Motor Vehicle Accidents
What should I do if I am in an accident?
Regardless of how minor you think the accident is, you should always report it to the police. Write down names, addresses, and phone numbers of any witnesses in case you need them later, and make sure the police officer gives you a copy of the driver exchange information form. Call your insurance agent and your insurance company immediately for further instructions. If you do not report the accident, the insurance company may deny payment of any claims you subsequently file. Your insurance company must notify you within a certain number of days (depending on the state) after receiving proper notice of the claim whether they will pay or deny your claim or that they are investigating the claim.
If the accident is not my fault, do I have to let my own insurance know about it, and if I do will they raise my insurance premiums? What kind of coverage is my insurer required to provide?
Yes, you need to inform your insurance company of the accident. An insurance company may not raise your premium if the accident was not your fault. The laws governing insurance coverage vary from state to state. Some states, such as Pennsylvania and New York, are no-fault automobile accident states. This typically means that your automobile insurance company is required to pay for your medical expenses up to a certain amount, depending on the policy you purchased. Washington, D.C., residents have the option of purchasing add-on no-fault insurance.
If I am injured in an automobile accident, what kind of damages can I recover?
Generally, someone who is injured in an automobile accident may seek recovery for expenses associated with property damages and medical costs, economic damages, and emotional and physical pain and suffering.
What if I was a passenger in a friend’s car and he caused the accident? Do I have to sue my friend?
If your friend has Bodily Injury Protection as part of his insurance policy, his insurance company is required by law to pay for your damages. It will also be required to hire an attorney to defend your friend if a lawsuit is filed. By purchasing insurance benefits, your friend will not have to pay for legal defense or related expenses.
What if I received a traffic citation stating I was the cause of the accident? Do I still have a case?
That depends. If the accident was not completely your fault, you can still recover damages from the other driver for that portion of the accident that was his or her fault. Additionally, there may be others partially or wholly at fault for the accident. For instance, a municipality may be negligent for failing to post adequate signage or maintaining a roadway in reasonable condition, or an automobile company may be liable for producing a car with a manufacturing or design defect. In these kinds of cases, you may still recover damages from the negligent or responsible party.