Friday, September 27, 2013

Protect Yourself, Important Steps in an Auto Accident

One of my clients recently had an auto accident. He was at an intersection in a lane that went straight. The other party was on his right and turned left into his vehicle. They traded license and insurance information at the scene of the accident just like they were supposed to do.


My client was alone in his car and the other party was alone in their car. Shortly after the accident the other party claimed that my client was at fault and was supposed to turn left and instead went straight. My client informed me that was simply untrue and he was in a lane that was straight ahead and the other party made an illegal left hand turn.


In the end, the insurance carriers for my client and the other party agreed to just pay their own client claims because there was no way to prove who was at fault. So, problem solved right?


Not exactly, had the other party been found at fault it would have been their insurance that would have paid for the damage to my client. Instead, my clients insurance paid for the damage to his own vehicle which was considered an at fault accident. What is the big deal? Well, an at fault accident in most states will stay on your record for five years and you get to pay more insurance premium because of that. Needless to say my client was really upset and felt this was unfair. Some of you will say that you have accident forgiveness with your insurance carrier. That is nice and means that your insurance carrier won’t surcharge you for your first accident however that won’t protect you from the loss of a claims free discount which for most insurance companies is significant. With or without accident forgiveness you’re going to pay more.


Regardless who is at fault insurance is incredibly important to fix your car, fix the other party’s car if you were at fault and pay for your medical bills and the other party’s medical bills. I want all of my clients to be safe and to avoid accidents if they can. If you do have an accident, that is why we have insurance and it will be there to help when you need it. However, if you were not at fault I need some additional information to fight for you.


In addition to trading license and insurance information I want you to take photos. Odds are your phone takes pictures. Even the oldest cell phones have a camera. I realize that having an accident is traumatic and when it happens it is easy to forget but when it is safe to do so take photos of the accident scene. Take photos of where you were and where your vehicle is now. Take photos of the damage to your car and the damage to the other car. Take photos of the license plate on the other vehicle and of the driver of the other car and any passengers. The more information that you have will help your insurance claim and protect you if the other driver was at fault.


I had an accident (my first) this year. I not only took photos of the accident but my phone allows me to take video as well. I had the other driver on video saying that he wasn’t paying attention, he was texting and didn’t see me until it was too late. End of story, he was at fault. And, yes his insurance carrier tried to indicate that we shared blame until I played back the audio from the video with their client apologizing and indicating that he wasn’t paying attention. That was that, they accepted full responsibility.

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