Contributed By: Anna Betts
Although our firm represents only the people in Northwest Arkansas that are not at fault in a car accident I often think about those that are on the other side. I have thought for a long time that people who are at fault whether it be in Rogers, Bentonville, Fayetteville or Springdale that they need to know a few basic things when they are involved in a car wreck. So here are a few things you should consider if you were the one that caused the wreck and are responsible for the injuries that were caused.
- First and foremost I hope that you didn’t base your decision for insurance company and the amount of coverage strictly on the lowest price. There is a difference in insurance companies and the type of service they give to their customers. Remember insurance companies are for profit companies and many of them will put their profits ahead of their customers. That becomes very important when you need them after you have been at fault in a wreck.
- Report the accident to your insurance company right away. An insurance policy comes with two important responsibilities: The duty to cover payment to the other side for their injuries and property damage and the duty to provide you with an attorney. One of the ways an insurance company can get out of this duty is if you don’t report the accident in a timely manner. They can also get out of their obligation if it is decided that you are not cooperating. Cooperating in its basic sense means communicating with the attorney that they are paying to represent you.
- Remember that YOU are the one that is going to be sued. It is YOU that will show up with a judgment against them on your credit report and not the insurance company. And ultimately it is YOU that will be responsible for any judgment that is higher than the amount of insurance that you have purchased. This year alone I handled cases in which the other side carried the minimum amount of insurance and ultimately they had to personally be responsible for a significant amount of the settlement by getting loans from banks.
- This becomes very important because it is not YOU that gets to decide whether to settle a case or not. Often times the insurance company has a chance to settle a case at or below the policy limits which you have and they refuse. That means you will be obligated to make up the difference between your limits and the verdict. For example if you have purchased a 50,000 policy and the other side demands those limits the insurance company can decline to pay it because they think they can get away cheaper. However, if they are wrong and the jury finds that you are responsible for $125,000 it is YOU that is going to be responsible to pay the remaining $75,000.
- If you are concerned that a jury may find not only that it is your fault but that the verdict will be greater than your policy limits go hire your OWN attorney. Typically this will not cost you much and your personal attorney can write a letter to the insurance company and demand that they settle this case within your policy limits. If the insurance company refuses to settle the case within an amount that is covered by your policy limits then you will be much much less likely to have to make up the difference if the jury returns a verdict that is more than your coverage. This is extremely important. And if you don’t hire a lawyer to do this for you but you are still concerned (and you should be concerned- remember the lawyer hired by the insurance company while technically is your ttorney is paid by the insurance company and makes a living representing them all the time) then you should put your demand to settle the case within limits in writing.
- Be honest with yourself- if you are at fault then you want the other side to get what they deserve. Don’t trick yourself into believing that the other side is lying about their injuries. The reason the law requires that everyone carry insurance is because people get hurt as a result of accidents. That is why we all have insurance in the first place. Don’t let the insurance company, who is supposed to be acting on your behalf, put their profits ahead of you. Be aware of what is going on in your case and don’t hesitate to make demands upon them or hiring your own attorney to do it for you.