It’s a nightmare scenario – you’ve been injured in a car accident that wasn’t your fault. Your medical bills are piling up, you’ve already had to miss time at work, and the insurance company is calling you left and right.
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If you’ve taken the proper steps and gathered all the necessary information from the other driver at the scene of the accident, you should be ready to file a claim with the at-fault driver’s insurance company. providing your account of the incident as part of a recorded statement, after which an adjuster will be assigned to your case.
The insurance company will then attempt to obtain the other driver’s version of events so that both statements can be compared and checked for inconsistencies. but suddenly the adjuster tells you that they can’t contact the at-fault driver, or that the driver who hit you won’t tell them about the accident. The adjuster may even tell you that his hands are tied until the other driver decides to cooperate.
where does this leave your claim? If you are seriously injured and facing mounting medical bills or an extended absence from work, consider contacting an experienced car accident attorney about your legal rights and options.
insured drivers have a duty to cooperate
Every modern liability insurance policy has a “duty to cooperate” clause, in which the insured driver has explicitly agreed to cooperate with their insurer’s investigation and defense of a claim. failure to cooperate may result in an insurance company deciding to deny coverage.
Since in this example you would be the person filing the claim, you may feel that the process should be easier since you are cooperating. but in reality, the other driver is the person who would seek coverage under this policy. Since you are claiming that someone else is at fault for the accident that caused your injuries, you are making a liability claim against that person.
At fault driver insurance coverage is designed to protect you from having to use your own finances to compensate you. By simply filing a claim with your insurance company, you are entering into an adversarial relationship with the driver and the insurance company. Understanding and accepting this important distinction for what it is should help you gain a more realistic perspective on the personal injury claims process and your relationship with the people involved.
more information on ‘third party’ insurance claims
If you make a claim against another driver’s insurance company, that insurer is technically known as the “third party” insurer and your claim is a third party liability claim.
Many accident victims mistakenly believe that insurance companies exist to cover them if they have been injured. This is one of the biggest misconceptions about the auto insurance industry and the liability insurance claim process. in reality, the other driver’s insurance company has a duty to protect its own insured driver against their claim. insurance companies do this in several ways:
- they can investigate your claim to see if it is legitimate
- if the insurance adjuster believes the claim is legitimate and reasonable, they may attempt to settle with you
- if your claim is denied, they will hire legal counsel to defend your own driver if you file a lawsuit
- read: why do I need uninsured/underinsured motorist coverage (um/uim)?
The at-fault driver’s insurance company is on the side of the at-fault driver, not your side. Think of it this way: If you were at fault in an accident, you’d want your insurance company to defend you vigorously.
understand the role of ‘first party’ uninsured motorist (um/uim) coverage
While you’re waiting for the other driver’s insurance company to clarify your situation, review the declarations page of your own auto insurance policy. If your policy includes uninsured/underinsured motorist (UM/UIM) coverage, you can also file a claim with your own insurance company. this would be considered a first party claim, as the claim is filed against your own insurer and not another driver’s.
Filing an uninsured motorist coverage claim may be your best option in this situation. Even though the other driver technically has insurance, your UM/UIM coverage may be available because the other insurance company is unwilling to offer your insurance benefits due to the other driver’s lack of cooperation. the other party could be looking for a way to decline coverage because their driver is unresponsive.
Choosing this path allows you to move forward, but also brings additional complexities. you may benefit from consulting with an attorney on how to proceed if you reach this point.
what about collision coverage?
If you have collision coverage on your vehicle, your insurance company will pay to repair your car regardless of the status of the other insurance company. Your insurance company can then work to recover the money it has used to cover you from the at-fault driver’s insurance company, leaving you out of that process.
Remember: This only covers property damage to your car, not your injuries.
file a lawsuit against the other driver
As a last resort, you can file a lawsuit against the other driver. this is not against the other driver’s insurance company; it is against the other driver directly.
When you do this, the other driver’s insurance company will hire an attorney to represent their client in the lawsuit. this can be difficult and will usually be taken to small claims court. If you reach this step in the process, it may be necessary to consult with an experienced personal injury attorney to evaluate your options. Sometimes, but not always, once a lawsuit is filed, the other party’s adjuster will accept the service on behalf of their insured.
The top-rated legal team at Davis Law Group has helped car accident victims in Washington State and throughout the United States. better understand your legal rights and the inner workings of the insurance claims process for over 25 years. We work with injury victims every day to assess whether their case would benefit from the help of an attorney or if they can settle their own claim without having to pay for an attorney.
Call our Seattle office at (206) 727-4000 or use the confidential contact form on this page to request a free legal consultation with an attorney today. There are no up-front fees or costs associated with retaining an attorney at davis law group, and you should not pay any attorney’s fees until we have successfully recovered compensation on your behalf.