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Car Accidents and Insurance Company Investigations: What You Need to Know

Written by Berkowitz

bigstock Accident Of Red And Silver Car

To protect yourself during the insurance company’s investigation after a car accident, you need to take certain proactive measures while also avoiding costly mistakes. As a claimant, it is up to you to protect your legal rights, and you need to make sure that the insurance company does not use the outcome of its investigation to force you into an unfair settlement.

When you are involved in a car accident, the process of recovering just compensation for your losses starts with an investigation. Auto insurance provides fault-based compensation (other than the limited coverage available through Med Pay), and one of the first major steps toward proving the fault is collecting evidence from the scene of the crash.

Proving Fault and Protecting Your Legal Rights After a Car Accident in Connecticut

But, investigating a car accident involves more – and often much more – than sending an investigator to the scene. From the other driver’s phone and vehicle maintenance records to your medical records, there are numerous other potential sources of evidence as well. It is also important to consider the possibility that driver negligence was not the only factor involved in the collision. Was the road defective? What about your (or the other driver’s) vehicle? When conducting an investigation, it is critical to uncover all potential grounds for pursuing financial recovery.

With this in mind, as an accident victim, there is a lot you need to know about insurance company investigations. While auto insurance companies investigate all accident claims, their investigations are entirely self-serving. They are not intended to uncover all potential causes of the accident, and they certainly are not intended to help you prove your claim.

5 Key Facts about Auto Insurance Company Investigations

Fact #1: The Insurance Company Has Its Own Best Interests in Mind.

When you file an insurance claim after a car accident, the insurance company is required to conduct an investigation. The insurance company has a legal obligation to handle your claim in good faith. To do so, it needs to gather sufficient evidence to evaluate whether you are entitled to coverage.

But, insurance company investigations can broadly be compared to the Democrat-led impeachment proceedings targeting President Trump. Whichever side of the aisle you may be on, it is not hard to see that each side is selectively omitting facts that are unfavorable to its end goal. Insurance companies conduct auto accident investigations in largely the same way. They examine the evidence from their perspective, and they structure their findings to support as desirable an outcome as possible.

For the insurance companies, a desirable outcome means saving as much money (and thus paying as little money) as possible. Of course, as an accident victim, your interests are opposed. As a result, not only must you not rely solely on the insurance company’s investigation, but you must also be careful to avoid providing evidence that the insurance company will be able to use against you.

Fact #2: You Have the Right to Conduct Your Investigation.

While the insurance companies are obligated to investigate car accident claims in good faith, as an accident victim, you have the right to conduct your investigation as well – and it is strongly in your best interests to do so. Not only will this prevent the insurance company from deciding based on its selective review of the facts, but it will also allow you to determine whether you have additional claims (e.g., against a state highway agency or vehicle manufacturer).

Conducting an independent investigation after a car accident requires a thorough understanding of the potential issues involved. As a result, these investigations should generally be handled by law firms that routinely represent car accident victims. Law firms will generally engage the services of forensic experts, accident reconstructionists, and other experts who can all help to conclusively identify the cause of the collision. Critically, the investigation may also need to examine sources of evidence beyond the accident scene as well, such as:

  • The other driver’s phone records, which may indicate that he or she was talking on the phone or texting at the time of the crash.
  • The police report, which may contain information such as what the other driver said to the responding officer or whether the responding officer observed that the other driver was under the influence of alcohol or drugs.
  • An inspection of each of the vehicles involved in the crash to determine the location and extent of the damage involved and whether any vehicle defects played a role in causing the collision or contributing to your injuries.
  • An inspection of the road and its maintenance history to determine whether it was properly constructed or whether defects in the road’s surface or design may have caused or contributed to the collision.
  • The other driver’s employment records, if he or she was driving within the scope of employment, to determine whether you may have a direct or vicarious liability claim against his or her employer.

Fact #3: You Can (and Should) Expose Flaws in the Insurance Company’s Investigation.

So, the insurance company conducts an investigation and reaches one conclusion, and you conduct your investigation and reach another. What now?

In a typical case, this is when the negotiations begin. Once the insurance company makes its initial determination, it will either (i) deny coverage, or (ii) offer payment in an amount that is likely to be far less than the full amount you are entitled to recover. In doing so, it will argue that:

  • The evidence suggests that the other driver was not at fault;
  • The evidence suggests that you were either fully or partially at fault; or,
  • The evidence is inconclusive or points to third-party liability.

