If you were recently involved in an Erie car crash, you may have questions about how to deal with your own insurance company. We offer answers to your questions, including when to notify your company, what your rights are with regard to your car repairs and what to expect if you were at fault and someone was injured in the car accident.
If you've just been involved in an Erie car accident and you're lucky enough not to have been seriously injured, you're still guaranteed substantial inconvenience and, if you were at fault in the accident, risk. These tips can help you minimize the risk by showing you how to work with your insurance company after a Pennsylvania car accident.
1. Notify Your Insurance Company
You should notify your insurance company as promptly as possible after an Erie car accident. Every policy requires some reasonably prompt notice of a car accident and, if you fail to provide this notice and the delay hurts your insurer's ability to investigate the case, you may compromise your rights under your insurance policy. Sometimes, in small accidents where it appears there are no serious injuries, people agree at the car accident scene to handle the matter themselves without involving car insurance companies. Often, these agreements crumble when the repair bill is presented and often times the other driver turns it into their insurance company anyway. Better policy is to promptly notify your insurance company after every accident. You can notify your local insurance agent or contact your company's claim department directly. There's typically a phone number on your insurance card.
2. Tell the Truth
When you speak to your insurance company there is one rule that stands out from all others. Always, always, always tell the truth. Sometimes people try to protect themselves or others. Sometimes people are worried that they won't have coverage (they're usually wrong about that). Regardless of motive, it's both wrong and a bad idea to tell an insurance company anything other than the truth because you will risk many consequences, including a loss of coverage and criminal penalties.
3. Be Clear and Factual
Be clear and factual in your communications. It won't help you to blame the other driver and it can hurt you to accept fault. Just tell the adjustor exactly what happened in language that is clear, accurate and complete.
4. Ask About Your Rental Coverage
If you have rental coverage, find out what your coverage will pay and rent the safest car your coverage allows. Be careful to confirm that your policy provides collision and liability coverage for your rental! Policies vary in this regard. If your policy does not provide rental car coverage then you should buy the optional coverage offered by the rental company.
5. Know Your Repair Rights
In Pennsylvania, if you bought collision coverage, your insurance company is required to pay for the repairs necessary to return your vehicle to its pre-accident condition. If that can't be done, then your insurance company must total the vehicle. You are entitled to choose the person who will perform the repairs. So, if you doubt that the repairs will actually return your vehicle to its pre-accident condition, raise your concerns with the adjustor/appraiser for your insurance company.
6. Know Your Rights When Your Vehicle is Totaled
If your car is totaled as a result of a Pennsylvania car accident, make the effort to know what your car was worth before the car accident. Pennsylvania requires insurance damage appraisers to follow one of three defined approaches to determining the value of your car. Typically, the appraiser will average book values (using sources such as the NADA Official Used Car Guide) but can also consider actual selling prices of similar cars or, more rarely, opinions of dealers. Do your own research and tell the appraiser if you think something has been overlooked or mis-priced.
If you were at fault in an Erie car accident and someone was injured, your insurance company will investigate the claim; should try to settle the case; and pay a lawyer to defend you if necessary, all without any cost to you. Your insurance company will pay up to the limits of your insurance policy to compensate the injured person in the event of a settlement or a trial verdict. However, if it appears that your policy limits may not be enough to fully compensate the injured person, you may want to hire your own lawyer to advise you and to serve as a liaison with your insurance company.
8. Know Your Options (If You Don't Agree with Your Insurance Company)
If you are unable to resolve disputes with your insurance company, for example if you can't agree on the actual cash value of your vehicle, you have options. Oftentimes, your company will have a consumer representative with whom you can speak. If that doesn't work, some policies have dispute resolution procedures such as mediation or arbitration. You can also contact Pennsylvania's Insurance Department at 1-877-881-6388.
The Bottom Line
If you were recently hurt in an Erie car accident, you almost certainly have many questions. For example, you may be wondering how your medical bills will be paid, whether you need an Erie accident lawyer for your case or where you can find tips for handling your own injury case. You can find answers to many of these questions on this website or you can order a free comprehensive book we've written, " The Ultimate Guide to Car Accident Cases in Pennsylvania: A Roadmap to Justice ". Of course, if you'd just prefer to cut through the paperwork, call today to talk for free with one of our Erie car crash lawyers at 814-580-5017.