Being in a car accident can leave you shocked, injured, and frustrated. If you’re responsible for it, you could be worried about the consequences for you. But what to do after a car accident that’s not your fault? We explain in this article.
A car accident – whether it’s a minor fender bender or a major collision – can be quite traumatic to most people. Besides your own confusion and shock from the incident, you will need to deal with tempers from other drivers as well. However, you will likely be more shocked if you’re involved in an accident in which you’re not at fault.
What should you do when you’re at the receiving end of a car accident? The good thing is that the law is on your side – all you need to do is to ensure you have all the information to protect your rights.
Steps to follow when you’re in a no-fault accident
1. Check for injuries to your person
Because a car accident happens so quickly, it could elevate your adrenaline levels and make it harder to know if you’re injured. Take a few deep breaths and relax while examining yourself for external injuries. You could also have issues like whiplash – contact emergency health providers if you feel it’s necessary.
2. Move your vehicle to the side of the road
If an accident occurs on the road, you must ensure your safety by moving the vehicle to the side. Ask the erring driver to also do the same to avoid a traffic build-up. If there’s no traffic and it occurred on a side road, don’t change the vehicles’ position until the police arrive.
3. Contact the police to inform them of the accident
Regardless of whether you’re in a car accident that’s not your fault, different states have different laws regarding reporting accidents.
For example, in New York, it is mandatory to inform the police if there is property damage worth $1000 or more. In Georgia, the police must be informed if the accident occurred in a city that requires a crash report, if there is damage worth $500 or more, and if it involves an injury or death.
Either way, it is best to inform the police right away.
4. Gather information
Typically, the at-fault driver is supposed to report and provide information to the police and to the insurance company. However, you can also gather information as a no-fault driver – especially if you feel the other driver may not follow the law.
Gathering information also allows you to collect proof of how the accident happened. Ideally, you should collect the following:
- The name, address, and telephone number of all the people involved in the accident
- Take photos of their driver’s license and license plate number
- The contact details of the passengers/accident witnesses
- Photos of the damage to the vehicles
- Photos of the vehicles’ positions
- A copy of the accident report from the police, if available
5. Inform your insurance company
Informing your insurance company about the accident is a best practice you must follow without fail. If you were not at fault, you could sue the other driver’s insurer for damages.
In no-fault states, every driver relies on their own insurance company for compensation up to a specific limit – regardless of who is to blame for the accident. This will cover lost wages and medical bills from minor crashes. The at-fault driver may be responsible for paying for just the property damage.
However, in at-fault states, the errant driver is held responsible for compensation, medical bills, property damage, lost wages, and anything else the no-fault driver claims.
Also read: How to file an insurance claim after an accident
6. Record the event in writing, if possible
When you’re in an accident that’s not your fault, it may be hard to remember exactly how it happened. Try to record the series of events exactly as it happened – either in a notebook or on your smartphone. This will make it easier to recount to the police/insurance company.
7. Choose to sue the at-fault driver’s insurer
In at-fault states, you have the right to obtain compensation from the at-fault driver after a car accident that’s not your fault.
Usually, the at-fault driver’s insurer will try to settle your case by paying you a lump sum amount. In exchange, you’ll have to give up any future claims. However, there is no guarantee that the offer will be enough to cover your costs.
If the at-fault driver’s insurer denies responsibility, you can file a lawsuit to claim damages. You may have better luck convincing a jury that you need to be compensated for losses in a no-fault accident.
How does insurance work when an accident is not your fault?
When you’re in an accident that’s not your fault:
- The other driver’s Bodily Injury Liability insurance will pay for your medical expenses (if you live in an at-fault state)
- In a no-fault state, you will need to file medical payment claims based on your own Personal Injury Protection (PIP) insurance.
- The at-fault driver’s Property Damage Liability insurance will compensate you for car damages and other collateral damage nearby.
- In case the other driver does not have insurance or if his liability limits are too low, you can use either Uninsured Motorist (UM) insurance or Underinsured Motorist (UIM) insurance to file a claim.
Should I file a claim if it wasn’t my fault?
Yes, regardless of whether you were at fault or not, you must call and inform your car insurance company that you were in an accident.
This is because, in at-fault states, the other driver’s company will be liable to pay damages. However, in no-fault states, you will have to claim compensation through your own insurer. The sooner you inform them, the easier it will be to process the payout.
Also read: How long after an accident can you file a claim?
Which are the no-fault states?
The 12 no-fault states are:
- New Jersey
- New York
- North Dakota
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