Do I have to tell my insurance company I was in an accident?
In New Jersey, most insurance companies require you to place them on notice of an accident within a set period of time. Failure to do so may result in denial of coverage. Before you say, “but I don’t want my insurance rates to go up”, think about having your insurance canceled for failure to report a claim. Which would be worse? Additionally, insurance companies usually do not raise your rates when the accident was not your fault.
What insurance company do I have to use?
If the other driver is at fault, you may choose between your own insurance company (if you have New Jersey Collision or New Jersey Comprehensive coverage) or the negligent driver’s insurance company.
What about a deductible?
If you make a claim under your carrier, you will likely be charged a deductible. Your insurance carrier will then “subrogate” (seek reimbursement) from the negligent driver’s carrier. This reimbursement can, but does not always, include recouping your deductible.
What are some tips to remember in case I’m in an accident?
- Always take pictures of the damage to your car, regardless of who does the repairs.
- Don’t be tempted to “over claim.” The insurance company is only responsible for repairing the damage from the accident, or replacing the totaled car. An insurance company is not responsible for fixing the dent you caused in a separate accident last summer.
- Regarding the value of a “totaled” car, insurance companies select one of three methods approved by the Commissioner of Banking and Insurance.
- If the insurance adjuster (yours or theirs) is being unfair, i.e. is undervaluing the damage, is apportioning some fault to you, when you believe you did not cause the accident, or insists on repairing a car you believe to be totaled and perhaps unsafe, you should consult with an attorney. While property damage claims are generally fairly cut and dry, insurance adjusters are employees of the insurance company whose job it is to minimize exposure/loss.
- If you sustained bodily injury, you should consult with an attorney. Some individuals unwittingly resolve “all claims” (property damage and personal injury) when they deal directly with the negligent party’s insurance company.