- How to Deal with an Insurance Company: Best Practices After an Auto Accident
How to Deal with an Insurance Company: Best Practices After an Auto Accident
In a no-fault state like Michigan, you might imagine that you’ll only have to deal with your own insurance company after an accident. That’s because the state’s no-fault system was intended to eliminate the need to deal with another driver’s insurance company (or to sue other drivers) following an accident. However, if you have been seriously injured in a crash due to the negligence of another driver, you also may be able to sue the negligent driver for noneconomic and excess economic damages resulting from the crash. This means that you will have to deal with your insurance company to cover economic damages (think medical bills and other necessary services) and the negligent driver’s insurance company for noneconomic (think pain and suffering) and excess economic damages.
Earlier this year, we discussed how to deal with insurance adjusters following an accident. But they aren’t the only insurance company representatives you may encounter when you’ve been hurt. In this article, we’ll offer advice on handling conversations you may have with other insurance company employees – including their lawyers – as well as the individuals who caused your injuries.
First off, it’s important to recognize that as friendly as these folks might seem in person (and they’re likely to be exactly that under different circumstances), they do represent the “other side” in what could eventually become a courtroom battle. So, we always advise our clients to take great care in these instances. The old saying, “Loose lips sink ships,” is good to keep in mind here. Anything you say in the heated moments right after an accident can come back to haunt you, so it’s best to be careful about your words, and to whom you speak, following an accident.
For instance, in our daily lives it’s almost automatic to say, “I’m fine,” when you’re asked how you feel, even if you’re not really doing well at the time. It’s only natural, since we’ve all been programmed from a young age to respond positively to friendly greetings. But don’t give in to that temptation following a car crash. If you’re hurt, don’t be afraid to admit it openly to first responders, police officers, and anyone who witnessed your accident. After all, in this situation, you likely need all the medical care and help you can get!
Beyond that, let’s answer a few frequently asked questions concerning how to effectively protect yourself and those you love when interacting with a variety of key players following a serious accident.
How Should I Handle the Person Who Caused the Accident?
Try to minimize contact with others at the accident scene. It’s okay to be polite, check to see if others are hurt, or make a call to 911 for emergency assistance. But beyond that, you should step away from other people involved in the accident to reduce the chances of conflict and prevent yourself from doing or saying anything that could result in legal issues down the line. Unless you’re personally endangered by oncoming traffic or the condition of your vehicle, it’s usually best (and safest) to remain in or near your own vehicle until law enforcement and medical first responders are on the scene.
When Should I Call My Insurance Company?
The very first call you should make after an auto accident is always to 911 to get emergency help there as soon as possible. Not long after that, though, it’s wise to alert your insurance company about what happened so they can begin arranging assistance such as towing your car to a repair facility, getting a rental vehicle, and helping you deal with the medical and financial aftermath of the accident. Your auto insurance benefits are there for a reason – so don’t be afraid to use them.
When Should I Call a Personal Injury Lawyer?
If you or someone in your vehicle have been hurt in the accident, a good personal injury lawyer should be high on your list of people to call almost immediately. That’s because you’ll need someone on your side to help you deal with even seemingly minor issues. Remember that injuries may not immediately manifest in the adrenaline rush that follows a traumatic event… but in the hours, days and weeks following a collision, they can become painfully obvious. It’s always wise to have your own attorney involved as soon as possible to be sure your interests are represented and your loved ones are protected.
How Should I Address Questions from Someone Else’s Lawyer?
Our advice is to never talk with another lawyer unless you’re in the presence of your own attorney who’ll look out for you, prevent you from oversharing, and shut down any excessive questions. The phrase you may have heard on Law and Order, “anything you say can and will be used against you in a court of law,” definitely applies here. When you’re being interviewed by a lawyer or anyone else from the opposing side’s insurance company, be sure to answer their questions honestly, but without offering any additional information beyond what they’ve requested.
What About My Health Insurance Company?
Depending on the type of accident and injuries you experience, your medical bills might be handled by your car insurance company, your health insurance carrier, or both working together. Some people also purchase insurance policies specifically designed to cover medical and hospitalization costs resulting from accidental injuries. Your personal injury lawyer can help you work through the complexities of these various types of insurance coverage, including understanding the Personal Injury Protection (PIP) benefits included in your no-fault car insurance policy. Remember that since 2020 those benefit requirements have changed in Michigan, so it’s more important than ever to have a clear understanding of your auto insurance policy. As we’ve said here numerous times, we recommend always choosing unlimited PIP coverage. Check with your insurance agent to be sure that’s the case for your policy.
Should I Agree to Be Recorded by the Other Side’s Representatives?
Absolutely not. There’s only one reason an insurance company’s representative or lawyer might ask to record your statement, and that’s to gather “evidence in reducing the value of your claim later on.” So, the answer to this question should be obvious: Don’t agree to be recorded by an opponent’s insurance company under any circumstances. On the other hand, if your own attorneys wish to take a recorded statement or deposition to use on your behalf, that’s perfectly fine. Our advice in this situation is always to be open, honest, and consistent in whatever you say. The truth doesn’t change, but getting caught in a lie can be devastating (not to mention that lying under oath is a felony crime called perjury, which can result in up to 15 years in prison).
What Else Should I Know?
Another expression comes to mind here: You don’t know what you don’t know. Fortunately, most people aren’t involved in car accidents very often. So, they’re not particularly well- prepared to deal with all the issues we’ve discussed in this article. But, as personal injury lawyers, we deal with these situations every single day. Which means it’s smart to have our number handy if you ever find yourself involved in a crash — 855-MIKE-WINS (855-645-3946). We can also be reached by text message at 833-898-MIKE (833-898-6453) or online 24/7. After an accident, things can get confusing fast, so put these numbers in your contact list today.