Auto Insurance Claims Process: What if I’m At Fault?

Posted on Dec 06, 2019
Auto Insurance Claims Process: What if I’m At Fault?

Auto insurance is one of those products in life you purchase, hoping never to need. Even if you do find yourself in need of making an auto insurance claim, the process is one that is, hopefully, rare enough that no one is really an expert at filing. 

What many people aren’t aware of is that if you’re in an accident in which you are at fault, your insurance policy will pay for any settlement or judgment up to the limit of liability you have purchased, as well as for a lawyer to defend you if you are sued.

What is Third Party Liability?

The premise behind third party liability claims is that drivers are responsible for their actions behind the wheel.

When the actions of the driver result in property damage (to other vehicles, permanent structures, etc.), injuries, or death, the party – aka the “third party” – whose property was damaged or who was injured may file a claim against the driver. These claims are third-party liability claims.   

At-Fault Third Party Claims

When liability is clear, the claim will often be settled by the insurance company for the driver without the need for suit to be filed. This is most often the case where the damage is limited to property.

However, when there are physical injuries to other parties, such as pedestrians, drivers in other vehicles, or passengers either in the at-fault party’s vehicle or other vehicles, suit can filed against the driver to recover both economic and non-economic damages.

Recoverable Damages

Economic damages are those arising from a direct financial loss, like uncompensated medical bills and lost wages. Non-economic damages may include pain and suffering, loss of enjoyment of activities or worsening of prior injuries.

Additionally, the spouse of the injured person may also recover damages for loss of consortium, which is loss of companionship or affection of the spouse as a result of the injuries sustained in the accident.

What Happens After Suit Is Filed

If you receive a letter from an attorney representing an injured party or suit papers, you must immediately transmit them to your insurance agent who will submit them to your insurance company.

Don’t make the mistake of thinking that you can ignore it because the person said they were okay after the accident or that it’s not a valid claim. While those things are important for your insurance company to know, those are simply facts that assist in your defense and may ultimately help you win the case.

But if you fail to allow your insurance company to respond because you didn’t submit the suit papers, you may find yourself in default and could be jeopardizing the insurance coverage you paid for.

Once the suit papers have been submitted, an attorney will be assigned by the insurance company to defend you. An answer to the complaint will be filed and then the fact-finding phase of litigation begins.

You must cooperate in this process by providing answers to written questions, known as interrogatories. You probably will have your deposition taken. A deposition is an opportunity that the parties’ attorneys are given to question parties and witnesses in person and under oath. Your attorney will prepare you in advance of the deposition so that you know what to expect.

After that, you may be required to attend an arbitration or mediation hearing. Both are used as a means to resolve the matter prior to or even in lieu of trial. The good news is that a trial is highly unlikely as recent statistics put the percentage of cases that settle prior to trial at 95%.

In a perfect world, you will never have to use your auto insurance. However, if you ever do find yourself in this situation, working with a quality, reputable independent insurance agency, like Otterstedt Insurance Agency can help you get the protection you require from a name you can trust.

Consider Otterstedt for Your Auto Insurance and Claims Process Needs

Otterstedt Insurance Agency has been serving the needs of families and drivers throughout New Jersey for a century.

As we enter a new century of service, our focus continues to be on helping our clients find the right insurance protection for their current and future insurance needs. We have multiple offices located throughout New Jersey to accommodate the needs of families and drivers everywhere.

At Otterstedt, we work with you to identify your needs and make sure you’re getting the level of service and coverage to meet them.

Contact us today online or by calling 201-227-1800 to learn more about our agency and how we can help you get outstanding peace of mind and protection for your family. We believe you’ll quickly discover why we’ve been recognized as one of the top 50 insurance agencies in the nation!

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