The Car Accident Do’s and Don’ts
If you were injured in a vehicle accident and have not yet hired an attorney, there are several important car accident do’s and don’ts which may help you resolve your claim.
Get Your Car Damage Claim Resolved
Under the Washington Insurance Commissioner’s regulations, the liability insurer for the at-fault party is required to try to resolve your claim for vehicle damages if liability is “reasonably clear.” This means if the other party was cited by the investigating police officer, the other party’s insurance company is required to make a good-faith effort to resolve your claim for damages to your vehicle.
First, get an estimate for the repairs to your vehicle. You have the right to choose the repair shop, which does not have to be the one chosen by the insurance company. The repair shop will give you an estimate for the repair of your vehicle, and will also typically provide the liability carrier with a copy of the estimate. Occasionally, the insurance company will negotiate with the repair shop over what should be paid to fix your car. The other party’s insurance company is also required to provide a rental vehicle for you while repairs are being done.
If the estimate for the repair of the vehicle exceeds the “fair market value” of your vehicle, then your vehicle is considered a “total loss.” In that case, the insurance company is required to pay you the value of your vehicle, and you will usually receive an offer from them to that effect. You are not required to accept this offer, and can negotiate with the insurance company to obtain fair compensation for the loss of your vehicle. You can investigate the value of your vehicle by contacting a car dealer in your area, or through sources like Kelley Blue Book.
If you cannot reach what you believe to be a fair resolution of your property damage, you have the right to submit your property loss to your own auto insurance. If you have collision coverage on your policy, your carrier is required to pay you for the damage to your vehicle even if the collision was the fault of the other party. Your insurance carrier is entitled to deduct the collision deductible on your policy, and is also required to recover that deductible from the other party’s insurance company for you.
If the other party has no insurance, you can recover your property damage if you have coverage, but make sure you are charged the standard $100 deductible and not the collision deductible.
Get Medical Attention
If you were injured in the collision, do not delay seeking medical care. Any delay in seeking medical attention means you may not get necessary care which could hinder your recovery, or compromise your injury claim.
Follow Your Doctor’s Directions
Carefully follow your health care provider’s recommendations and suggestions. If your primary care doctor refers you to physical therapy, or prescribes medication, follow through on those orders. Not doing so could result in your injury worsening, and could compromise your injury claim.
Don’t Give a Statement to the Other Party’s Insurance Company
You are not required to give a recorded statement to the other party’s insurance company, and in fact, doing so without an attorney’s assistance could compromise your claim. Normally, you are required to cooperate with your own insurance company, which might involve giving a statement, but it’s always best to consult an attorney before giving any statement.
Don’t Give the Insurance Company a Medical Records Release
You are not required to give the other party’s insurance company a release to obtain your medical records, and any request should first be reviewed by an attorney. Your own insurance company might ask to obtain your medical records in order to get your medical bills paid under your Personal Injury Protection (PIP) coverage. Again, always consult with an attorney first.
Don’t File Bankruptcy
If you were injured in a collision, you may incur substantial medical bills and you may be unable to work. While this creates a financial hardship for you, do not be tempted to file bankruptcy without first talking with an attorney. Your personal injury claim could be lost or severely compromised if you file bankruptcy.
Stay Off Social Media
Anything you post on social media is likely to be used against you on your personal injury claim. Obviously, you should be very careful not to post anything related to your accident or your injuries.
Medical Bills Should First be Paid by Your Auto Carrier
In Washington State, your auto insurance is required to provide Personal Injury Protection (PIP), which includes a minimum of $10,000 of medical coverage. This coverage is considered primary. Your medical bills must first be submitted to PIP, and not to your medical insurer until after you have exhausted your PIP. The other party’s insurance company will typically not pay your medical bills until you’re ready to settle your entire claim.
Don’t Sign a Release
Once you give a release for your claim to the other party’s insurance company, your claim cannot be reopened. You shouldn’t sign a release until you are certain that you’re ready to resolve the entire injury claim, and it’s always best to consult an attorney before doing so.
Remember the Three-Year Statute of Limitations
In Washington state, there is typically a three-year statute of limitations for your injury claim. This means that if you do not resolve your claim within three years of the date of your injury, your claim will be barred. You should keep this in mind and consult with an attorney well before the three-year anniversary of your collision. Waiting until months or weeks before the three-year anniversary might prove difficult in getting representation on your claim. There are different limitation periods in other states, such as a two-year limitation period in Oregon.
Don’t Over-Treat Your Injuries
The type and frequency of your treatment should be decided by you and your health care provider. You should, however, be wary of continuing treatment that is not helping you recover. Running up treatment expenses can have an adverse impact on the value of your injury claim. Unfortunately, there are some providers who can go through $10,000 of PIP coverage in a few months.
Consult An Attorney
If you have any injury from an auto collision, even if you think you have a very small or insignificant claim, you should consult with a qualified personal injury attorney who will provide an initial consultation free of charge. It’s best to take advantage of this expertise to protect your claim. At Abeyta Nelson, we pride ourselves on providing solid legal advice to anyone who contacts our office regarding a personal injury claim. You will never be charged if we do not take your case, or if you choose not to hire us. You won’t owe us anything unless you win your case.
-blog written by attorney Rod Nelson, Abeyta Nelson Injury Law