If you or a loved one has been involved in an auto accident in Pinellas County, FL then you might be wondering what the next steps are. Regardless of the severity of the accident or crash, there are certain requirements your insurance policy mandates.
What is considered “Reasonable Time” to notify the insurance company of the auto accident?
Because of the contract between you and your insurance company, you are required to notify it of the accident within a reasonable time. The term “reasonable time” is not black and white, but as long as the insurance company is contacted while the accident is still being investigated, you will likely be in compliance with the requirements of the policy. This can take days, weeks, or even months, so there is no need to rush or panic. Whether there are injuries or simply damage to your car or motorcycle, this rule still applies. I have seen coverage denied when the insurance company calls repeatedly and sends multiple letters and the person doesn’t respond. But, this is rare. In fact, we just won a case when a mother let her son drive her car and he caused an accident. The insurance company called the mother and the son. The mother told her company that she did not know about the accident because her son was driving. The son refused to respond or cooperate with the investigation for reasons that were unclear, so the insurance company denied coverage and the mother got sued by the other driver. We were able to successfully sue the mother’s own insurance company demanding that it cover the loss claim. In response, it paid the claim in full. But again, this scenario is very rare.
If you are reading this, it is unlikely that you are the type of person who will breach an insurance contract for failing to cooperate. What I always worry about is the other person who caused the accident. Often, insurance claims are delayed because the other driver disappears after the accident and his or her insurance company is in no rush to pay any money. I have client after client tell me that before he or she hired me that the other company’s insurance adjuster repeatedly claimed they called their insured driver and were still waiting to hear back. These issues can be extremely frustrating because they can delay the repair of your vehicle or delay receiving a check for the damage. The bright side is that almost every time, the other driver’s insurance company eventually gets ahold of their driver or reviews the accident report and the claim proceeds.
How should I proceed with repairs after an auto accident?
After contacting your own insurance company, the next step is to decide how to get your car fixed. Again, this issue has nothing to do with the injuries to either party. The choice you will face is whether to call the other insurance company and get your car fixed through them or to have your own insurance company handle it. I often leave these decisions up to my clients. The benefit of having the other insurance company fix your car is that you don’t have to pay a deductible. The downside is that sometimes the other insurance company isn’t as responsive as your own company and doesn’t promptly help.
You may want to pick the brain of a lawyer before you make this decision because we know the companies that are notorious for mistreating people versus the legitimate companies that actually care about resolving problems. In Pinellas County, Florida, we see both kinds of companies. Again, there is nothing wrong with using the other driver’s insurance company to pay for the damage to your vehicle, but if you do, realize that you have no contract with them and no obligation to give them a recorded statement.
I encourage my clients that if they go through the other insurance company, to give an unrecorded statement discussing only generalities of the crash and to not discuss injuries or medical treatment. If anyone starts to feel uncomfortable or frustrated by the conduct of the other insurance company, they should immediately call a lawyer. If I am involved in the case, I shut down the other insurance company from speaking with my clients about anything other than the repairs or the check for the property damage.
Hopefully, you are not in an accident, but if so, I hope you found my insights helpful.
Sean McQuaid has been practicing law for over 18 years in the Tampa Bay region and his office is located in St. Petersburg, Pinellas County, Florida. He and his staff are always available to discuss auto or motorcycle claims. Contact Sean today for a free case evaluation or call (727)381-2300.