You have been in an auto accident. You have called the police, they came to the scene, investigated, and even wrote the other driver a ticket. You felt pain, went to the doctor, and started medical treatment. You reported the incident to your insurance company and got a claim number. You set up an appointment with an auto accident attorney. You did everything right. But, you get a call from your insurance company that your claim is delayed because the other driver’s insurance is still investigating. That means you can’t get your car fixed, can’t get a rental car, and don’t know if there will be any money to pay for your injuries. If you have experienced this situation and wonder what is going on it is likely because the other driver hasn’t reported the accident and isn’t cooperating. So, what do you do now? The purpose of this article is to explain what happens regularly when dealing with auto accident injury claims in St. Petersburg, Pinellas County and the Tampa Bay Region.
After handling auto accidents claims locally for over 20 years, I have concluded that you simply cannot rely on the other driver to do the right thing. Even in the most cut and dry cases, there are always issues that come up that make me shake my head. I believe that it is human nature for people to not accept responsibility for their mistakes. It is hard for people to say that they are sorry and then carry through on fixing the issue. For example, I had a case where my client was driving through a parking lot and an elderly lady back out of a parking space and rammed into the side of my client’s car. The woman was in her eighties, and my client was a younger woman who felt bad for her. The elderly lady apologized, said that she didn’t see her, and my client decided not to call the police. They exchanged insurance information and went on their way. When my client reported the accident, the elderly lady’s insurance company said the claim was under investigation because the elderly lady told her insurance company that she wasn’t at fault because my client was speeding through the parking lot! My client and I were shocked. Fortunately, there was an independent witness who saw the whole thing. He contradicted the elderly lady’s account and said that he heard my client even honking at her before the impact. Based on this information, the insurance company accepted liability. But, I look back and wonder what would have happened if the witness didn’t exist? And, the unfortunate reality is that most cases do not have an independent witness. Most cases are he said/she said. The point of this example is that you always need to protect yourself and assume that the other person is not going to help you or do the right thing.
What Can You Do If The Other Driver Isn’t Cooperating?
Under Florida law, every driver has the obligation under their insurance contract to report the accident within a reasonable time and cooperate with the investigation. If you or your insurance company has reported the accident promptly to the at-fault company, then the first prong of the requirement has been met. But, it is out of your hands if the other driver doesn’t cooperate. And, this happens sometimes. It is rare, but the other insurance company can deny to cover the claim based on that cooperation. The good news is that although the insurance companies frequently threaten not to cover the claim, if you hire an attorney and pressure them, they will usually bend to the pressure and cover the loss.
Who Pays For My Medical Bills if the Other Driver Did Not Report the Claim?
Florida is a no fault state. That means regardless if the other driver caused the accident, your insurance company is obligated to pay for your medical bills up to $10,000. So, for your insurance company to pay those bills, it doesn’t matter if the other person/insurance company is involved.
However, the problem arises on the back end of the injury claim when you are ready to make a claim for your injuries, lost wages, and any remaining medical bills.
In a normal situation, you would submit a claim for these damages to the at-fault insurance company under their Bodily Injury (BI) section of the policy. But, if the other driver isn’t cooperating with the claim and it has been denied, then your only source of recovery is your own Uninsured Motorist (UM) section of your insurance policy. If you do not have it, you might be out of luck. That is why it is so important to always carry UM insurance because you always need to protect yourself.
Is There a Difference Between Reporting the Accident to the Police versus the Insurance Company?
Yes. One is a requirement under Florida law and one is a requirement under your insurance contract. You are required under Florida Statute 316 to report to law enforcement any accident injury or death or resulting in vehicle damage of $500 or more. This is a pretty low burden and it is wise to always err on the side of caution. But, these are civil and criminal penalties. Whether you subsequently report the accident to your insurance company has no bearing on this statute. The only consequence if the accident is not reported is that the insurance company will not cover the loss. That means that the person could be exposed to personal liability. Unfortunately, the type of person who would not report an accident to insurance is most likely also the type of person who would not be concerned about being sued or getting a civil judgment against them. Also, most lawyers will not be interested in pursuing a lawsuit against a person with no assets. That’s just the unfortunate reality of our insurance system in Florida and why it is so important to protect yourself with UM coverage.
Contact An Auto Accident Attorney Near You
At St. Petersburg Personal Injury Attorneys McQuaid & Douglas, we specialize in the handling of auto accident injury claims. We have seen every issue when it comes with uncooperative drivers and have learned how to handle them. We are not afraid to pursue these drivers and their insurance companies for the damages that they incur. If you have any questions regarding your auto accident claim, please contact us for a free consultation.