Paying My Deductible in an Accident that Wasn’t My Fault?
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Being involved in a car accident is a stressful event. In addition to worrying about your health and well-being, you are also forced to consider how the car accident will affect your finances. In many cases, an insurance claim will need to be filed in order to seek compensation for certain expenses. Part of understanding this claim filing process involves knowing what insurance deductibles are, and how deductibles are handled when the accident was not your fault. This article will provide important information about car insurance deductibles as well as what can be done to seek compensation for deductible payments.
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How Do Car Insurance Deductibles Work?
When a person is involved in a car accident, it is likely that an insurance claim will need to be filed. A car insurance claim is a request to an insurance company for monetary reimbursement for the physical damage to the vehicle involved in the car accident.
A car insurance deductible is an amount of money that an insurance policyholder must pay before an insurance company covers the remainder of the expenses. For example, if you are in a car crash that causes $2,000 worth of damage, and your policy has a deductible of $500, you will need to pay $500 to the insurance company before the company agrees to pay the remaining $1,500. An insurer will only pay for damages above your deductible. Thus, if you have $200 in damages and a $500 deductible, you would typically have to pay all of the repair costs. Unlike health insurance, auto insurance policy deductibles are normally on a per claim basis, which means that you would have to cover these costs every time you file a claim.
The amount of the deductible typically depends on the policyholder when choosing to purchase auto insurance. This is because the policyholder can choose the amount of the deductible. In general, choosing a higher deductible policy means having to pay lower annual expenses, often called premiums. Thus, for instance, choosing a $750 deductible policy means paying lower annual premiums than choosing a $250 deductible policy. These lower annual premiums are offered in exchange for the higher out of pocket expenses that must be paid when filing a car insurance claim.
When choosing your deductible, one of your primary considerations should be how much you would be willing and able to pay in the event of a car accident. A general rule of thumb is that your deductible should be set at a level where if you had to pay the expenses out of pocket, you would be able to do so without a significant impact on your financial situation or lifestyle.
Because auto insurance deductibles are paid on a per-claim basis, the frequency of your claims is another important factor to consider. One approach that some policyholders take is to assess their driving history. A driving history with many previously filed claims may mean selecting a policy with lower out of pocket expenses. In contrast, if you have a clean driving history with few or no car accidents, you may not need a low deductible plan.
In general, if you are in a car accident wherein the other driver is at fault, you should not have to pay your deductible. In these cases, the at-fault driver’s insurance company will assume responsibility for paying your deductible. Following the accident, the insurance company which insures the at-fault driver will estimate the amount of damage to your vehicle. The insurance company will then pay you the required amount of money for repairs, or the amount your car was worth at the time of the accident. Because this process does not involve you filing a claim on your own insurance policy, you will not need to pay your own deductible.
However, in some instances, it may be favorable to you to file a claim on your own policy. One of the primary reasons for filing a claim on your own policy is time management. Specifically, filing a claim on your own policy tends to be much faster and more efficient than filing a claim with the at-fault driver’s insurance company. This means a quicker payout.
Although filing a claim on your own policy may mean having to pay an initial deductible, it is important to realize that this deductible can be reimbursed if the car accident was caused by another driver. Seeking compensation for the deductible involves your insurance company initiating the process of “subrogation” to seek compensation for any money you – and your insurance company – had to pay.
Broadly speaking, subrogation is a legal right that allows one party (i.e., your insurance company) to make a payment that is owed by another party (i.e., the at-fault driver’s insurance company), then be reimbursed for the payment at a later date.
Car insurance companies use subrogation as a means to seek reimbursement any money paid after a collision where you were not at fault. Thus, the process of subrogation may allow you to take advantage of the benefits of filing a claim on your own policy while also being able to seek compensation for any money spent on paying a deductible.
Determining fault after a car accident is a crucial part of the claim filing and claim settlement process. How fault is apportioned will determine the value of your claim. For example, if the other driver is entirely at-fault for causing the accident, you will likely be entitled to full compensation of actual damages that can be proved. However, if you were partially at-fault for the accident (e.g., if you were driving recklessly), then the value of your claim may decrease.
Proving liability to show that the other driver is at fault for the accident typically requires utilizing key pieces of evidence such as:
- Police reports;
- Witness statements
- Traffic surveillance videos;
- Testimonials; and
- Other forms of physical evidence.
Because the process of proving liability relies heavily on these forms of evidence, it is important to keep a thorough and organized record of any materials relating to your accident and injuries. A car accident attorney can utilize these critical pieces of information to establish a case against the other driver. For instance, the attorney may use the police report in combination with first-hand witness statements to prove that the other driver was entirely at fault for causing the car accident.
