to any error whatsoever that could have contributed to the accident, it could be used against you. Additionally, saying "sorry" could be construed as an admission that you did something wrong.
The best practice is to simply decline to speak with the other driver's insurance company. Instead, refer the insurance company to your lawyer from Byrd Davis Alden & Henrichson, LLP.
Of course, your own insurance policy may require you to report your accident within a certain period of time after it occurs. You should make sure to comply with this requirement.
However, when you report your accident to your insurance company, stick to the facts. Do not give any information that is non-essential or that you are unsure about such as how fast you were traveling at the time of the accident.
Also, do not make any admission of guilt and do not assign blame to the other driver, either. You should not give a recorded statement.
Should You Use Insurance Company Apps?
Many insurance companies are now offering mobile applications (apps) that those involved in a wreck can use to report their accident. These apps have some benefits. For instance, they provide detailed checklists. They also provide a way to record important information such as the make and model of any other vehicle involved in the crash.
However, these apps not perfect. Perhaps the biggest downside with these apps is that they do not allow you to communicate directly with another person, and the small text on these apps can be hard to read, increasing the risk of error during use. Making a mistake in the information that you input could come back to haunt you as you pursue compensation for your losses.
Reasons Why Your Insurance Claim May Be Denied
INCOMPLETE OR MISSING PAPERWORK
Being covered by your insurance policy could draw the line between recovering physically and financially, and being buried further down in debt. Insurance companies require you to accomplish and submit paperwork to have your claims processed, so it is of utmost importance to ensure that they are complete and accurate. It may seem overwhelming, especially if the accident's effects are still being felt by the victim and possibly, his or her family, but remember that this is an important step that could help you a great deal if done right. Insurance companies won't fill out the information for you - so make sure that you fill it out completely to ensure it doesn't get rejected due to incomplete information.
Just as there are statutes related to the period of time that a victim can file a lawsuit for personal injury, the same applies for insurance companies. If you wait too long after the accident, then it is more likely that your claim will also be denied.
Not only will lying on an insurance claim make you a candidate for rejection, but it is also a crime to do so. Don't aggravate your problem with the possibility of being imprisoned for falsifying information.
NOT COMPLYING WITH TREATMENT
If you do not follow through with the prescribed treatments to help your injuries heal, then there is also a possibility that your claim will be denied. Insurance companies know their way around injuries, conditions and the treatment methods needed for them. If you file for financial assistance to help support your treatment and yet not attend, then the insurance company should see no reason to give you the assistance that you are asking for.
THE INSURANCE COMPANY'S DOCTOR SAYS OTHERWISE
When you file for a claim, you indicate the treatment methods and other medical procedures recommended by your personal doctor to have it covered. Insurance companies will then have their own resident doctors take a look and see if they agree with what you have indicated. If they do agree, then it is likely that the claim will be approved. However, they might have other ideas in mind that would work better for your situation, causing a rejection of your claim.
5 Factors that Increase Your Insurance Rates
ADDING A TEEN DRIVER TO YOUR PLAN
Insurance companies know that teenage drivers are prone to accidents. The inexperience of a teenage driver combined with poor judgment become a recipe for automobile accidents on the road. Teenage drivers are learning every time they venture onto the road, because of this they are prone to make mistakes or cause accidents involving other drivers. For these reasons once you add your teenage driver to your plan your premium may spike. Any risk perceived by the insurance company will result in increases on your rates.
TRAFFIC VIOLATIONS OR ACCIDENTS
Involvement in previous automobile accidents and/or traffic tickets may increase your insurance rates. Most insurance companies will complete a background check on you, during this process they will check for any traffic violations or accidents you were involved in. If you have been involved in previous accidents or received tickets your insurance premiums may be higher. Additionally, involvement in accidents while insured might also increase your insurance rates for the following years. This same outcome is reserved for receiving traffic tickets.
PURCHASING A NEW CAR
Newer models of vehicles cost more to replace than older models. Replacing the bumper of your 2014 Toyota Camry will be more expensive than a 1997 model. Additionally, newer cars have a higher market value than older models. Insurance companies understand that if you get into an accident with the newer model car it may be difficult not only find the parts but also more expensive to purchase them.
Generally, married drivers with children are less likely to drive recklessly. Insurance companies often assume that if drivers have their children strapped into vehicles they will be more cautious on the road. Drivers with spouses and children are more inclined to follow traffic laws and avoid traffic accidents. Insured drivers who are unmarried and without children are considered high risk and pay higher premiums, especially men under the age of 25.
TYPE OF AUTOMOBILE
Your insurance rates may increase or decrease depending on the type of vehicle you drive. It is true that if you own a red flashy sports car your premium rates may spike for many reasons. These type of cars are stolen more frequently and often remain on the radar for law enforcement, making you more susceptible to traffic tickets. Safer cars or "family cars" such as SVU's usually have lower premium rates for obvious reasons.
Reach Out to an Austin Car Accident Lawyer
If you have more questions about the claims process or how to deal with an insurance adjuster, you should ask your lawyer rather than the insurance company.
A lawyer can also advise you about whether to accept a settlement, negotiate for a different offer or, if necessary, take your case to court.
Your attorney can also gather and organize evidence that can be used to establish your right to recover compensation and the amount of compensation you should seek.
Failing to file your claim with an insurance company on time or making an error when speaking with an insurance adjuster can be costly.
Giving a statement, signing over your medical records or accepting a settlement offer that is way too low are all big mistakes. The damage of these errors can be extremely difficult - if not impossible - to undo.
Before you get in over your head after an Austin car crash, contact an experienced lawyer who can guide you through the entire process step by step.
At Byrd Davis Alden & Henrichson, LLP, our experienced team will work hard on your behalf to help you pursue the settlement you deserve. Contact us today to schedule a free case consultation.