There is a good chance that you will be in at least one car accident at some point in your life. At some point, you are likely to be in an accident that isn’t your fault. When the other driver is at fault, his or her insurance company should cover the costs related to helping you recover from your injuries, as well as repairing your car (or compensating you for its value so you can buy a replacement car).
Unfortunately, the other person’s insurance company may decide not to pay on the claim, or pay only a portion of the claim. This can leave you in a lurch. If you have comprehensive and/or collision coverage with your own insurance company, you can go that route. However, it seems rather unfair that you have to turn to your own insurance company (and risk higher premiums) to pay for an accident that is someone else’s fault.
Why Might the Insurance Company Not Pay?
It seems pretty straightforward: The other driver was issued the ticket and the police officer found him or her at fault, so the other insurance company should have to pay. However, there are ways that an insurance company can balk. First of all, the insurance company might decide that there were circumstances that make the accident your fault — despite who ended up with the traffic citation. In the other person’s insurance company insists that the situation was really your fault, or that there was “no fault,” that company will fight against paying every step of the way.
In some cases, the insurance company might pay part of your expenses, but not all. If your car is in the body shop for longer than the insurance company thinks it should have been, you might only get partial payment. If your car was in the shop for 15 days, but the insurance company says the body shop took too long, you might only be compensated for 10 days of using a rental car, rather than the full 15. The same reasoning can also be used by insurance companies when trying to pay less is owed for medical care and rehabilitation.
If the insurance company refuses to pay for some — or all — of what it should, what can you do? Know that you have options.
What to do if the Insurance Company Won’t Pay
First of all, be careful about what you sign from the insurance company. In many cases, as you are receiving some portion of payment for your injuries or the damage to your property, the insurance company will slip in a form or waiver that, by signing, you agree not to seek further compensation or legal redress. Be careful about what you sign, and don’t sign any of those types of agreements.
Indeed, it makes sense to consult a knowledgeable attorney before you sign anything from the insurance company. Have your lawyer explain the paperwork to you, and the consequences of signing.
If the amount in question is small enough, you might be able to take the other drive to small claims court to recover the difference. Check your state regulations, and find out if that makes sense. If you can prove the other driver at fault, and show that the insurance company isn’t covering the bills (taking care of the other driver’s obligation), you might win — and then the other driver has to deal with recovering the costs from his or her own insurance provider.
A lawyer can help you decide whether or not it makes sense to sue for the amount. In many cases, though, an insurance company will do the right thing if prompted by a letter from your lawyer. An attorney shows that you are serious, and that you know you are in the right. Consult with your lawyer, and get a good idea of what to expect. It’s the best way to ensure that your interests are protected.