After a car accident in North Carolina, it is essential that you report the crash to your insurance company in a timely manner. The insurance company will then begin processing the claim.
Because North Carolina follows a fault system, if you were not to blame for the car accident, your insurance company should initiate a claim with the at-fault driver’s coverage carrier. (You can read more about fault laws in North Carolina and how the car insurance system works in A Consumer’s Guide to Automobile Insurance from Your North Carolina Department of Insurance).
Regardless of who will be responsible for paying for your claim, one thing is certain: the process will involve insurance adjusters. While you may think that it is safe to assume that the adjuster assigned to your case is looking out for your best interests, do not be so sure. The primary job of an insurance adjuster is to save the insurance company money.
This may not be at the top of your mind, but it should be: what (not) to say to insurance companies. The following offers a look into some common mistakes people make when communicating with auto insurance companies about an accident.
Failing to Report the Accident in Time
If you do not report the accident to your insurer within the required amount of time, the insurance company may try to deny your claim altogether. Each insurance company has its own regulations for when you are required to submit a claim. The best thing you can do to ensure that you are operating within those guidelines is to submit your claim as soon as possible after a car accident occurs.
Agreeing to Give a Statement
The insurance adjuster assigned to your case will no doubt ask you for a statement about the accident, what happened, your role, and your injuries. Do not give a statement without legal representation. A statement may seem rather harmless, but statements are often picked apart to find errors and assign fault. Unless you are properly prepared with exactly what to say, giving a statement may end up working against your interests.
Admitting That You Did Something Wrong
Remember, North Carolina does not follow a no-fault system, where you file a claim with your own insurance company regardless of who caused the accident. In North Carolina, if you were at fault for the accident, you may not be entitled to any compensation. Further, if your negligence contributed to the accident in any way, your recovery from the other driver’s insurance coverage will be barred under the contributory negligence rule. As such, admitting that you did something wrong is one of the biggest blunders that you can make when speaking with an insurance company. Even if you think you did do something wrong, present the information to your attorney before presenting it the insurance adjuster.
While you may be tempted to say sorry to anyone involved in the accident – such as the other driver involved – or to the insurance adjuster, resist the urge. The words “I’m sorry” can be portrayed as an admission of guilt, and therefore fault. Rather than saying you are sorry, simply ask if everyone is okay. Expressing concern is different from expressing an apology. If you did not cause the accident, you should not be apologizing for it.
Lying About What Happened
Perhaps the biggest claim mistake that an individual can make when reporting an accident to an insurance company is to lie about what happened. If you do not know how something happened, how fast you were traveling, whether the other car changed lanes illegally, etc., do not say that you do! One of the worst things that you can do is to lie about even the smallest detail. The insurance adjuster will find out, and that will cast doubt on everything else you say. You want the insurance company to trust your word. Exaggerating or flat out misrepresenting the truth will quickly eliminate all hopes of that.
Exaggerating Your Injuries
Just as foolish as lying about what happened is lying about your injuries and how serious they are. If you are injured, tell the insurance company, but do not fake an injury or make it out to be much worse than it really is. Again, the insurance company will find out, based on evidence that you will need to present to recover money for your damages. If you present a medical report to recover compensation for a sprained wrist, but have told the insurance adjuster that you suffered a broken arm (and have no medical data to back it up), the insurance adjuster will probably have a hard time believing anything else you say, and may even accuse you of trying to defraud the company. By the same token, do not downplay the seriousness of your injuries in an effort to seem strong.
Not Hiring an Attorney
The other mistake that people make when communicating with an insurance company is not hiring an attorney. Some people assume that they do not need an attorney, or that an attorney is too expensive. However, neither of these is true. An attorney can speak to the insurance companies on your behalf, can help you to gather evidence, and can negotiate a claim settlement for you. Further, attorney’s fees are contingent on your settlement award. You do not have to pay the attorney if you do not recover damages.
Contact Our Experienced North Carolina Car Accident Attorneys
At Riddle & Brantley, LLP, our experienced North Carolina car accident attorneys have decades of experience representing car accident victims and dealing with insurance adjusters. If you have been in a crash, let us represent you during the process of filing your claim and recovering compensation. Contact us today using our online form to request a free case consultation.