Visit the Doctor
Car accidents can cause injuries, even at slow speeds. The full extent of the physical damage you experience from a crash may not be apparent immediately. A comprehensive medical exam can reveal any issues. This can help you to get prompt treatment. It also allows you to document injuries in case you need to make a claim against the other driver for compensation.
Understand State Laws and Insurance Coverage
The rules for who is responsible for covering the cost of accident losses can vary by state.
In certain jurisdictions, called no-fault states, your own insurer may cover medical bills and partial lost wages in cases where the damage from a crash is minor. In these states, every driver relies on their own insurer for compensation up to a set limit, such as $10,000, regardless of who was to blame for the crash.
In these states there’s not much difference between what to do after a car accident that’s not your fault and one that you are to blame for. However, the at-fault driver can still be held responsible for property damage even in no-fault states
In other states, however, the driver who caused the crash is required to provide compensation for property damage, medical bills and other losses resulting from injuries such as lost wages and emotional distress.
It is important to understand what rules are likely to apply to your situation so you can find out if you should expect payment to come from your insurer or the at-fault driver’s insurer.
Contact Your Own Insurance Company
Regardless of who should pay damages after a car crash, you will want to inform your own insurance company of the collision ASAP.
There are several key reasons why you should always report accidents to insurance, even if they seem minor or even if the other driver has admitted fault and agrees to compensate you. Here’s why it’s a good idea to always tell your insurer what happened:
- Minor accidents can sometimes turn out to cause serious damage. A driver who promised to pay may not have the money to do so
- Your insurer can help you to fight to obtain compensation from the at-fault driver’s insurer
- Your insurer may pay for losses if you live in a no-fault state or if the other motorist has insufficient coverage. If you have uninsured or underinsured motorist coverage, your insurer stands in for the at-fault driver if that motorist can’t pay as required
If you delay in informing your own insurer, you could jeopardize your ability to access the protection the company provides you (usually you should contact them within 24 hours of a crash). This could cause major problems if the responsible party doesn’t provide appropriate compensation post crash.
Consider Suing the Other Driver’s Insurance Company
In many cases, you have the right to obtain compensation from the at-fault driver after a car accident occurs. This is the case for any crashes in fault states. And it’s the case after a crash causes property damage or serious injuries in a no-fault jurisdiction.
The at-fault driver’s insurance company may offer to settle your case. They may agree to provide you with a lump-sum payment in exchange for you agreeing to give up any future claims. But the settlement offer isn’t always enough.
In some cases, you may wish to file a lawsuit against the at-fault driver’s insurer. This can be appropriate if the insurer denies responsibility or wants to pay you too little money given the nature and extent of your damages.
A lawsuit gives you the right to prove losses and to have a jury determine if you should be compensated and in what amount. Remember, though, that no matter how much the jury awards in damages, the insurer will only pay money up to policy limits. If you are awarded money in excess of the policy’s maximum coverage, you can try to collect directly from the driver but may not be successful.
Have an Attorney Evaluate Your Car Accident Claim
An attorney can help you understand your rights and obtain compensation after a car accident. Personal injury lawyers go beyond answering the question, what to do after a car accident that’s not your fault. They can help you to fight for the money you need to rebuild after you become a crash victim.