In the next three parts, I intend to illuminate the myths about how automobile liability insurance (or any other type of liability insurance for that matter) really operates in connection with a car accident claim. The first part will discuss the initial investigative stages of the claims process. The second part will cover the role a liability insurance company plays in the settlement process. The third part will discuss liability insurance in the trial process. I will use a simple car accident as the factual background.
You are stopped at a red light. Then suddenly, and without warning, you are struck from behind by another vehicle. You have just been rear-ended by a driver who was not paying attention. You exchange the necessary information with the other driver, including the driver’s personal information, vehicle description and insurance information. The next day you report the accident to the other driver’s insurance company. A series of events are now set in motion and you must understand where you stand in the process.
The Investigation Stage.
Once the claim is reported to the other driver’s insurance company, you can expect a call from an adjuster within a day or so. The adjuster will probably tell you that, in order to process the claim, they “must” obtain a “recorded statement” or “recorded interview.” Some adjusters may also request a written statement. What is this for? For two reasons.
The first reason is to investigate the claim, which is fair enough. However, the second reason is for the insurance company to have a recording that can potentially be used against you in the future.
You might be asking: “Why would the insurance company want to do this?” “I thought the insurance company is supposed to help me.” This is the first of the many mistaken beliefs people have about the role of the other driver’s liability insurance. The other driver’s insurance company has no legal duty to you at all. It has no duty to treat you fairly in the investigation or evaluation of your claim. Rather, its sole duty is to protect and defend the other driver from your legal claim.
The insurance company has complete discretion to choose to settle your claim, to totally ignore your claim, or it can choose to do something in between. The moral of the story is simple: Contact a lawyer as soon as possible. Additionally, NEVER give a written or recorded statement without consulting a lawyer. A lawyer will help you through the investigative stage of your case while preserving the integrity of your claim in the event a settlement cannot be reached.
The Myths of Automobile Liability Insurance, Part II