Many clients don't know what to do after a car accident. They think the insurance adjuster is going to do everything for them - from arranging to fix their car, to renting them a car, to providing them with medical care. Here's something you should know: NEVER assume the insurance adjuster is going to do ANYTHING for you. You are the captain of your own ship. It's your responsibility to manage your case (unless you hire a lawyer, in which case they will manage your case. However, they will STILL need your help to do so).
If you call your own insurance company after an accident and inform them of the accident (which we do recommend), they will make a note of it in their file. You want to keep them informed and your insurance contract likely requires you report accidents. However, unless you have collision coverage for your vehicle, your insurance company is not going to fix your car.
In fact, most of the time your insurance company will recommend you contact the responsible party's insurance company and ask them to fix your vehicle. There are several reasons why they might recommend you pursue the other party's company:
(1) If you choose to pursue the other company, your insurance adjuster doesn't have to do anything. They basically send you elsewhere to solve your problem;
(2) You may not have collision coverage on your vehicle in which case your insurance company will never fix your car;
(3) If you choose to have your company fix your car, you might have to pay a steep deductible, in which case it might be better to pursue the responsibly party's insurance company because you won't have a deductible.
Another thing people do is wait for the insurance company (whether it is their company or another company) to arrange for their medical care. Once again, the insurance company is NOT going to arrange for your medical care. They are not your doctors nor are they responsible for arranging for your medical care. You are waiting for something that is never going to happen. You have to arrange for your own medical care. You have to decide what resources you are going to use to pay for such medical care. Either you can (1) pay out of your own pocket, (2) use your own health insurance, or perhaps (3) tap into the medical payments coverage available under your own policy if you have such coverage. Some medical care can be provided on a "lien" (where you promise to pay the provider later, usually out of the insurance settlement).
The insurance company for the responsible party is not going to take care of your medical bills as they come due. If you are waiting for a car insurance company to arrange for your medical care, you will be waiting for a very long time! Some clients mistakenly believe the insurance company has their own doctors - so they wait by the phone, hoping to hear from someone. I recently spoke to a client who had been waiting four months since the accident - thinking the insurance company was going to "take care of" her medical care. In the meantime, her health was declining and she was waiting for something that was never going to occur.
Some clients also wait by the phone for the insurance company to fix their car. That is also not going to happen unless you make an affirmative request of the insurance company to fix your car. At that point, they will assign a property damage insurance adjuster who will assist you. The main point is that insurance companies generally won't do anything for you unless you affirmatively ask them to do it. They are not going to call you and proactively manage your matter for you.
Generally speaking, when it comes to property damage, you have to move the ball down the field on your own. The insurance adjuster will help you, but they are not going to volunteer to do the work for you unless you ask them to do so. If you are working with an insurance adjuster, make sure you are clear about "next steps." You must ask things like, "When will I be hearing from you on this issue?" Never ASSUME what the next step is going to be. I would comfortably say that 50% of the time, your idea of "next step" is different from the insurance adjuster's idea of "next step." Don't leave things to the imagination. Get a clear answer and don't be shy about asking questions.
The same thing goes for medical care. You are responsible for your own medical care. The insurance adjuster is not going to arrange for it. The overall point of this article is this: You are responsible for your own case. You have to affirmatively ask the insurance adjuster (at your company or the responsible party's company) to do things. There are many helpful adjusters out there who will assist you. However, waiting for the phone to ring is usually not the best course of action.
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by Robert Mansour
Robert Mansour is a personal injury lawyer serving Santa Clarita, Valencia,