Wondering what to do after a car accident that’s not your fault? Here’s what you need to know.
You were injured in a car accident, and the other driver was clearly at fault. How can you protect your legal rights, get the medical treatment you need, and recover the financial compensation you deserve? Here’s what to do after a car accident that’s not your fault:
What To Do After a Car Accident That’s Not Your Fault
Even if the other driver (or someone else) was clearly at fault in your accident, recovering your losses will still prove challenging. Not only do you need to prove fault (unless you are limited to filing a “no fault” auto insurance claim), but you need to prove how much you are entitled to recover as well.
So, what do you need to do in order to file a successful auto insurance claim? Here is a list of 10 important things you should do in order to protect your legal rights after a car accident that’s not your fault:
To-Do #1: Write Down Every Detail You Remember about the Accident
When seeking to prove fault after a car accident, all of the details matter. Not only must you be able to demonstrate that the accident was not your fault, but you must be able to prove specifically who was at fault as well.
With this in mind, when it comes to what to do after a car accident that's not your fault, one of the first things you should do is write down every detail you can remember about the collision. How fast were you going (or were you sitting still)? How fast did the other vehicle appear to be traveling? How was the traffic? How was the weather? What happened immediately prior to the collision? There are just a handful of numerous details that could be directly relevant to your auto insurance claim.
To-Do #2: Keep All Photos and Videos You Took with Your Phone
In addition to writing down everything you can remember, you should be sure to keep all of the photos and videos you took at the scene of the accident as well. Even if two images appear to be duplicates, still keep them both. Your attorney may be able to spot something that he or she can use to help prove that you are entitled to compensation for a car accident that’s not your fault.
To-Do #3: Report the Accident to Your Auto Insurance Company
In terms of what to do after a car accident that’s not your fault, one of the most important things to do is to promptly report the accident to your insurance company. Even though the other driver (or someone else) was at fault, you need to file a claim with your insurer. Reporting the accident promptly will ensure that you comply with the terms of your policy, and it will also help ensure that you are able to receive just compensation as soon as possible.
To-Do #4: Hire a Lawyer to Gather the Evidence You Need to Prove Fault
As we mentioned above, it is not enough simply to know that someone else was at fault. You need to be able to prove it as well. The only way to do this is to hire a car accident lawyer to conduct an on-scene investigation as soon as possible. When it comes to driver fault, there are several different forms, and you must be able to prove the specific cause of your accident in order to recover just compensation. As a result, in terms of what to do after a car accident that's not your fault, the single most important thing you can do is to hire a lawyer to represent you.
Depending on the circumstances involved in your car accident, your lawyer may be able to collect evidence of driver fault such as:
- Distracted Driving – In today’s world, distracted driving is among the leading causes of car accidents in the United States. If the other driver was distracted (and if your lawyer can prove it), you should be able to recover fault-based compensation.
- Alcohol or Drug-Impaired Driving – Driving while impaired is also a leading cause of car accidents. If the driver who hit you was drunk, high, or impaired by the side effects of a prescription medication, you can use this to seek just compensation.
- Aggressive Driving – There is no excuse for aggressive driving on the public roads. Tailgating, running red lights, road rage, and other aggressive driving behaviors are all grounds for filing a fault-based insurance claim.
- Reckless Driving – Reckless driving is similarly inexcusable. Speeding, weaving through traffic, passing dangerously, and other dangerous maneuvers are all common causes of car accidents for which reckless drivers deserve to be held accountable.
- Careless Driving – In addition to aggressive and reckless driving, drivers can be held liable for careless driving as well. If a mistake behind the wheel leads to a serious accident, then the negligent driver’s bodily injury liability (BIL) insurance policy should provide fault-based compensation (if this coverage is available).
To-Do #5: Make Sure You Understand Your Diagnosis, Prognosis, and Treatment Recommendations
In addition to taking steps to prove fault, what to do after a car accident that’s not your fault includes taking steps to prove your losses as well. This starts with understanding your diagnosis, prognosis, and treatment recommendations.
Aside from your property damage, all of your recoverable losses will stem from your injuries in one way or another. So, see a doctor, follow your doctor’s advice, and do what is necessary to set yourself up for as swift and complete a recovery as possible.
To-Do #6: Follow Through with All Necessary Medical Treatment
Once you know what you need in terms of treatment, be sure to follow through with your doctor’s treatment recommendations. In terms of what to do after a car accident that’s not your fault, strictly following your doctor’s advice might not seem that important, but it is actually crucial for making sure you are able to fully recover your accident-related losses.
To-Do #7: Tell Your Employer about Your Car Accident
If you will miss work as a result of your injuries, then it will be important for you to tell your employer about your car accident. When doing so, you will want to have a clear understanding of what your employer can, cannot, and must do under your state’s employment laws—and for this you will want to consult with an experienced local attorney.
To-Do #8: Remain Firm in Your Conviction that the Accident was Not Your Fault
As you move forward with your auto insurance claim, there is a very good chance that your claim representative or insurance adjuster will try to convince you that you were at fault. This attempt may be fairly obvious, or it may be far more subtle. If you believe that someone else is to blame for your injuries, you need to remain firm in your conviction, and you must avoid letting yourself be convinced that you played a role in causing your accident.
