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Have you been in a car accident? Was it your fault? What should you do? Contact your insurance company? Maybe. Maybe not.

You might should contact your lawyer first. Why? So your own insurance company won’t take advantage of you and the person you hit.

How? First, they will take your statement and determine whether you have coverage. If there is any possible way your own insurance company can get out of coverage, they will! Their first loyalty is to themselves and to saving on costs, so you cannot always trust them. If there is a question on coverage, your insurance company might defend you on a "reservation of rights" and file a lawsuit for a delcaratory judgment. This lawsuit asks the court to determine whether coverage exists, and if the court rules in the insurance company’s favor, you will have to hire your own lawyer to defend you.

Second, your insurance company will try to "low ball" the person you hit on both their property damage and any personal injury you suffered. You carry insurance coverage in case you hit someone. If you are at fault, shouldn’t you be responsible for the damages you cause? The law says, "Yes". But, the insurance companies have realized that they can lower their payments on claims by denying claims, delaying claims, and defending claims. What does this mean to you?

It means that you could end up being involved in a lawsuit and litigation because your insurance company wouldn’t pay another $1,000.00 to the person you hit. It means that you may have to answer written questions (called interrogatories) from the injured person’s attorney. It means that you may have to take time out of your day to give a deposition to the injured person’s attorney (a deposition is where you sit in an office and answer questions from the other attorney under oath and before a court reporter). It means that you may have to take a couple days off to attend a trial at court.

Is this what you want? Is this what you asked for when you bought your insurance? Did you want your insurance company to take care of the situation, or did you want them to save every dime they could no matter what it meant to you? I don’t know about you, but if I cause an accident, I don’t want to have to be involved in litigation if my insurance company could pay a few extra dollars and avoid my having to be involved in a lawsuit. My time is too valuable. Isn’t yours?

What else could happen? Let’s say your coverage limit is $25,000.00. Let’s say the person you hit was seriously injured, but your insurance company will only offer $20,000.00 to settle the case. You get sued. What if the jury renders a verdict in the amount of $100,000.00? Your insurance company will pay $25,000.00, and you will be responsible for $75,000.00. If you have been involved in the process and told your insurance company to pay the $25,000.00, you would likely have a "bad faith" claim against your insurance company. Your involvement puts pressure on the insurance company to settle the case. If you are not involved, you might end up with an excess verdict like the example above. Can you afford that?

The next time you are involved in a car accident, and it’s your fault, call your attorney, if you have one, or call your insurance carrier. Your attorney can find out what your insurance company intends to do. You can talk to the insurance company about their plans. See what they intend to do. Get involved in the process so your insurance company doesn’t get you embroiled in something you don’t want to be involved in. You are the customer. You bought the insurance. Make your insurance company listen to you.

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