If you’re like most drivers, you have insurance coverage but don’t pay a lot of attention to it, other than paying your insurance premiums. You set up your insurance policy at the recommendation of your agent, trusting the coverage you have will be sufficient. Odds are the other driver(s) involved in a car accident did the same, but understanding insurance coverage helps you understand how a car accident injury claim works.
Liability insurance coverage is legally required in most states. This insurance is designed to cover damages for which a driver is deemed “liable,” meaning a driver must be proven responsible for the damages in order for liability insurance to cover costs.
Liability coverage comes in a couple of different forms:
- Property damage liability insurance often only covers damage to your vehicle.
- General liability coverage may cover other types of damages, including physical injuries, pain and suffering, and other personal injuries.
Most states have a minimum coverage requirement for drivers. The typical minimum is $10,000 worth of coverage for property damage alone. Many drivers elect coverage at higher than the minimum required by law, so as long as the other driver’s insurance company agrees that he or she was at fault for the accident, the damage to your vehicle should be paid by the at-fault driver’s insurance.
No-fault Car Insurance
If you’re in an accident with a driver that has no insurance or the other driver’s insurance company won’t agree that they were at-fault for the accident, then you may be in trouble. The damage to your vehicle might not be paid for by another insurance company under these circumstances. Because of this, many drivers elect to have “collision coverage” or “no-fault car insurance.”
Collision coverage pays for damages to your vehicle no matter who was responsible for the accident. The drawbacks with collision coverage are:
- There is usually a deductible, which is an out-of-pocket amount you must pay. The insurance company will cover the rest of the cost of the cost of repairs for your car.
- Making a claim against your collision coverage can cause some insurance companies to up your insurance premiums.
The good news is that no-fault insurance makes it possible to repair your car even when the other driver has no insurance. Waiting for an insurance claim to be settled can also delay repairs to your vehicle, leaving you in the lurch while you wait. Your own collision coverage can cover the cost of repairs, minus the deductible of course. When the insurance claim with the other driver’s company is completed, you can get your deductible back, and your insurance company gets reimbursed by the other driver’s company for the money spent to repair your car. Most insurance companies will arrange this transaction when a car accident claim is settled.
Uninsured and At-Fault
It is required by law in most states to have some form of auto insurance, thus most drivers on the road are insured, and any damages from accidents they're involved in are likely to be covered by their insurance company. For individuals who are without insurance, injured, and found at fault in an auto accident their compensation options are limited.
In most states uninsured drivers who are found at fault typically end up having to pay for any damages or medical expenses out of pocket! Therefore having auto insurance is highly recommended as it saves you from the financial burdens associated with being involved in an accident.
Pain and Suffering Determinations
Documenting property damage is fairly easy. Establishing fault in some accidents can be more challenging. The most difficult part of a car accident claim to prove is usually “pain and suffering” though.
When an insurance company analyzes a car accident claim, they include pain and suffering in their evaluation of “general damages.” They additionally make certain assumptions. The biggest and most one is that if you don’t seek treatment, then you’re not in physical pain. The same is true if you don’t seek help for psychological or emotional pain and suffering you’ve experienced.
Documentation is the key to proving pain and suffering, and the following can strengthen your claim:
- Statements from physicians, counselors, or psychologists
- Copies of prescription medication bills for pain, anti-depressants, or anti-anxiety medications
- Receipts for over-the-counter pain medications, sleep aids, and other drugs associated with pain, anxiety, stress, or “mental anguish”
- Reports from physical therapists, chiropractors, and others who help you manage pain or recover from injuries
- Documentation from your employer regarding restricted work or lost work time due physical pain or trauma
How a Lawyer can Help with Insurance and Car Accident Cases
Navigating the insurance system can be intimidating. A personal injury lawyer is accustomed to how the system works and can act as an intermediary or go-between for you. They can interpret what insurance company communications mean and explain how the entire process will work.
An attorney can also help prove liability in a car accident. They can collect evidence, get witness statements, and compose a demand letter that includes a strong argument for any pain and suffering you experienced. They can potentially help you speed up the review and payment of a claim, ensuring your out-of-pocket expenses associated with medical bills, car repairs, and other damages are kept to a minimum.