To-Do #9: Keep Important Records and Start a Daily “Pain Journal”
When it comes to what to do after a car accident that's not your fault, it is important to understand that proving your claim is an ongoing process. As time goes on, you will begin to accumulate a lot of records related to your insurance claim and your medical care. Try to get in the habit of keeping all of these records in one location. In addition to keeping these records, you should start a daily “pain journal” as well. This will be a place where you right down your daily pain levels and the other day-to-day effects of your injuries.
To-Do #10: Learn What to Expect During Your Car Accident Insurance Claim
Even if the other driver was clearly at fault, you will still need to be proactive about pursuing your insurance claim, and you will need to know how to deal with your insurance company effectively. As a result, you should take the time to read the other free resources on our site, and you should schedule a free consultation with a local car accident lawyer as soon as possible.
While these are the main steps you need to take after a car accident that’s not your fault, this is not all you need to do. We have broken down 21 critical steps to take after a car accident in our Guide: Steps to Take After a Car Accident
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What NOT to Do After a Car Accident That’s Not Your Fault
So, that was an explanation of what to do after a car accident that’s not your fault. Now that you know what to do, you will need to learn what not to do as well. Here are 10 critical mistakes to avoid in order to preserve your ability to recover maximum compensation for your injuries:
Mistake #1: Posting about Your Car Accident on Social Media
If you are frustrated or angry about your car accident (as many car accident victims are), you may be tempted to post about the accident or lash out at the other driver—or other at-fault party—on social media. However, you need to resist this temptation. The insurance companies can use your social media posts against you; and, even if you don’t think you are saying anything that could impact your insurance claim, you could be wrong.
Posting photos of yourself engaging in physical activities, discussing your financial circumstances, and various other mistakes can potentially create challenges for your insurance claim as well. With this in mind, it is best to stay off of social media altogether while your insurance claim is pending. Remember, when it comes to what to do after a car accident that's not your fault, you need to make decisions with your insurance claim in mind.
Mistake #2: Saying Too Much to Your Insurance Adjuster or Claim Representative
Just as you need to avoid saying the wrong thing on social media, you also need to avoid saying the wrong thing when talking to your insurance adjuster or claim representative. Once you report your accident (which should only involve providing basic details about where and when the accident occurred), you should let your lawyer do the talking for you.
Mistake #3: Assuming that You Will Receive Just Compensation for Your Injuries
Even if you are 100% certain that someone else was at fault, you still need to avoid assuming that you will receive just compensation. It is up to you to prove your claim; and, if you fail to do so, you will not receive the compensation you deserve—no matter who was to blame.
Mistake #4: Giving Your Insurance Company Authorization to Obtain Your Medical Records
Your insurance adjuster or claim representative will ask you to provide an authorization to obtain your medical records; and, in doing so, they may say that this will speed up the claims process. However, auto insurance company medical records authorizations are extremely broad, and signing one will give your insurance company access to far more information than is necessary to process your accident claim.
Mistake #5: Not Questioning the Need for an Independent Medical Exam (IME)
At some point during your insurance claim, you may be asked to undergo an independent medical exam (IME). This is an examination by a doctor who works closely with your insurance company. While you might be required to submit to an IME, you also might not; and, in any case, you will want to ensure that the IME is as limited in scope as possible.
Mistake #6: Relying On Your Insurance Company to Calculate Your Losses
Another all-too-common mistake people make is relying on the insurance companies to calculate their losses for them. When discussing what to do after a car accident that’s not your fault, it is critical not to overlook the importance of accurately calculating your accident-related losses. If you let the insurance companies decide how much to pay, they are going to do so with their best interests in mind, and you are only going to receive a fraction of what you are owed.
Mistake #7: Contacting the Other Driver’s Insurance Company Instead of Your Own
While you can contact the other driver’s insurance company, you need to contact yours. Auto insurance policies universally require insured drivers to report all accidents. If you do not report your accident to your insurance company in a timely manner, it is possible that your insurance company could try to use this against you.
Mistake #8: Trying to Handle Your Car Accident Claim Without Getting a Lawyer
In terms of what not to do after a car accident that’s not your fault – or any car accident for that matter – the biggest mistake you can make is trying to handle your claim on your own. There are many ways an experienced lawyer can help with your insurance claim; and, since car accident lawyers work on a contingency-fee basis, you have no reason not to get an experienced lawyer on your side.
Mistake #9: Letting the Insurance Companies Convince You that You Were at Fault
In many cases, the insurance companies will try to limit the amount they have to pay – or avoid paying entirely – by accusing accident victims of being at fault for their own injuries. If this happens, do not let the insurance companies convince you that you were at fault. Rely on your attorney to prove that the other driver was liable, and keep fighting to win the full compensation you deserve.
Mistake #10: Waiting Too Long to Contact a Car Accident Lawyer
Since you are certain that the other driver (or someone else) was at fault, you may be tempted to try to handle your insurance claim on your own. But, even if liability is clear, the reality is that you are still going to need a lawyer to help you recover just compensation.
