Filing an Auto Insurance Claim: What to Expect
If you are like most people in New York, car accidents leave you wondering what to do. In addition to obtaining prompt and effective medical care if you have been injured, you will need to deal with your insurance company. Unfortunately, this can turn even a minor fender bender into a major challenge and require you to spend significant time to get the benefits you thought you had paid for with your insurance premiums.
Having some information in advance can help with the process. Not all auto insurance policies are alike, and so the suggestions that follow may not apply in all cases. However, knowing what might happen can eliminate unpleasant surprises as you seek compensation for property damage, medical expenses, and other costs of the crash.
What to Do After an Accident to Help Your Insurance Claim
The information that you’re able to gather immediately after a car accident can be crucial for an insurance claim. During the claims process, your insurance company will likely ask you for various details including the names of those involved, where and when the accident occurred, as well as the weather and road conditions at the time of the accident, among other details. Without this information as well as photos and reports to provide as evidence, it can be more difficult to receive adequate compensation. Try to follow the following steps right after an accident:
- Call 9-1-1 and have an officer create a police report.
- Exchange contact information with the other driver(s) involved.
- Gather evidence from the accident scene, including photos and/or videos.
What if I Live in a No-Fault State?
In some states, including New York, there are no-fault laws that allow car accident victims to receive insurance coverage up to a certain amount for injuries, car damage, and other costs related to the auto accident, regardless of who was at fault. As explained by the New York Department of Financial Services, the purpose of no-fault insurance is to return all individuals injured in auto accidents to health as soon as possible. All drivers with vehicles registered in no-fault states are required to have no-fault insurance, also referred to as personal injury protection (PIP). In New York State, no-fault insurance benefits provide up to $50,000 for each individual involved in a car accident, including the driver, passengers in the vehicle, and any pedestrians who may have been injured by the car.
It is important to note that, under most policies, an individual will be considered ineligible for no-fault benefits if:
- The individual was driving while impaired by drugs or alcohol at the time of the accident
- The individual intentionally caused their own injuries
- The individual was a driver or passenger on an all-terrain vehicle or motorcycle
- The person was injured while committing a felony
- The person was injured in a vehicle they knew to be stolen
- The vehicle is uninsured
In New York State, you must file a no-fault insurance claim within 30 days of your accident. Failure to do so may cause the insurance company to refuse to pay for your medical expenses and lost wages.
If you are a pedestrian that was injured by a motorist’s vehicle, you should file your claim with the insurance company that covers the car that struck you. If you do not have contact information for the offending driver, or if the vehicle was uninsured, you should file a claim with your own auto insurer. If you do not have your own auto insurance policy, but are covered by a family member’s policy, you can file a claim through their policy. Pedestrians who were injured by an uninsured driver or in a hit-and-run accident that are not covered by any auto policy should promptly file a claim with the Motor Vehicle Accident Indemnification Corporation.
You may also want to consider whether a personal injury lawsuit is the best way to recover the full value of your lost income. This will depend on the extent of your injuries and the duration of your disability. If the costs related to your accident exceed your policy limit, it is possible to take legal action against the other driver if they are at fault for the accident and you sustained a serious injury. Serious injuries are defined in Section 5102(d) of the New York Insurance Law as including “a personal injury which results in death; dismemberment; significant disfigurement; a fracture; loss of fetus; permanent loss of use of an organ” among other types of injuries.
If you wish to sue the other driver for your injuries, it may be in your best interest to contact one of our experienced personal injury lawyers to assist you with the legal process.
The personal injury lawyers at Block O’Toole & Murphy have a proven track record helping victims of auto accidents. Results include a $32 million verdict for a man who was seriously injured when he was struck by an impaired driver as well as a $22,500,000 settlement for a driver who sustained injuries in a head-on collision. To speak with a BOM lawyer, call 212-736-5300.
The Auto Insurance Claims Process
The process of filing an accident claim with your auto insurance company is pretty straightforward. First, call your insurance company to start the claims process. Respond to the insurance company’s adjuster who will ask for a wide range of information. He or she may want a copy of the police report, the names of witnesses, and a medical records release if you or another party were treated for injuries. This is why it is crucial to gather all of this information when the accident first happens.
Next, obtain quotes for the cost to repair your car. You can have the damage repaired at any shop you wish, but keep in mind that your insurance company has a list of approved repair shops. If you choose to have the repairs done at shop that is not approved by your insurer, you may have to pay the difference between the amount charged by the mechanic or body shop and the amount the insurance company pays.
The insurance company may simply pay the mechanic or body shop, or it may send you a settlement offer. If you believe that the settlement offer is inadequate, don’t hesitate to tell the adjuster, who usually has the authority to increase the amount offered up to a certain threshold.
If you cannot come to an agreement with the adjuster, you can take your case to the adjuster’s supervisor. Depending on the provisions of your policy, you may also seek a mediated settlement or submit your claim to binding arbitration. You may be able to have the matter resolved in small claims court if the disputed amount falls within the criteria for such cases.
Know the provisions and requirements of your auto insurance policy. In New York, you must carry liability insurance to cover injury, death, and property damage. The coverage must be provided by a New York-approved insurance company if your vehicle is registered in the state. It cannot lapse, and it must always be in the name of the person or persons registered as the owner(s). New York law requires the following minimum amount of liability insurance:
- $25,000 for bodily injury to an individual
- $50,000 for bodily injury to all persons
- $10,000 for property damage in any one accident
- $50,000 “no-fault” coverage
Remember, the insurance company is primarily interested in maximizing its bottom line. This means that you need to protect your interests carefully when dealing with the adjuster and others representing the company. Verify everything your agent or the adjuster tells you by consulting an attorney or other knowledgeable advocate. You also should make sure you file your claim within the correct time period and sign nothing – especially a waiver – until you understand it thoroughly.
The statute of limitations for filing a claim is generally 2 to 3 years, though some insurance companies will only pay for repair costs in the year in which the accident occurred. It is best to contact your insurance company promptly after getting into a car accident.
Finally, only accept payment as full and final if you really believe you have been fairly compensated for your losses. Once you have received and cashed a check, it will become much harder to obtain additional benefits. Even if you need the money, it is best to not accept any payments if you believe that the amount does not cover your damages. Again, a knowledgeable accident and injury lawyer can help you.
Contacting a Skilled Auto Injury Lawyer
The legal process can be complex and difficult, especially while trying to cope with the consequences of an auto accident. Having an experienced car accident attorney can be a tremendous help to receive the compensation that you deserve. The lawyers at Block O’Toole & Murphy are here to help. Results for auto accident victims include:
- $32,756,156 record-breaking verdict for a Vietnam veteran who was struck by an impaired driver
- $22,500,000 settlement a driver who sustained serious injuries in a head-on collision caused by icy road conditions
- $20,181,484 verdict for a driver who was injured in a collision with another vehicle caused by icy road conditions
- $14,000,000 jury verdict in a Long Island case for a motorcyclist who was struck by a truck attempting to make a left turn
- $7,525,000 settlement for the surviving family of a mother and son who were fatally injured in a Long Island collision
- $5,500,000 settlement for a driver who was hurt when a semi-truck sideswiped his vehicle
- $4,250,000 settlement for a driver who suffered injuries requiring surgery when his vehicle was rear-ended in Westchester County