In the immediate aftermath of a serious car accident, it can be hard to know what to do. You're shaken up by the crash and may be injured or dealing with an injured passenger. The last thing on your mind is the possibility of filing an injury claim against another driver, and what to do in order to protect that claim.
However, if it's determined that another driver is at fault—or you're confident he or she is at fault—it's important that you know what to say and what not to say to your insurance company and that of the other driver. One way to avoid making a mistake is to hire an attorney to represent you as soon as you can after the crash. In the meantime, limit contact with insurance adjusters.
How Is Fault Determined in Kansas and Missouri?
In some cases, a police officer at the scene of an accident will issue a ticket to one or more drivers, which is strong evidence of fault, but may not be conclusive in the eyes of an insurance adjuster.
If you believe your actions didn't contribute to the crash, it’s important that you make an attempt to take pictures and get the names of witnesses at the scene. This information may provide important evidence later on. While Kansas and Missouri are both fault states, they have different laws regarding comparative negligence. In Kansas, if you're determined to be more than 50 percent at fault, you won't be able to recover damages from the other party. In Missouri, the amount of your settlement will be reduced by the percentage of fault assigned to you. Because comparative fault laws can significantly reduce your damages, it's vital that your degree of fault is fairly represented.
When to Talk to Your Insurance Agent
You should always report a car accident resulting in damage and injury to your insurance company, even if you're sure another driver is 100 percent at fault. This will establish a good-faith effort to notify and benefits you if the other driver’s insurance company refuses to settle.
Sometimes, an auto insurer will take its policyholder’s side without investigating the accident and a fight may not be worth it. You may need to make a collision claim against your policy to recover enough money to repair or replace your car. If the other driver doesn’t have insurance or doesn’t have enough insurance, you can file an uninsured motorist (UM) claim if you have UM coverage.
In any of these situations, your insurer will be more cooperative if you notified it immediately about the accident. Of course, as soon as you face resistance from an insurer, your smartest move is to hire an attorney to represent you. The attorney will then take over the negotiations with your insurer, the at-fault driver’s insurer, or both.
When to Talk to Another Driver’s Insurance Agent
At the scene of an accident, you should collect the other driver’s name, contact information, and insurance details. You should then contact his insurance company and inform them that you have been in an accident with one of its policyholders. Provide the facts of the incident, but do not give details or make threats. The purpose of this call is simply to inform the insurer of the accident in case the other driver fails to do so. You shouldn't give them a recorded or written statement at this time.
Keep in mind that, despite any tickets that may have been issued, the insurance company makes its own determination of the cause of the accident, which may differ from your version of the accident and even from the police report. If the insurer decides you are at fault—even partially—you should call a lawyer to help you sue for the damages you deserve.
When to Call a Lawyer
The only situation in which you clearly don’t need a lawyer following a serious accident is one in which the other driver’s insurance company admits fault and offers you the full amount of its client’s coverage. When fault is in dispute, or an insurer is refusing to pay what you believe you are entitled to, hiring an experienced car accident attorney can be a big help. In the Kansas City area, you can’t beat the reputation of our personal injury attorneys. Contact us through the link on this page to get started today.