Rather than getting started on your own, when it comes to what to do after a car accident that's not your fault, it is far better to hire a lawyer to handle your claim from the outset. This way, your lawyer can gather crucial evidence before it disappears, execute an effective strategy, and help you see the right doctors to obtain an accurate assessment of your injuries’ long-term effects.
FAQs: What to Do After a Car Accident That’s Not Your Fault
Protecting your legal rights after a car accident is not easy—especially when you suffered serious injuries due to no fault of your own. You need to make smart decisions, and you need to be strategic when dealing with your insurance company. Now that we have covered what to do after a car accident that's not your fault, here are answers to 10 frequently-asked questions (FAQs) about securing auto insurance coverage after a car accident that was not your fault:
Q: If I was injured in a car accident that wasn’t my fault, do I file a claim with my insurance company?
Yes, even if your car accident was not your fault, you should still fine a claim with your insurance company. This is almost certainly a requirement under your policy; and, once you file your claim, this will start the clock for your insurance company to conduct an investigation and make a good-faith determination of liability.
Q: Will the at-fault driver’s insurance company have to pay for my injuries?
If you can prove that the other driver was at fault, then his or her insurance company should have to pay for your injuries. The major caveat here is that you will need to prove that you are eligible for fault-based compensation if you live in a “no fault” auto insurance state (such Florida or New York). In most “no fault” states, this requires proof that you suffered a “serious injury,” such as a broken bone or an injury resulting in organ dysfunction or a physical disability.
Q: How does “no fault” car insurance apply when the other driver was at fault?
If you have “no fault” car insurance (i.e. personal injury protection (PIP) or medical payments (MedPay)), then your first source of compensation will be your PIP or MedPay policy. If you live in a “no fault” state, then you may need to prove that you suffered a “serious injury” in order to file a fault-based claim. In any case, you will want to speak with a car accident lawyer in your state to make sure you are seeking the maximum insurance coverage that is available.
Q: What if the at-fault driver’s auto insurance isn’t enough to cover my losses?
If the at-fault driver’s auto insurance isn’t enough to cover your losses, then you will need to figure out if you have uninsured/underinsured motorist (UIM) coverage. If you do, then you can file a UIM claim to seek additional compensation. In fact, if you have multiple vehicles, then you may be able to “stack” your UIM coverage in order to further maximize your financial recovery.
If you are wondering what to do after a car accident that's not your fault and this is a concern, you should talk to your lawyer about filing a “third party” claim as well. This is a claim against a party other than the at-fault driver (i.e. a vehicle manufacturer or road contractor) that also played a role in causing your injuries.
Q: Do I need to pay a deductible to obtain auto insurance coverage after an accident that wasn’t my fault?
Depending on your policy, you may have the option of waiting to see if the other driver’s insurance company will pay before you pay your deductible. However, it may be better to pay your deductible and then have it reimbursed through the insurance claim settlement process. This, too, is a question that you will want to ask your attorney.
Q: What compensation can I recover after a car accident that wasn’t my fault?
The types of compensation that you can recover after a car accident that wasn’t your fault depend on the types of coverage that are available to you. Personal injury protection (PIP) covers medical bills and lost wages (though usually only a portion), while medical payments (MedPay) covers medical bills only. However, if you have a fault-based claim, then you may be able to recover all of your accident-related losses through a bodily injury liability (BIL) and/or uninsured/underinsured motorist (UIM) claim.
Q: How do I prove that I wasn’t at fault in my car accident?
Proving that you were not at fault in your car accident requires proof of the actual cause of the collision. This requires evidence from the scene of the accident and from other sources; and, in order to collect this evidence in a manner that preserves its legal admissibility, you will need to hire an experienced local car accident attorney.
Q: What if the insurance companies accuse me of being at fault?
If the insurance companies accuse you of being at fault, you will need to fight these accusations with the evidence your attorney obtained during his or her investigation. Depending on your state’s “contributory negligence” or “comparative fault” law, being deemed partially at fault could result in a reduced settlement, or it could result in your claim being denied entirely.
Q: Do I need to get a lawyer after a car accident that wasn’t my fault?
Yes, even if the accident was not your fault, it is still very important that you hire a lawyer to represent you. You will need to assert your legal rights effectively; and, in order to do this, you will need an experienced car accident lawyer on your side.
What if a Third Party (i.e. Not the Other Driver) was at Fault in My Car Accident?
In our discussion above, we have largely focused answering the question, "What to do after a car accident that's not your fault?" within the context of a car accident caused by another driver. But, what if a third party (i.e. not the driver) is to blame for your injuries?
In this scenario, your only real option is to hire a lawyer to represent you. Pursing a “third party” claim is very different from pursuing an auto insurance claim, and you will need to hire a lawyer in order to get the third party (or its insurance company) to take your claim seriously. Different laws and different deadlines may apply as well; and, depending on where you live, you may need to file an auto insurance claim and a third-party claim in order to fully recover your accident-related losses.