I was in a car crash. What is the Insurance Company Going to Fix?

Auto insurance is a legal requirement in Texas. If you’re driving in Teas, then you are legally required to have insurance on your vehicle. This is to help you if there are any issues with your car, but more importantly, it’s to make sure that there’s coverage in place if you’re in an accident and someone gets hurt in the car crash.

When you’re in a car crash and there are injuries, it’s best to get insurance involved as soon as possible. It’s also a good idea to call an accident attorney - someone who has the first-hand experience in answering the questions specific to your case.

The first thing that you’ll need to figure out is: who’s fault was the accident? Now, this may seem like an obvious answer. But you have to keep traffic laws in mind. For example, if you were turning left in an intersection because you thought the coast was clear and the other driver sped recklessly through the intersection hitting you, chances are that you’ll be faulted for the wreck – at least partially. This is because according to traffic laws, it was your duty to yield the right-of-way to the other driver.

So, why is this important? Well, it’s important because the insurance company will only pay for damages caused in an accident if their driver is determined to be the cause of the crash. If you caused the wreck, then the insurance company is not going to pay for anything, and you will be out of pocket for your injuries. Not only that, but your insurance company will have to pay for their injuries and property damage. Keep in mind that sometimes it’s tricky to find out who is to blame for the accident, and it is possible that both drivers will be at fault, which raises a whole bunch of other questions. If you have any questions of feel like you need someone to help you fight the insurance company, most car accident attorneys offer free consultations.

I Didn’t Cause the Crash. Why Does the Insurance Company get to do their Own Investigation?

It’s incredibly common to experience frustration after the wreck. After all, you were just minding your own business and now your world is turned upside down and you’re spending hours on end at doctor appointments, trying to get the adjuster on the phone, and fighting with the mechanic. It’s completely understandable why you’re upset. But you have to keep in mind that while you actually experienced the car accident, the insurance company did not. They have to do their own search to find out all the facts. This includes getting a copy of the police report, interviewing all parties involved, interviewing any witnesses, inspecting the scene of the accident, and the damage done for both vehicles. Additionally, under most policies, the insured has an obligation to cooperate with their insurance company’s investigation. If the driver is not responsive, the insurance company will often push off making a decision regarding liability until they can reach them.

While they investigate the crash, the insurance company will not put you into a rental car, pay for you get your car fixed, or pay for your injuries until they’ve made a decision. Even if they agree that their driver caused the crash, they still have a right to investigate coverage – i.e. make sure that there wasn’t a lapse in the policy and that the person driving the vehicle was actually covered under the policy.

Ok. The Insurance Company Agreed to Pay My Claim for the Car Crash. What Do they Have to Pay for?

Once coverage and liability have been established, the law outlines what you’re entitled to recover after an accident.

Property Damage

One of the big things that insurance companies need to take care of is your vehicle. They are obligated to either repair the car or offer to pay the fair market value of the vehicle based on the condition it was in prior to the crash if they determine it is a total loss. When insurance companies make a total loss offer, they should provide you with a breakdown of their offer. The breakdown will include several comparable vehicles in your area and what they’re being sold for. If they made any deductions to the offer based on the condition of your car, the deductions will be itemized in the report as well.

You may be surprised to learn that they also have to pay for other property that was damaged in the crash. This includes anything and everything from cell phones, car seats, guitars, etc. Be prepared! If you intend to claim miscellaneous property, then you need to be prepared to prove that you had it with you in the car and what it will cost you to replace. Usually, photos of the damaged property are sufficient to prove that the item needs to be replaced, but every case is different and it’s best to speak with an accident attorney about the specifics of your case.

Rental Car

While your car is being repaired, the insurance company needs to put you into a rental car of equal caliber that your vehicle was. If you drove a minivan, they should put you into a rental car that can seat as many people as you did in the minivan. Usually, they will offer the smallest, compact car initially and it is up to you (or your attorney) to push back and demand a different vehicle.

Loss of Use

You are also entitled to be compensated for the loss of use of your vehicle – i.e. the time that you spent without a vehicle from the day of the crash up to and until you get your car repaired or they make you a total loss offer.

It’s important to know that once you settle the property damage claim, it’s incredibly difficult to go back and ask for more. They’re not obligated to pay you for something unless you ask for it. If you’re wondering whether or not they shorted you in an offer, you can call a car accident attorney and get a free consultation.

