Establishing Liability in an Auto Accident

One of the short term focuses directly after we sign a client is getting the other insurance company to accept liability for the crash. This is a vital piece for a claim because no car repairs, rentals, or injury claims will be considered until this formality is complete. This has real life implications for our clients because it slows down the timeline of getting these simple things done and over with. If you do not carry collision coverage, you are at risk of waiting several weeks for the other insurance company to accept liability and pay for your car repair, vehicle storage fees, towing fees, and car rental. It is a complicated matter, but the defense one can have is collision coverage.

Let take an example of a very clear, rear-end accident. Right after the accident the person who did the rear-ending is apologetic and admits that he or she was distracted, the cops come to the scene and determine immediately that the fault is on the same car. The police report even reflects that the person was ticketed for careless driving. Then the innocent driver who was stopped at the red light meets with us and we explain that the other car was absolutely 100% at fault. But then the claim gets to an insurance adjuster who has the right under Florida statutes to “complete and investigation,” into liability. Everyone involved has to wait until this person calls all the involved parties, orders a police report through snail mail that doesn’t arrive for ten days, and speak to all the insurance companies involved. Usually this process takes about two to four weeks but it can be terribly frustrating for someone with a disabled car who needs to get to work the next day.

To make matters even more frustrating, if your car is towed from the scene to an expensive tow yard, it is the responsibility of the car’s owner to “mitigate their own damages.” That’s another way of saying, get your car out of the tow yard as quick as you can even if it costs you money out of pocket. The insurance company is allowed to conduct this investigation and they do not have to pay accumulating storage fees that exceed a few days. Many of clients who do not have collision coverage wind up paying out of pocket for many of these types of things, which is a frustrating thing to do when you know you were not at fault for the crash to begin with. These expenses, as long as they were reasonable, are reimbursed by the insurance company after they accept liability on behalf of their insured.

Having collision coverage gives you the option of handing the responsibility of the car repairs and towing expenses (sometimes car rental) to your own insurance company. Those are the good guys and will handle everything right away and they will seek reimbursement for everything they pay from the other company after liability is established. In most instances, the collision deductible is paid by the client and then reimbursed later when the at-fault company pays the full cost of the repairs. This is a tricky and confusing topic, but the take home message is to cover your car with collision coverage and a deductible you can afford, and consider running the claim through your own company even if you know you were the innocent party.


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