July 12, 2019

Whose insurance to call first in a car accident?

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Someone hit my car. Whose insurance should I call?

In the minutes after a car crash, it can feel like your life has been turned upside-down. The accident itself is frightening, of course. And in the wake of that distressing experience, you might have to deal with the other driver (who’s also upset), as well as police, bystanders, and yes… insurance companies.

Unfortunately, in this disorienting time period, many people make a crucial mistake. They call the wrong insurance agency. After an accident you should always call your own insurance company – not the other driver’s. Why does it matter? There are actually many good reasons.

Your agency is on your side

When there’s an automobile accident, money is always in dispute. Who will pay for the damages to your car? And to the other driver’s vehicle? If passengers in either car were injured, who will cover their medical bills? And what about bystanders? If they’ve been hurt, or their property damaged, who is responsible?

Settling these financial disputes can take months or years of legal wrangling. And through it all, you need to count on your insurance agency to represent you. They’re your team. They’re on your side, and they want to protect you.

Similarly, the other driver’s agency wants to protect their client – which means they’ll try to hold you responsible for as much of the damages as possible.

Calling the other agency first is a mistake

When you talk to a claim adjuster for the other driver’s insurance agency, they’ll ask you a lot of questions. The phone call is most likely being recorded. It’s here where most people, unfortunately, end up making statements that are later used against them.

The problem is that even when you try to answer honestly, the conversation can get confusing. And if statements you make at this time are even slightly at odds with the statements you make to the police or to your own insurance company, that discrepancy can undermine your legal position. You might end up saddled with the costs of the accident – even if you weren’t at fault.

You may need to speak with the other driver’s insurance eventually – but it should never be your first call. If you do speak to the other agency, work with your own insurer to arrange the call, and make sure to prepare beforehand. If you’re feeling uncertain you might also want to check in with an attorney before making this call.

Why is this such a common problem?

Many people think that calling their own insurance company to report an accident will automatically result in their premiums being raised. But this isn’t always this case. And if you don’t tell your agency that you were involved in an accident, it can lead to very serious problems down the line.

Why? Because most likely, you’re contractually obliged to notify your insurer when you’re in an accident. It’s one of your responsibilities as a policyholder that’s listed in the contract you signed. That’s because, simply put, the insurance company needs this information to do their job. Without the latest details on your driving record, they may not be able to protect you later against false claims.

If you fail to notify your insurer of an accident, you may be breaking your contract with them – meaning the company could terminate your whole policy. And that leaves you on the hook, with no insurance to protect you, when there’s a more serious accident.

In other words, contacting your insurance company after an accident doesn’t just protect you from damages in the short term. It protects your relationship with your agency, and safeguards your financial wellbeing in the long run.

What if the accident wasn’t your fault?

You might have heard that you don’t need to talk to your insurer if you weren’t at fault. This is a myth. As we said above, notifying your insurance company after a collision may be your only protection against false claims.

Checking in with your insurance company after an accident can also protect you from the financial burden when you’re not at fault.

For instance, you might badly need to get your vehicle repaired after the accident. Even if the at-fault driver’s insurance company is slow to respond, your collision policy may cover the repairs to your car in the short term. Your insurer can then seek reimbursement from the other driver’s agency. But of course, this can only happen if your insurance company knows there’s been an accident.

Similarly, if your vehicle needs to be towed after a collision, your towing insurance policy may cover these charges. That can protect you from a hefty out-of-pocket expense, which your insurer will later try to recover from the at-fault driver. But again, these safeguards can only work in your favor if you keep your insurance company up-to-date.

What does your insurer need to know?

After an accident, the first thing to do is to make sure no one is seriously hurt. Assuming there’s no need for emergency medical services, you should now contact the police. The officer who arrives on the scene will take a statement from you, from the other driver, and from any witnesses. Then they’ll create an official report documenting the incident.

Now it’s time to call your insurance company. Of course, they’ll want a lot of details about the accident. You might want to jot down some notes beforehand to prepare for the call. Common questions include:

What is the other driver’s name, address, and license plate number? What is the other driver’s insurance company and policy details? Where and when, exactly, did the accident occur? What were the driving conditions (i.e. weather, lighting) at the time of the accident? Were there any passengers in either vehicle? Were there any witnesses to the accident? What kind of damage has been done to either vehicle? What is the police report number and/or the officer’s badge number? Where were the vehicles towed to, if towing was necessary?

The Bottom Line

Your insurance company is here to protect you, but they can only do so if you keep them informed. After an accident, always call your agency first – even if you weren’t at fault. Working closely with your insurer will protect you from dangerous financial liabilities, and will safeguard your financial wellbeing in the long term.