Cooperating With Your Insurance Company After an Accident
As a personal injury lawyer, a question I receive often from clients is, “Do I have to talk to my insurance company if I am involved in an accident?”
Duty to Cooperate
Every insurance policy has a clause that requires an insured to cooperate reasonably, report claims in a timely manner, and provide information and materials as requested.
Otherwise, coverage can be jeopardized. Yes, if you “blow off” your insurer’s calls, you may not be covered!
But your lawyer is always telling you to “not talk to anyone” and “do not give any statements,” so what are you supposed to do?
Do Not Give a Statement But Do Cooperate With Your Own Insurance Carrier
I always advise clients involved in an auto crash to report the crash to their insurer as well as the insurer for the other driver(s). But I am very clear that they should not provide a statement, especially a recorded one.
Often this arises when someone is injured in a car crash. They hire me to represent them for injures, but I do not represent them for property damage. In most cases, the best option for repairing their vehicle is to pay the deductible and have their own carrier fix their car. Their carrier will then subrogate against the other driver’s insurance to seek return of the money spent for damages as well as their deductible, which will then be refunded to them. This process is known as subrogation.
The first commandment of this is that I advise clients to inform the adjuster they speak to immediately that they have retained a lawyer for their injury claim and can only talk to the adjuster about the vehicular damage. They cannot provide any statement. They cannot talk about how they are feeling, their medical treatment, or the mechanism of the crash. They are welcome to allow the adjuster to examine their vehicle. Everything else is off limits.
But the second commandment is that you are obligated by the terms of your policy to cooperate with your carrier. Return phone calls. Provide documents you are asked to provide. Take your vehicle to the place they ask you to bring it. That type of thing. Again, make certain they are aware you have a lawyer for your injury claim.
What If You Are Summoned to Appear?
Occasionally, clients are summoned to appear at an arbitration hearing. This often arises out of the subrogation action referenced above. As they have a contractual duty to cooperate with their insurer, they must show up and testify at these hearings. Failing to do so may result in a denial of coverage.
Sometimes, there is a case that is heavily disputed as to who is primarily at fault. Many times, the police officer is not a witness and relies upon witnesses and the drivers to provide information. Often, key information is omitted (such as when my client is incapacitated or transported to a hospital), so the other insurance carrier relies on the police report to (wrongly) determine its driver is not at fault.
Sometimes, to add insult to injury, my client is actually given a traffic citation and must appear in court. When this occurs, I often request that they retain a traffic lawyer to help them through the process. Without being able to pin at least 51% of the blame on the other driver, there would be no injury claim because of comparative negligence.
What If You Witness a Crash?
Frequently, both online and on the phone, people ask me what to do if they witnessed a crash. The right thing to do is to always tell what you saw, whether it is to the police, the insurance carriers, or whomever.
What if you don’t want to talk or just are too busy?
It will catch up with you eventually. You see, if someone wants you to talk, they can issue a subpoena. If you do not comply with a subpoena, you can be picked up by the Sheriff, jailed, or fined. So why not just comply in the first place if you actually have something that can help shed light on things?
First of all, it helps everyone sort out what occurred. Second, it is part of being a decent human being. Third, it might actually help someone recover damages when they were injured as a result of someone else’s negligence.
This scenario presented itself recently on a case currently in litigation. Three witnesses watched my client get hit by a car. All three were nice enough to return my phone calls and appear for depositions. We expect their collective testimony will make the issue of liability a non-factor in the case.
Contact Chicago Personal Injury Lawyer Stephen Hoffman
As in all cases involving injury and potential liability, if you have been hit by a vehicle immediately get medical treatment, report the crash to police and your own insurance company, and contact a lawyer with expertise in your type of case, such as bicycle accidents or pedestrians hit by cars.
If you've been in an accident and have questions, contact Chicago personal injury attorney Stephen L. Hoffman for a free consultation at (773) 944-9737. Stephen has nearly 30 years of legal experience and has collected millions of dollars for his clients. He is listed as a SuperLawyer, has a 10.0 rating on Avvo, and is BBB A+ accredited. He is also an Executive Level Member of the Lincoln Square Ravenswood Chamber of Commerce.
Stephen handles personal injury claims on a contingency fee basis, which means you don’t pay anything upfront and he only gets paid if you do. Don’t wait another day, contact Stephen now.