After An Idaho Auto Accident - what to do
Idaho auto accident injury frequently asked questions (FAQs).
• Contacting Your Insurance Company After An Auto Collision
• How Do You Get Your Medical Bills Paid?
• Auto Repairs and Other Property Damage
• Dealing With Uninsured and Underinsured Drivers
• When a Disability Takes You Out of Work
• Dealing With Workers' Compensation Insurance
• Settling Your Claim With the Insurance Adjuster
Contacting Your Insurance Company After a Collision
After you receive the immediate medical care you need, contact your loved ones and recover from the immediate effects of your collision, one of the first things you should do is call your own insurance company. If the police were involved, they will usually give you an information exchange form that has the other driver's insurance information on it. You will probably also have to call the other driver's insurance company. You should make that call as soon as you reasonably can, because waiting too long might give the insurance company a reason to doubt your claim. Calling quickly is also part of your obligations under the contract you signed with your insurer.
This first call should be fairly short. Its purpose is only to give the insurance adjuster the basic facts about your accident and the information for the other driver's insurance company, if there is one. In fact, during the call, the insurance adjuster on the other end should not ask to record you or ask you to sign anything, especially in exchange for money. If you get this kind of request, you may be dealing with a dishonest company; you should politely decline and call a lawyer as soon as possible.
During your initial call, the insurance adjuster will probably ask you who was at fault for the accident or who was to blame. Insurance adjusters are always looking for you to say something they can use against you later. He might also ask if anyone got a ticket. If this is disputed or you truly are not sure, just stick with the facts.
In any conversation with an insurer, it is important to avoid apologizing or accepting blame just to be polite, because that could be taken as an admission of guilt. And if you were knocked unconscious or taken to the hospital, you may not have gotten the full story. One way to get it is to get a copy of the accident report, if there is one, made by the police. Idaho law requires that police release collision reports to people involved in crashes or their representatives like lawyers or even insurance adjusters.
How Do You Get Your Medical Bills Paid?
If you received any sort of medical treatment after the accident, you will have to worry about medical bills and health insurance claims as well as auto insurance claims. If you chose to buy it, your own medpay coverage will cover your medical treatment. People often want the bad guy's insurance to pay for the needed health care immediately. Unfortunately, the system does not work that way. The first responsible payor is your own medpay and you should get their information to your health care provider. The second responsible payer is your own health insurance coverage. If you were not able to give them your health insurance information when you arrived, the provider will probably try to bill you personally. You or your lawyer should be able to get the bill sent to the appropriate party later.
If you have both medical and auto insurance, you may be wondering which will pay for your medical costs. The hospital will start by billing you personally or billing the medical insurance company whose information you provide. Later, after you make your auto insurance claim, you, your medpay carrier or your health insurer may be reimbursed by the other driver's auto insurer.
If there are problems, keep in mind that in Idaho you are ultimately responsible for your own medical bills, regardless of whether insurance should cover it. That means you should take action quickly if the insurance company refuses to meet its obligations.
Even where the bad guy is clearly at fault his insurance does not have to pay until the end of your claim. They then reimburse you and your own insurance companies for payments made. This can cause financial hardship and insurance companies use this part of the law to put financial pressure on injured people to try and force them to resolve a claim for less than a fair amount. Lawyers for injured people can sometimes work with health care providers to hold of on collections actions and the like.
Auto Repairs and Other Property Damage
If you were injured in your collision chances are good that there was also damage to your property. Damage to your car, truck or other vehicle is the most common type of property damage, but any other property you lost or had to repair because of the accident should also qualify. The same auto insurance policy that covers your injuries should also cover all of your property damage.
Generally, claims of damage to your vehicle fall into two categories. If the insurance company says your car or truck is "totaled," it means the repair costs are likely to be greater than the actual fair market value of the vehicle. That makes it not worth repairing, at least to the insurance company. (You are free to do what you like with a "totaled" vehicle.) The fair market value of the vehicle is determined by its age, condition, mileage, appearance, depreciation and other factors. Each insurer does this differently, and some take into account incidental costs like storage.
Because car loans and other financial obligations related to the vehicle are not considered in determining fair market value, your car or truck might be considered worth less than what you owe for it. This is especially likely with newer vehicles, which lose value quickly within their first few years of use. The insurance company is obligated to pay only the actual cash value of the vehicle immediately prior to the accident, not the cost of repairs you made or your original purchase price. A special type of insurance called gap insurance is designed for this situation; it pays the difference between actual cash value and any loans you still owe. Gap insurance is optional, but insurers often try to sell it to owners of new vehicles.
If the insurance company considers the vehicle repairable, it should pay for repairs by a body shop or a mechanic. Your insurance coverage may pay for your use of a rental car during repairs, or compensate you for the temporary loss of your car or truck. Some states allow you to choose your own repair shop; others allow the insurance company to choose. If you disagree with the insurance company's estimation of the damage, you can sometimes get a second opinion from another repair shop.
