Unfortunately, dealing with the fallout from an automobile accident is a reality for almost all drivers. After all, the use of a motor vehicle of some sort is a way of life for most Oregonians and many people all across the country.
According to the Bureau of Transportation Statistics (a part of the U.S. Department of Transportation), 87 percent of “daily trips,” defined as travel from one place to another on the same day, take place in personal vehicles. The average American makes 1,500 such trips per year, with all Americans accounting for a combined 411 billion daily trips each year.
With such an incredibly large amount of driving, it should come as no surprise that a lot of automobile accidents also occur. And with accidents come insurance involvement. In fact, according to Forbes, the average driver files an insurance claim about every 17.9 years. That means the average driver will have 3-4 accidents in a lifetime.
Of course, some will have more, and some will have less. But the chance of an accident for ourselves or our loved ones is so great that it makes sense to have a plan of action. In this article, we’ll discuss whether you should talk to another driver’s insurance company after a car accident.
How Insurance Companies Get Involved
Most states, including Oregon, have laws that require drivers to carry a minimum amount of automobile insurance coverage. These minimum levels of required coverage are often referred to as “mandatory minimums.”
The rationale behind such laws is to protect the motoring public. By making sure that all drivers have insurance, theoretically everyone is in a financial position to pay for the damages they cause in an accident.
While mandatory minimums are a good idea, they are usually insufficient to pay for the damages caused in serious accidents. Therefore, many drivers elect to carry limits much higher than mandatory minimums. Many drivers also carry uninsured motorist coverage for extra protection.
Following an accident, insurance companies need to investigate to determine who is responsible. This can be complicated when liability is not easy to determine. The situation can be further complicated when multiple vehicles are involved. Moreover, even when liability is determined, insurance companies seek to determine the degree and amount of damages suffered by the parties. This can include items such as property damages, medical costs, lost wages, and pain and suffering.
Legal Obligations Related to Insurance Coverage
Automobile insurance policies typically contain a provision that requires an insured to promptly report accidents to and cooperate with the insured’s insurance company. But it’s important to understand that this contractual provision applies to you and your insurance company, not you and the opposing driver’s insurance company. Why is this distinction important?
First, let’s consider the function of insurance companies. They provide an important service, but they are businesses. Like all businesses, they are motivated by profit. This means they seek to take in more money than they pay out. One way to pay out less money is to deny or minimize your claim against their driver. To do this, they train insurance adjusters and hire lawyers who are skilled at pursuing every avenue to reduce your claim. One such tool is the recorded interview.
Following an accident, an adjuster for the other driver’s insurance may attempt to contact and interview you. While these adjusters usually sound friendly, make no mistake – their job, if at all possible, is to deflect liability from their insured driver and minimize your damages. And they’re trained to do it well.
Unfortunately, many people give these interviews and make inaccurate statements that later hurt their cases. The interviewee often doesn’t understand all of his or her injuries yet and may not understand the interviewer’s question. In short, it’s usually a bad idea to give an interview without first consulting with a lawyer and determining if legal representation is warranted.
What about My Own Insurance Company?
As previously stated, insureds must cooperate with their own insurance companies. But that doesn’t mean they have to do it without representation. In a twist that occurs all too often, when the opposing driver has insufficient insurance coverage, an injured accident victim may have a right to collect from his or her own uninsured motorist coverage. This may put a driver at odds with his or her own insurance company. Thus, it’s a good idea to consult with a personal injury lawyer before giving any interviews.
Call with Questions
If you have questions about insurance coverage, or need help dealing with an insurance adjuster, please call us. The experienced Oregon personal injury lawyers at Nelson MacNeil Rayfield will be happy to help. We are focused on holding negligent parties accountable for their actions so that all of society will be safer.