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Understanding Car Insurance After an Accident

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September 27, 2023

Car accidents, unfortunately, are a common occurrence, and navigating the aftermath can be confusing and stressful. A vital part of this process involves understanding how car insurance works after an accident. At Morris James, our car accident lawyers work closely with you after your car accident to help you understand what you are entitled to under your car insurance policy, and how to get the compensation you need while you recover, whether from your insurer or an at-fault driver. Contact us online or by calling 302.655.2599.

Firstly, it is essential to understand that your insurance policy is a contract between you and your insurance company. You agree to pay the premium, and in return, the insurer agrees to cover your losses as defined in your policy. Your policy documents set out the requirements and obligations of you and your insurer. Every policy will include an obligation to notify your insurer when you have been involved in a car accident.

Do you have to notify your insurance company about a car accident?

After an accident, one of the first steps you need to take (after calling the police and getting medical attention) is to notify your insurer about the accident. You should inform your insurer even if you were not at fault in the accident. This initiates the claims process to compensate you for your repairs, medical bills, and other costs. The insurance company will assign a claims adjuster to handle this process.

Even minor accidents and accidents that were not your fault should be reported to your insurance company. Promptly reporting the incident can help protect you from potential disputes or complications down the line. Alternatively, failing to report the accident might violate the terms of your insurance policy, potentially leading to a denial of coverage for this accident or a future accident. It is worth noting that each insurance company may have different requirements in terms of the timeline for reporting an accident, so it is important that you familiarize yourself with your policy's specific terms and ask your attorney for assistance, especially if your insurance company is disputing your claim.

Who should you call first after a car accident: your lawyer or your insurance company?

After a car accident, you know you have to notify your insurance company promptly but you may wonder whether or not you need advice from a car accident lawyer first. If the accident involves severe injuries, significant damages, or potential legal issues, it is advisable to contact a lawyer before making a detailed statement to your insurer. Any statement that you make to the insurance company can be used when evaluating your claim and could potentially reduce the amount of compensation that you are able to recover. A lawyer can provide valuable legal advice and help to protect your rights, especially if there's a possibility of litigation. Therefore, it is beneficial to speak to a lawyer before discussing the accident with your insurer. 

However, you must still notify your insurer promptly. If speaking to a lawyer could cause a delay in notifying your insurer, make a simple report to your insurer without discussing any of the details of the accident. Once you have spoken to a lawyer, you or your lawyer can provide more details about the accident to the insurance company as necessary. By doing this, you can ensure that you do not miss any deadlines in your insurance policy that could affect your ability to claim compensation for the accident.

What will car insurance cover after a car accident?

The exact coverage provided by your car insurance after an accident can vary widely depending on your specific policy and the circumstances surrounding the incident. Most standard policies include liability coverage, which pays for any damage you cause to others if you are at fault. If you have collision coverage, your insurer will typically pay for repairs to your vehicle, regardless of who was to blame. Comprehensive coverage can handle damage stemming from incidents other than a collision, such as theft, fire, or natural disasters. Uninsured/underinsured motorist coverage steps in if you are hit by a driver with no or insufficient insurance. In Delaware, motorists are legally required to have P.I.P. benefits in their auto insurance policy, which provides coverage for medical bills and lost wages after a car accident. It is crucial to read and understand the specifics of your insurance policy to know what's covered and what's not.

PIP Benefits

Personal Injury Protection (P.I.P.) benefits are designed to cover your medical expenses and lost wages after a car accident, irrespective of who was at fault in the accident. P.I.P. benefits do not cover medical expenses and lost wages that exceed the policy limits or noneconomic damages, such as pain and suffering. Delaware law mandates P.I.P. coverage of at least $15,000 per person and $30,000 per accident, but many drivers opt for higher coverage. P.I.P. benefits cover the passengers in the car as well as the driver, and can also cover any pedestrians or bicyclists involved in an accident.

Typically, after an accident, you would file a claim under your own P.I.P. coverage. The coverage limit depends on your individual policy. In a severe accident, your expenses and damages may exceed the coverage limits under your policy. If that happens, you may be able to seek compensation from the at-fault party's insurance. Your car accident lawyer can advise you on the best options for getting the compensation that you are entitled to, including filing a legal claim.

How does insurance help if the other driver in a car accident is uninsured?

If the other driver is uninsured or underinsured, your uninsured/underinsured motorist coverage, if you have it, can also step in and provide coverage for your damages. Uninsured/underinsured motorist coverage is designed to protect you from financial loss when the at-fault party does not have insurance or their insurance is insufficient to cover the cost of damages or medical bills. The exact coverage can vary depending upon your policy. If the at-fault driver is uninsured or underinsured, you can also bring a legal claim for compensation for your losses. 

Why you need a personal injury lawyer to deal with car insurance companies

Engaging a lawyer after a car accident protects you and your legal rights, and helps you to maximize the compensation that you receive. Insurers focus on minimizing their payouts, because they are businesses that need to make a profit to be successful. Unrepresented victims often accept settlements from insurers that are less than they deserve and should get under the law because they do not know their rights or are overwhelmed after a car accident. A reliable car accident lawyer can navigate the complex terms and conditions of your insurance policy and negotiate effectively with the insurance companies involved on your behalf to help you get full and fair compensation. Additionally, a car accident lawyer can help you understand your rights, ensure that all the necessary procedures are correctly followed, and help you to file a legal claim for compensation, if necessary. This is especially important if you have been severely injured in the accident because your losses will be higher, and you will need adequate compensation for your own recovery and financial security.

At Morris James, our attorneys have been standing up for victims since we opened our doors in 1932. If you have questions about insurance after an auto accident or car accidents in general, you may find answers in our Car Accident FAQs, or you can contact us online or call us at 302.655.2599 to speak to one of our experienced attorneys.


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