You’ve just been in a car accident. Who do you call? What do you say to insurers when they call you?
Virginia-based personal injury law firm Rutter Mills coaches you through this tumultuous time, so you do not say anything that might diminish your financial recovery, should you decide to pursue a lawsuit.
Do You Have to Report a Car Accident in Virginia?
Virginia Code § 46.2-894 requires you to report any accident in which:
- A person is injured.
- A person is killed.
- A vehicle or other property is damaged.
You generally do not need to file a report if you were in a single-vehicle collision that caused minor cosmetic damage and no other property damage. For all other accidents, you are expected to report the accident as soon as you are medically able to do so. Under very particular circumstances, failure to report the accident to local law enforcement could subject you to a misdemeanor charge. Regardless of the statutory requirements, a police report will come in handy should you ever wish to pursue compensation for your medical bills, lost income, or other accident-related losses.
Do You Have to Contact Your Own Insurance Company After a Car Accident?
In addition to filing a police report, you should also contact your own insurance company to let them know about the accident. Most insurers provide 24/7 customer service lines and online forms to make reporting as easy as possible. As a “fault” car accident state, Virginia requires the motorist who caused the collision to pay for all damages. They allow for the assessment of “contributory negligence,” which means fault can be shared among parties found liable. It is advisable that you file your insurance claim as soon as possible – typically same-day or next-day to avoid raising suspicions about the validity of your claim.
You will need to provide the following information to your insurer:
- The name, address, and phone number of any other drivers and vehicle occupants involved.
- The insurance policy information for any other driver involved in the accident.
- Vehicle make, model, year, and color of the other vehicle(s) involved.
- The agency responding to the accident (whether municipal police, county sheriff, state highway patrol)
- The date, time, and place of the accident
- Basic facts like speed, weather, the direction traveled, and who hit whom.
Avoid saying too much about your perception of what occurred. Emotions run high after an accident, but you want to stick to the facts. Do not admit liability or speculate by saying things like, “I think.” If you are unsure of something, simply state, “I don’t know.” And remember- It is your right to speak to an attorney first or even have them present when you talk to an insurance company.
Do You Have to Speak to the Other Driver’s Insurance Company?
You do not have to speak with the other driver’s insurance company. You do not have to give a recorded statement, even if you believe liability is clearly in your favor.
Insurers can be tricky. The adjuster may ask how you’re doing. But a simple, “I’m fine” response can be used against you as proof that you are not, in fact, injured. Even if you do feel fine, keep in mind not all injuries manifest immediately, and some worsen with time.
Be careful not to volunteer more information than what is needed. Extraneous statements may be used against you, resulting in a reduction in the value of your claim or refusal of reimbursement altogether. Remember, the goal of the insurance company is to pay out as little money as possible. Adjusters do not necessarily have your best interests in mind, no matter how polite and helpful they may seem on the phone. They are still looking for some way to blame you in an effort to reduce their liability. The purpose of taking a recorded statement is to set in stone your version of events, but recollections can change in the days that follow. It is wise not to make a statement until the dust has settled, and your memory is clear.
Dos and Don’ts For Talking To Insurers
Remember the following tips when dealing with insurance companies:
- DO stay calm, polite, and civil. Goodwill can go a long way when working with adjusters.
- DO respond with “I don’t know,” “I didn’t see,” or “I don’t remember,” rather than speculate.
- DO get the name, position, phone number, and company name of the representative.
- DO take notes – Who did you talk to? What did the adjuster say? What did you say?
- DO limit the personal information provided beyond your name, address, phone number, and insurer.
- DON’T discuss your injuries, as your doctor will provide a statement of injuries if necessary.
- DON’T give a recorded statement without an attorney.
- DON’T apologize out of politeness or accept any responsibility for the crash.
- DON’T minimize your injuries, as whiplash, brain bleeds, neck, and back injuries worsen with time.
- DON’T sign any liability release forms or settlement papers until you know the full extent of the damage.
You can always count on an experienced attorney from Rutter Mills for guidance in the days, weeks, and months to come. It costs nothing upfront to obtain a free case evaluation and file a lawsuit. You only pay a legal fee if we recover a settlement on your behalf.