Another major component of determining fault and proving liability is the set of statutes and traffic laws that govern a particular jurisdiction. A personal injury attorney will be responsible for reviewing these laws to determine how fault is determined in certain car accident cases. The attorney can then use the evidence to build a case in accordance with the governing statute.
Do I Need a Lawyer?
Not every car accident requires hiring an attorney. For instance, minor fender-benders which did not result in any form of injury may be successfully handled alone, if so desired. However, many car accident cases are not minor. When a car accident does result in any injury or significant property damage, it is often wise to consider consulting with a professional car accident attorney. Allowing a car accident lawyer, who has experience in handling these types of cases, to handle your claim may put you in a better position to seek fair and just compensation for your expenses.
Hiring a car accident attorney may also be a way to protect an inexperienced victim from insurance companies. Often, an insurance company will seek to minimize payouts by any means necessary. An insurance company may also be reluctant to pay for certain types of expenses such as costs incurred due to injury, or non-economic damages like pain and suffering. In order to accomplish its goal of paying as little as possible, an insurance company will use different strategies to minimize the value of a person’s claim. For instance, an insurance company may trick a victim into admitting fault for all or part of the car accident.
An attorney can serve as a shield, protecting a victim from insurance companies and the strategies used to lessen the value of a claim. An experienced attorney can guide their client throughout the claim filing and settlement process, ensuring that the client does not make any unnecessary statements that could hurt the value of the claim.
A lawyer can also be able to handle an insurance company by strategically negotiating the settlement amount. The lawyer can act on the client’s behalf by negotiating a settlement amount that is fair and satisfactory, taking into consideration all aspects of the case including injuries sustained and emotional stress incurred. Throughout this process, the lawyer may utilize use careful advocacy and negotiation strategies, using critical pieces of evidence such as the police report and photographs of the claimant’s injuries.
How To File a Claim
If you have been involved in a car wreck and would like to pursue compensation for expenses incurred as a result of the accident, you will need to file a car accident claim against the at-fault driver or the driver’s insurance company. Listed below are the steps that comprise this process.
1.) Contact a Car Accident Lawyer
The first step towards seeking compensation is to reach out to a car accident lawyer. A lawyer can talk with you either in person or over the phone in order to listen to the facts of your case, including how the accident occurred and the resulting injuries you sustained. The lawyer can then take this information into consideration and provide valuable legal advice which outlines your best options moving forward.
It is important that you consider consulting with a car accident lawyer before making any settlement decisions. A lawyer can work on your behalf to negotiate with insurance companies to help you receive a fair settlement offer. If necessary, a lawyer may initiate the formal process of filing a personal injury lawsuit.
The investigation phase of the car accident claim process is pursued in order to build and strengthen the overall value your claim. This stage of the process involves your attorney conducting a thorough investigation into the accident, particularly with respect to how it occurred.
The process may require interrogating the at-fault parties, speaking with witnesses to the accident, reviewing important documents, and formulating the best legal strategy for your case. This process also involves accounting for each of your damages, such as medical bills, lost wages, and property damage.
3.) Case Settlement
During the claim process, the at-fault party’s insurance company may try to settle your claim by offering certain amounts of financial payouts. This settlement process will likely lead to back-and-forth negotiations between you, your attorney, and the insurance company. During the settlement, your attorney can advocate on your behalf to get the insurance company to pay the full value of your claim. Settlement amounts often depend on a combination of important factors such as the type and severity of injuries sustained, medical bills incurred, property damage incurred, age, driving history, and emotional trauma. In general, the more extensive your injuries and property damage, the higher the possible settlement amount.
If the insurance company refuses to pay an amount that is fair or satisfactory, it may be necessary to litigate your claim in court. In that event, an attorney can fight on your behalf.
GET HELP FROM OUR CAR ACCIDENT LAWYERS
At Zinda Law Group, our attorneys have extensive experience negotiating settlements with insurance companies. We have the knowledge and resources necessary to help you seek maximum compensation for your damages.
Our firm also believes that a personal injury victim should never have to worry about the ability to afford legal representation. That is why we offer 100% free consultations, and why you will pay nothing unless we achieve a favorable settlement, judgment, or verdict for your personal injury case. That’s our No Fee Guarantee.
If you or your loved one is trying to negotiate with insurance, call Zinda Law Group at (888) 309-6676 to receive your free consultation with our personal injury attorneys.
Meetings with attorneys are available by appointment only.