At this point, it is up to you (or your attorney) to counter the evidence collected during your independent investigation. Potential strategies for securing full coverage when the insurance companies offer no or minimal compensation include:

  • Demonstrating that the insurance company’s investigation failed to uncover key evidence;
  • Demonstrating that the insurance company is overlooking or ignoring key evidence; and,
  • Demonstrating that the insurance company has misinterpreted the evidence.

Ultimately, as the claimant, it is up to you to prove your claim for coverage. While bad-faith insurance practices are, unfortunately, common (more on this below), in many cases, there will be legitimate questions regarding who was at fault in a collision. To protect your right to just compensation, you must be able to expose all of the flaws in the insurance company’s investigation and use the verifiable facts to negotiate for a favorable settlement (or position your case for trial, if necessary).

Fact #4: Proving Fault Is Just One Aspect of Proving Your Claim for Just Compensation.

As someone who has sustained traumatic injuries in a car accident, proving the fault is just one aspect of proving your claim for just compensation. You also need to prove your “damages” or the financial and non-financial losses resulting from your injuries.

During its investigation, the insurance company will request access to your medical records. You do not have to grant this access, and in most cases, you should not do so. Instead, you should work with your attorney to present your claim for damages once you have a complete picture of the immediate and long-term effects of the accident.

In addition to requesting access to your medical records, the insurance company may also undertake additional investigative measures to try to verify (or, more accurately, disprove) your claim for damages. This may involve reviewing your social media posts to see if you are engaging in work or recreational activities that are inconsistent with seeking treatment and recovering from serious traumatic injuries, and it could even involve sending investigators to observe you at your home or job. So, not only do you need to present a comprehensive picture of your damages, but you also need to be extremely careful to avoid jeopardizing your claim during the insurance company’s ongoing investigation.

Fact #5: The Insurance Companies Do Not Always Respect Their Obligation to Investigate and Negotiate Claims in Good Faith.

When dealing with the insurance companies after a car accident, it is important to be able to distinguish between valid questions about causation and damages, and bad-faith attempts to reduce or deny coverage. While neither ultimately justifies paying less than you are owed, each requires its unique approach when negotiating for a fair settlement or fighting to protect your legal rights in court.

From failing to timely send an adjuster to investigate the accident to intentionally ignoring relevant evidence, bad-faith insurance practices can take many different forms. As you wait for the insurance investigation to run its course, as you attempt to negotiate, and as you contemplate your options for resolving your claim, it will be important to keep the risk (and potential ramifications) of the insurance company bad faith in mind.

5 Tips for Protecting Your Claim during the Insurance Company’s Investigation

After a car accident, the investigative process is far more involved than most people realize. And as an accident victim, you must undertake proactive measures to protect your legal rights. While every insurance claim is unique (and while no online resource is a substitute for legal advice), here are five general recommendations for protecting your claim for damages during the insurance company’s investigation:

  • File a claim with your insurance company promptly. This will help prevent the insurance company from claiming that it did not have the opportunity to conduct a timely investigation.
  • Seek medical attention as soon as possible. Waiting to seek medical treatment after a car accident can be a major mistake. Not only can it be hazardous to your health, but it can also make it more difficult to recover just compensation.
  • Do not give a recorded statement. Once you make contact with your insurance company, your adjuster will ask you to provide a statement regarding the accident. Do not give one – if you do, it will only be used against you.
  • Be prepared to say, “No” – In addition to refusing to provide a recorded statement, you will need to be prepared to tell your insurance company “No” in other circumstances as well. Most significantly, you will need to be prepared to reject unfair settlement offers as you (and your attorney) continue to fight for just compensation.
  • Seek legal representation right away. To gather the evidence you need to prove your claim, you will need experienced legal representation. You should contact a law firm right away so that the firm can conduct an investigation promptly.

Contact the Car Accident Lawyers at Berkowitz Hanna

With offices in Stamford, Danbury, Bridgeport, and Shelton, our firm represents victims of serious car accidents throughout Connecticut. If you need personalized legal advice from an experienced attorney, call us or request a free consultation online now.