Past Medical Bills and Pain and Suffering

Most people know that if you’re injured in an accident, the insurance company has to pay for your medical bills. What many people might not know, is that this matter can get very tricky, very fast. Oftentimes insurance companies will argue that you either “over-treated” or that your doctors “over-charged” you for the treatment you received. Insurance companies will rarely ever offer to pay the full value of your medical bills. Most car accident attorneys are accustomed to fighting those exact arguments.

In addition to your medical bills, they owe you compensation for the pain and suffering you experienced while you recovered from your injuries. This is difficult to quantify and there is no hard and fast rule about how much money you’re entitled to for pain and suffering. Again, this is where it helps to have an accident attorney that has experience trying a case like yours in your jurisdiction to give you an idea of what a jury may award in your case.

Economic Damages

They should also pay for your economic damages. For most people, this means the amount of wages you missed out on because you had to take time off of work due to your injuries. They also should reimburse you for mileage to/from your doctor appointments and any income lost from side jobs that you were not able to perform due to your injuries. Again, this is something that insurance companies will often argue and try to short you on so it’s best to have as much documentation as possible to support your claim – i.e. pay stubs, timesheets, unfilled contracts, etc.

Future Medical Expenses and Pain and Suffering

Some accidents result in permanent, catastrophic injuries. If that’s the case, then the insurance company needs to pay for future medical expenses and pain and suffering. In order to recover future medical expenses, you’ll need a doctor to testify as to what treatment you will need in the future and what that treatment is likely to cost. Most doctors will tell you what you need but are hesitant to write it down. This is – yet another – incident in which it helps to have an experienced accident attorney on your side.

Permanent Disfigurement and Physical Impairment

Lastly, if your injuries resulting in scarring or permanent impairment, then the law says you’re entitled to be compensated for that as well. Permanent disfigurement is proven through photographs and personal testimony. A medical professional is usually the best evidence to testify as to any lasting physical impairments along with your personal testimony. Again, you should hire an accident attorney to put on the strongest evidence and demand that the insurance company pays you what you’re legally entitled to after a crash.

How Long Will My Personal Injury Case Take?

Your case will be broken out into two parts: 1) the property damage claim and 2) the bodily injury claim. The property damage claim usually resolves before your injury claim. Insurance companies can (and do) put off settling your property damage claim, but they’re legally required to make it right. If they’re dragging their feet, call an attorney to get involved.

Everybody’s injury case is different. In some instances, your treatment might be over and finished within just a few weeks. Usually, you’ll want to wait until your injuries are resolved before negotiating with the insurance company. This is for your own benefit. What if your injuries are more extensive than you realize, and your doctor doesn’t tell you for a few weeks? If you accept a settlement with the insurance company within the week of the wreck, you won’t be able to get more after finding out things are worse than you realized.

Making sure that you’re properly compensated for your injuries may take time. It’s important to be patient. The worst thing you can do is rush the process and then realize that you have life-long injuries that you settled for pennies of what you deserved.

Can’t I Just Accept What They’re Offering Now?

Insurance companies will sometimes come in right after the wreck, or in the following days, and make you an offer. This is called a “swoop and settle.” This can apply to both your property damage and injury claim. They know that your case is worth more. They’re offering you something now in the hopes that you’ll take it.

Once you accept an offer from the insurance company, your case is over. You cannot go back and ask for more. The insurance adjuster will often try and make you an offer appealing enough to accept to trap you into not receiving justice for what you went through. Be warned! Accepting an offer over the phone is often binding even if you change your mind and don’t cash the check.

While you are at liberty to accept the offer you’re given before the full extent of your damages is known, you shouldn’t! There’s probably a reason why they’re trying to get you to settle your case: they’re worried that you’ll get more from them in the future.

Can I Get Anything Now?

You might. As discussed, your property damage claim should resolve sooner than your bodily injury claim. If you have questions about money in your pocket for any part of the property damage claim, you should ask your attorney. Make sure you’ve accounted for all property damage.

As far as your bodily injury claim goes, it’s best to accept that it may take a while. The more patient you are, usually the better the results will be. Focus on your treatment and on getting better. Be honest with your doctor about symptoms and pain. Help your case by focusing on healing. Remember, a fast settlement is rarely ever a fair settlement.

As always, if you have any questions at all you should call an attorney to discuss the specific details of your case. Most accident attorneys offer free consultations. McKinney Vos is open 24/7. Call us today to schedule your consultation!