After an accident, your car insurance company will become involved on your behalf and step in to make certain that the right steps are taken. In some cases the other driver who is involved in the accident may wish to have communication with you for any number of reasons, but it is best to leave the negotiations to the experts – the insurance adjusters. From the moment an accident happens, it’s important to handle your interactions with the other driver in the right manner.
At the Scene of an Accident
When you step out of your car you may feel shaken, frightened or even angry, but bear in mind that even if you feel sure you know who is at fault, it isn’t up to you or the other driver to determine that. Don’t take responsibility for the accident at the scene either to the other driver or to the police if they have been called. Police must be called if the damage appears to be more than $1000 for both cars, if anyone is injured, or if any property either public or private has been damaged. When the police arrive, give your statement based on the facts as you recall them, but do not make any statements in regards to fault. Do not discuss the accident with the other driver while you wait – instead take the time to make note of the conditions around the scene and take pictures if you can.
If police have not been called, you can make the basic arrangements with the other driver to move forward with the claim. Exchange names, phone numbers and insurance policy information. Ask to see the other driver’s license and insurance information to ensure that you write down accurate information. Your next step will be to contact your insurance company and pass on all of the information to them.
If the Other Driver Wants to Avoid Insurance
In some cases the other driver may ask you not to contact your insurance company, and to make a deal to pay for the damages out of pocket. This is most commonly the case when the other driver suspects they will be found at fault and wants to avoid the potential car insurance rate increase. Remember that failure to report an accident to your insurance company is rarely a good idea, even if the damage is minor. That driver who seemed so anxious to negotiate with you off the record may suddenly turn around and file a claim, suing you for damages. If a certain amount of time has passed based on your insurance company’s rules, you may be denied coverage.
When another driver asks you not to contact the insurance company, politely decline and inform them that you prefer to allow insurance professionals to handle the claim. Once you report the accident to your insurance company, they will handle contacting the other party’s insurer even if that person did not file a claim.
Once the Claim is Filed
Once you have filed a claim with your insurance company, there is no need for you to have further contact with the other party involved in the accident. If the other driver contacts you for any reason, you should refer them to the insurance adjuster. There is no need for you to provide the other driver with any details of the claim on your end; they can contact either of the two insurance companies involved with questions.
You insurance adjuster will handle all claim activities on your behalf and represent your interests – that is why you pay for insurance in the first place. Insurance professionals understand all of the legal aspects of car accidents and claims, so let them put that knowledge to work for you.
Negotiating with the other driver involved in an accident is risky and could cause trouble for you down the road. Avoid it altogether and call your insurance company as soon as possible after an accident occurs. Although the fear of increased insurance rates can make it tempting to work it out with the other driver and make alternate arrangements for repairs, in the long run such a decision could end up costing you more if the other driver changes their mind and decides to file.
A competent and trustworthy claims department is one of the things you should consider when you shop around for car insurance. As you compare rates it’s a good idea to also look at the company’s rating with their customers for claims service. When you feel confident in your insurance company, you won’t be tempted to negotiate with another driver on your own.