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Car Accidents FAQ

Frequently Asked Questions


How is Someone Compensated if the Other Party has No Insurance?


Fortunately, it does not happen often, but it may happen. The reason why it does not happen often is because most states, including Virginia, require drivers to carry uninsured motorist coverage, in addition to both bodily injury and property damage liability insurance. That means, if you’re in an accident and it’s your fault, your insurance company will pay the victim’s personal injuries and property damages up to a certain limit, and also, uninsured motorist coverage, which will pay the bills even if the at-fault driver isn’t following the law and doesn’t have insurance.

Uninsured motorist coverage means you are paying for liability coverage for yourself when the other driver does not have insurance. When that kicks in, your insurance company actually becomes the other driver’s insurance company and stands behind them and will cover your personal injury claim as if they had insurance, up to the policy limits of your uninsured motorist coverage. That is to protect each of us from the irresponsibility of people who drive without insurance.

That is how you’re compensated when the other person has no liability insurance coverage on their motor vehicle. As a result, in about 99.9% of automobile cases, there is coverage for personal injuries incurred and personal injury claims, from either the other person’s liability policy or from your own uninsured motorist coverage taking care of you when the other person doesn’t have insurance.


What Should I Do if the Insurance Company Contacts Me After the Accident?


There are usually two insurance companies involved in an auto accident; yours and the opposing party, and since you were injured and they are the bad guys, their insurance company wants to pay you as little as possible. People often forget about their own insurance company when they are in an accident; when it’s someone else’s fault because they know that other person’s insurance company has to pay them, but let’s start with your own.

The injured party has an absolute duty to notify their own insurance company as soon as possible when they are in an accident; that’s part of every insurance contract. One reason to do that anyway would be, what if the person who has injured you doesn’t have insurance or it lapsed and they don’t even know? You want to notify your own insurance company about the accident to protect your interests or to be able to pursue an uninsured motorist claim if necessary, but if you don’t notify them in a timely manner; they may refuse to fulfill your uninsured motorist coverage.

With your own insurance company, you want to be open and forthright with them about what occurred in the accident and be factually correct. However the other person’s insurance company (we will call it the bad guy’s insurance company) is not your friend; they are, in essence, your enemy; their job is to protect the best interests of their insured, as well as the shareholders or owners, officers, and directors of their company, which means they want to save them money and pay out as little as possible to you, the victim, in an insurance claim.

That is why you don’t speak to the other person’s insurance company; let your attorney do that. You only want to speak to the other person’s insurance company with regard to the damage to your motor vehicle, and only tell them where your car is so they can send their property damage adjuster to take a look at it and figure out whether it’s totaled and give you a fair market value for it or, if it’s damaged, what repairs should be done and where. Those things are okay to talk to the bad guy’s insurance company about only in a very factual way; don’t be led into conversations about how you feel or what happened in the accident with the other person’s insurance company. That’s why you need a personal injury lawyer; you contact them to speak to the bad guy’s insurance company, not you. However, you certainly can cooperate with your own insurance company; in most cases, you do not need an attorney to do that.


Trucking Accidents


Statistically, personal injury lawyers don’t see a significant number of trucking accidents, but when they do, they’re usually significant cases simply by nature; the size and weight of a large truck versus a car or motorcycle makes the damage caused by such accidents devastating. Whenever there is a trucking accident in which the trucker is at fault and operating the truck for their employer, because of that business relationship, the employer will almost always be considered liable for the acts of their trucker.

Most states have a period of time that a trucker can drive before they have to stop and get a certain amount of hours for sleep and rest, and in Virginia, the time limit is 12 hours. Many trucking accidents happen because drivers are tired, so they drift off and their trunk goes out of control.

Because truckers are professional drivers, there are not a lot of trucking accidents, but when they do occur, they are quite devastating, whether they hit another vehicle from behind, or while in an intersection or when changing lanes on the interstate when a vehicle is driving in their blind spot. The injuries and damages are usually significant, but you have to establish that it was a trucker’s fault and not that of the other driver’s but when it is established that the driver was negligent in their operation of the vehicle, they are held to a higher standard because they are professionals and they have to take extra care with regard to the operation of their truck, which is really a dangerous instrument.