If you have collision coverage often you are better off negotiating the property damage claim with your own insurance company and paying the deductible yourself. This is because in Idaho your own company is supposed to take care of you and treat you fairly. The bad guy's insurance company, on the other hand, has no obligations to you. Your company usually can go after the bad guy's company and can often get you your deductible back.
Dealing With Uninsured and Underinsured Drivers
If you were hit by an uninsured or underinsured driver, there is often a difficult task ahead. An uninsured driver is a driver with no insurance coverage at all; an underinsured driver is one with some coverage (Idaho law only requires that people buy $25,000 in coverage), but not enough to cover the damage he or she caused. (A hit-and-run driver is considered an uninsured motorist, at least until he or she can be identified.) Being hit by an uninsured or underinsured driver may mean there is no money at all available to cover your injuries. You are free to sue, of course, but the driver has to be a person wealthy enough to make the costs of suit worth the recovery.
We advise all our clients (and friends and family members and anyone we talk to who cares to listen) to buy uninsured and underinsured motorist insurance on their auto. In fact, some states require it. Idaho merely requires that your insurance company offer you the coverage. Uninsured/underinsured motorist coverage compensates you for the losses incurred up to the limits of the uninsured/underinsured policy. Unfortunately, the actual cost of your injuries can still exceed those limits. And because uninsured/underinsured motorist claims can be difficult to document, some insurance companies make them difficult to collect.
There may be insurance to cover you, even with an uninsured driver.
If you were hit by a driver without insurance you may think you are out of luck — unable to collect any recovery at all. But before you give up, you should contact an experienced Idaho personal injury attorney. An experienced personal injury lawyer is sure to look at all possibilities for insurance coverage, including insurance covering the driver, the vehicle's owner, and any user given permission to use the vehicle, as well as a client's own insurance coverage, and whether the negligent person has appropriate personal assets that make pursuing a lawsuit worthwhile.
When a Disability Takes You Out of Work
If your injuries take you out of work for more than a few days, you stand to lose a lot in wages. If you have short-term or long-term disability coverage (under auto insurance or separately), you should be able to collect payments that help you make ends meet while you are out of work. If you are eligible for this coverage and decide to use it, you may hear from your insurance company about "subrogation," which is a legal term for transferring the obligation to pay from one party to another. In an at-fault state, subrogation gives your disability insurer the right to be reimbursed if you win any money for lost wages from a third party, such as the insurance company for the other driver. Subrogation is handled differently in each state. Because this can be complex, your lawyer should handle it for you.
Dealing With Workers' Compensation Insurance
If you were at work during your accident, you are probably entitled to workers' compensation benefits. Workers' compensation pays the cost of any injuries you sustain at work and a limited replacement wage while you are unable to work, regardless of who was at fault for the injury. By law, your employer carries workers' compensation insurance to cover those payments. In exchange for collecting them, you agree not to sue your employer, even if you believe it caused the accident. However, if a third party was responsible for the injury, you may still be able to seek recovery from that party while collecting workers' compensation benefits. Subrogation may also come into play with a workers' compensation case, because multiple insurance companies are often involved in a claim.
Workers' compensation law is a complicated area that depends largely on the statutes passed by the Legislature. These sometimes change from year to year. Some lawyers focus their practice on it completely. Many workers have trouble collecting workers' compensation because replacement wages can be expensive — and insurance companies prefer not to pay expensive claims, even when they are legally obligated to. If you have a workers' compensation claim as a result of your accident, your lawyer may refer that part of your case to another lawyer who specializes in workers' compensation law.
Settling Your Claim With the Insurance Adjuster
Sometimes, it is possible to settle an injury claim by just working with the insurance adjuster. This is most likely when you have few injuries that require little medical treatment or no injuries at all. In this situation, you may not even need help from a lawyer. But before you close your claim, you should make sure you have identified all of your injuries and property damage and feel that you will be fully compensated by the payments you will receive. As with most experienced personal injury lawyers, we often consult with people over the phone and help them understand how to resolve their claim.
Lots of people do not realize that they are not required to take the first settlement their insurance companies offer. In fact, you are allowed to negotiate for the fullest compensation you are entitled to, using documentation from police, repair shops and other independent parties to support your claim. But if your insurer refuses to change its offer, a lawyer can often change your situation. Hiring a lawyer to handle the negotiations lets the insurer know that you know your rights and are prepared to enforce them, if necessary.
The insurance adjuster Is not your friend.
Because we refer to "our" insurance companies, it can be easy to believe that insurance adjusters are here to help us. Their advertising tries to encourage that type of thinking. Unfortunately, that is just not true. Insurance companies are in business to make money, and premiums — the monthly or yearly payments we make to have insurance — are just part of their profit. Like any other business, insurers make more money if they keep costs low. In an insurance company's case, that means paying less to people with expensive claims. The job of an insurance adjuster is to save the company money by settling your claim for as little money as possible.
If you were seriously injured in your accident, you may not be in the best position to fight with your insurance company. Hiring an Idaho personal injury attorney may be the best decision you can make to protect yourself, your family and your future.