The days and weeks following a car accident can be confusing and hectic. While you are busy seeking medical care and trying to arrange alternate transportation (because your car has been totaled), you may be receiving calls from both your own insurance company and the other driver’s insurer.
What are your obligations regarding talking to insurers? And should you agree to speak with someone from the at-fault driver’s insurance company? We’ll discuss these questions in today’s post.
Does the law say anything about communicating with insurers?
In California (as in nearly all states), you are legally required to contact the police if the auto accident resulted in injury or death or vehicle damage totaling at least $1,000. This needs to be done within 24 hours of the crash. You (or a representative) will also need to report the crash to the DMV within 10 days.
You need to report the accident to your own insurance company if you plan to file a claim, and you should report if you suspect that the other driver will try to file a claim. When it comes to the other driver’s insurance company, you have no legal obligation to talk to them, not even to give a statement.
Should you talk to the other driver’s insurer?
To answer this question plainly: no. If the insurer contacts you, they are probably investigating the crash and looking to reduce their own financial liability. That means the adjuster will likely ask questions to achieve the following goals:
- Get you to say or imply that you are not hurt or that your injuries are minor
- Get you to say or imply that you were fully or partially at fault for the crash
- Get you to make statements that contradict things you said in the police report or other statements on the record
- Convince you to take a quick (and likely inadequate) settlement offer
In short, you gain no benefit by speaking to the at-fault driver’s insurer and you assume significant risk. If the adjuster asks for “a few minutes of your time” or wants you to give a “brief, recorded statement,” you should politely but firmly refuse to continue the call. If you have already hired a lawyer, you can direct the insurer to contact your attorney instead.
What an attorney can do for you
As soon as you hire an attorney, you have a representative who will speak to both your insurance company and the other driver’s insurer. Even communicating with your own insurer can be risky, because your insurance company has the same financial incentives as those mentioned above. By having a knowledgeable and experienced attorney field these conversations on your behalf, you protect yourself from the risk of saying anything that could diminish the value of your claim.
When settlement talks begin, being represented by an attorney is just as important. Insurers will try to settle for as little as possible, but your attorney will know what your claim is worth and what you should expect from an offer.
Our attorneys are ready to help – contact us today
The attorneys at Woods Williford, P.C., have a combined 30 years of experience in California personal injury law. We deal with insurance companies all the time, and we are not afraid to take your case to trial if insurers refuse to make a reasonable settlement offer. To learn more about how we can help you after a car accident, contact us to request a free initial consultation.