THE OTHER DRIVER WON’T CALL THE INSURANCE COMPANY.
What do you do when the other driver just simply will not contact nor cooperate with the insurance company after a car accident?
It ‘s a frustrating situation. I get calls all the time from clients who had a car wreck with someone and the at-fault driver basically goes into hiding. A guy merges into your lane or rear-ends you. You’re injured and need to get your car fixed.
In fact, I just recently concluded a case where the the at-fault driver stopped cooperating with his insurance company. The case was a mess. The insurance company refused to provide coverage. I then had to file a suit against the other driver. The case dragged on for four years through the Dallas trial courts and then up to the Dallas Courts of Appeals. Luckily, we were able to settle with the insurance company. But many others in this situation are not so lucky.
So what do you do in this situation? You first have to know why the other driver’s cooperation is necessary.
What is the “Duty to Cooperate?”
Every insurance policy has a “duty to cooperate” clause. This means that any person seeking coverage under the policy must cooperate with the company’s investigation and defense of the claim. Failure to cooperate may be grounds for the insurance company to deny coverage. But that doesn’t mean everybody does, in fact, cooperate with the insurance company.
Who Must Cooperate with the Insurance Company?
Let’s say you have a car accident in Texas and the other driver was at fault. You open a claim with the other driver’s insurance company and an adjuster is assigned. The adjuster needs to investigate the accident in order to determine whether their driver is at fault or not. Naturally, the adjuster may need to speak with their driver in order to get his version of the accident. However, the other driver is not returning the adjuster’s calls.
Now, you may ask yourself, “I’m seeking coverage under the policy and I am cooperating. Why am I not being covered?”
Technically, you are not seeking coverage under the policy as far as Texas law is concerned. This is one of the biggest myths of how liability insurance really works.
When you are claiming that someone else is at fault, then your claim is one of legal liability against that person. Since the policy is designed to protect the person who may be liable to you, then your claim is actually against the other driver and their insurance company. The next section explains this concept in more detail….
Know Your Standing with the Insurance Company.
You are not the insured or covered person under the other driver’s policy. The “insured” is the person actually covered under the policy. This may include the person specifically named in the policy or otherwise falling under the definition of a “covered person.”
However, this definition does not include you! Rather, you are an outside party making a claim on someone else’s policy. You are alleging that the other driver is legally liable to you for damages or injuries you sustained in the accident. This is called a “liability claim” also known as a “third-party” claim.
What is a Liability or Third-Party Claim?
Many people think that the other driver’s insurance policy is there to protect them if the other driver is at fault.
When you make a claim on the other driver’s insurance policy, you are essentially asserting a legal claim against the other driver. Therefore, the other driver’s insurance company has a duty to protect their driver against your claim.
They can protect their driver in several ways:
- They can investigate your claim;
- If the adjuster feels like their driver is at fault, they can choose to settle with you;
- Or, they can reject your claim and retain legal counsel to defend the other driver if you file a lawsuit.
Either way, the insurance company’s focus is to protect their driver and not you.
Back to the “Duty to Cooperate.”
This leads us back to my initial discussion about the duty to cooperate. Naturally, you as the injured person will cooperate with the insurance company since you are the one looking for compensation for your injuries. However, that is not the cooperation that is relevant.
In order for the insurance company to protect their driver, they need their driver to cooperate in the investigation and defense of your claim.
Ironic, isn’t it? You are injured in an accident that is the fault of someone else, and that person’s insurance company’s legal duty is to protect their driver against your claim. This is true even though Texas law requires every vehicle on our roadways to carry liability insurance for the very purpose of protecting those who are injured in auto accident.
Like it or not, that’s the law in Texas. So, if the the other driver will not cooperate with the insurance company, then the adjuster may not be able to properly investigate and handle the claim on the other driver’s behalf.
In the meantime, you are left hanging until their driver cooperates with the claims adjuster.
Where Does this Leave You After an Auto Accident?
If you are in this predicament, you have several options. You can make a claim on your insurance policy. This is probably the best way to deal with the situation because you are now dealing with an insurance company who is on your side.
Uninsured Motorist Coverage.
If you have uninsured motorist coverage, then you may be able to make a claim even though the other driver technically has insurance. This is because the other insurance company is not willing to tender their coverage because of the other driver’s non-cooperation. You should not have to wait on the other insurance company to move forward just because the other driver is hiding from the claim.
If you had auto collision coverage, then your insurance company will pay to get your car fixed regardless of the other insurance coverage. However, this only covers your car. Any claims regarding your injuries have to be done through the uninsured motorist coverage.
File a Lawsuit Against the Other Driver.
If filing a claim on your insurance is not an option, then filing a lawsuit is the only option you have left. This is probably to least favorable option.
However, you cannot sue the insurance company directly. You have to sue the other driver. And, when you sue the other driver, the insurance company will hire an attorney to represent and defend the other driver against your lawsuit.
Many times, insurance companies abuse the “cooperation” clause. They will stall your claim even though it is not necessary to talk to the other driver. Maybe there is a police report. Either way, you are at a disadvantage when dealing with the other driver’s insurance company by yourself.
That is why you should consult with an attorney who know how to spot the insurance company’s tricks and keep your options open.
Before you make any hasty decision on how your case is going to be handled, you better first consult with Robert C. Slim, an experienced auto insurance attorney in Dallas. If you have been injured in a car accident and are having problems with the other driver’s insurance company, Call 214-321-8225.
Use our online case information form for a free consultation with Robert C. Slim.
Related Auto Insurance Articles: