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.
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.
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.
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:
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:
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:
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).
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.
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.
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:
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.