There aren’t many trucking accidents, but of those that occur, they’re usually the fault of the trucker in some way, in exceeding the hours that they drive, the way that they drive, the chances they take the speeds they go and the effect is usually devastating.


Common Mistakes That Can Hurt Your Claim


One common mistake people make is to delay getting medical treatment, in part because many people are injured and don’t realize it right after the accident. Perhaps they’re upset by the accident and their adrenaline and endorphins are pumping through their system, and those substances, which produce when we are in flight or fight state, can mask the pain temporarily. Sometimes, an injury is not readily apparent because it’s not a cut, bump or bruise; often muscles, ligaments, and tendons that are stretched and damaged in a car accident, but they don’t show up immediately.

Those types of injuries are not apparent right away because, although the muscles, ligaments, and tendons have been stretched beyond the normal movement, many of the capillaries in the circulatory system are engorged with blood to heal the damage, and it’s not until person relaxes, perhaps when they go to sleep that night or the next that they begin to feel pain and knots and trigger points in their necks, their backs or their legs. That’s why one of the most common mistakes is not getting medical care immediately after an accident, even if you are not hurting at that moment, just to be on the safe side.

Secondly, a big mistake is not being honest with your attorney about previous accidents and injuries. Insurance companies have databases that store this information. They probably already know if you have settled a claim against GEICO or STATEFARM two years ago. They probably already know if you had a knee replacement surgery 5 years ago. I was recently sitting in a jury trial involving a car accident with injuries, in which I was not involved. I was waiting to talk with the insurance company attorney about my case that was not pending that day.

The person injured in the car accident was on the stand. She testified she had never been injured in a car accident before and had never settled a case with an insurance company. The attorney for the insurance company knew she was lying. She had settled a claim less than two years ago. The attorney had got a copy of the medical records from the previous accident. The case was over. He caught the victim in a lie. She lost all credibility at the point. Be honest about your previous accidents and injuries. We can normally work around them.

Third, not telling the truth about your current injuries or talking about your injuries through social media (Facebook, Twitter, etc.) can cost you money. It is not beneath an insurance company to hire a private investigator if the claim is running very high. It’s their job to minimize the amount you recover. Ninety-nine times out of a hundred, social media tends to hurt a person’s personal injury case. By definition, social media is social and chatty; it’s “What did you do today?” and “Here’s what I did today” and Here’s how I am feeling”, and “Here’s what I have done at work.” Such chatter can potentially expose the client to actual problems with the insurance company, by giving them the ability to misinterpret what’s going on in the client’s life.

For instance, if they are told to stay in bed, but they post the picture of themselves out riding a bike; that is going against medical advice and may also indicate the person is not badly injured. This is not an exaggeration, an adjuster brought up my client’s Facebook page last week.

Fourth, and maybe the biggest mistake is the injured party gives a statement to another person’s insurance company.

With auto accidents, several things begin to occur almost immediately after the accident that can make a victim’s head spin; first, the at-fault party’s insurance company, within days of the accident or even sooner, will begin to call the injured party and ask for a recorded statement from them on the phone about what happened.

The worst thing they can do is to give a recorded statement to the other person’s insurance, until they talked to or have retained an attorney, who may or may not allow them to give a recorded statement, although they’ll usually advise against it, until after they’ve organized aspects of the claim and coached the client, and even then, only with the attorney present.

When the other party’s insurance company contacts them for a recorded statement, they’ll ask questions in a way that attempts to minimize the responsibility of their insured, to make them seem at fault and therefore cancel out any type of recovery.

Lastly, call the police if you are in a car accident. Don’t agree to handle without the police getting involved if you have been injured. The Police will establish who is at fault and create a record of the events. Not calling the police is exactly what the insurance company wants you to do. The police will gather all the information you need.