It’s a nightmare scenario.
You’ve been in a car accident that wasn’t your fault. Things are already pretty bad. But you’ve taken the proper steps and collected all the necessary information at the scene. Things are on the right track.
You go to open a claim with the other driver’s insurance company. They assign an adjuster to the case.
Then...crickets. The adjuster can’t get ahold of the at-fault driver.
Where does this leave your claim? Read on to find out.
A Word About the Insurance Process
It should be self explanatory, but you are not insured or covered under the other driver’s insurance policy. And even though you believe you have a claim that should be covered by that policy, that insurance company is under no obligation to cover your losses.
You are simply an outside party making a claim on someone else’s policy. If the other driver is at-fault, you are alleging that the other driver is legally liable for your damages.
This is called a “liability claim” or a “third-party claim.”
Third-Party Insurance Claims
Making a claim against another driver’s insurance policy means you are making a legal claim against the other driver. This is combative by nature, and the other driver’s insurance company usually won’t go down without a fight.
The other driver’s insurance company has a duty to protect their driver. They do this in several ways:
- They may investigate your claim to see if it is legitimate
- If the insurance adjuster feels the claim is legitimate and reasonable, they may attempt to settle out-of-court with you
- If your claim is rejected, they will retain legal counsel to defend their own driver if you file a lawsuit
Think about it like this: if you were at-fault in an accident, you’d want your insurance company to defend your side vigorously.
The At-Fault Driver’s ‘Duty to Cooperate’
Every insurance company policy — homeowners, auto, medical, etc. — contains a written requirement that its policyholder must “cooperate” with the insurance company in the presentation and evaluation of a claim. If not, the insurance company can deny all coverage.
If the insured fails to cooperate, the insurance company can act as if the policy never existed.
This is especially frustrating if you are on the other side of a “failure to cooperate.” If the adjuster is not able to contact the at-fault driver about the accident, they may be unable to properly investigate and evaluate the claim.
Meanwhile, you are left holding the bag and unsure of your options.
Uninsured Motorist Coverage
While you wait for the other driver’s insurance company to get their situation straight, you can make a claim on your own insurance policy. This course of action means you are dealing with someone on your side.
Making an uninsured motorist coverage claim may be your best option in this situation. Even though the other driver technically has insurance, this is available because the other insurance company is unwilling to offer their insurance benefits due to the other driver’s failure to cooperate. The other side might be looking for a way to decline coverage because their driver is not responding.
Choosing this path allows you to move forward.
If you have collision coverage on your vehicle, your insurance company will pay to fix your car regardless of the other insurance company.
Remember: this only covers the property damage to your car; not your injuries.
Filing a Lawsuit Against the Other Driver
As a last resort, you can file a lawsuit against the other driver. This isn’t against the other driver’s insurance company; it’s against the other driver directly.
When you do this, the other driver’s insurance company will hire an attorney to represent their client in the lawsuit. This can be difficult and usually will be taken to small claims court.
If you reach this step in the process, if may be necessary to consult with an experienced personal injury attorney to evaluate your options. Sometimes, but not always, once a lawsuit is filed the adjuster on the other side will accept service on their insured's behalf.