You don’t think about the truck accident claim process when a truck crashes into your car. Large commercial trucks cause such devastating injuries that you must focus on treatment, recovery, and returning your life to normal. As an injured victim, you deal with hospitalizations, medical treatment, and rehabilitation. If you sustain disabling injuries, you must find a new way to earn an income and live your everyday life. At some point, you will think about the claim process. For the trucker’s insurance company, it’s usually a priority from day one.
Every truck accident and injury differs, but most claim handlers follow a similar routine. They take control of the claim process immediately following an accident and usually maintain control until you assert your rights or obtain legal representation. When an Augusta truck accident attorney represents you, they insulate you from most legal and procedural complications. They deal directly with truckers, trucking companies, and insurance companies when appropriate. They control the claim process on your behalf while you take time to rest and recover.
A Liability Claim Is a Step-By-Step Process
If someone ever crashed into you, you probably dealt with an insurance claim department. There’s one major difference when you’re in an accident with a trucker. You usually deal with a commercial insurance company and seasoned investigators. In most instances, commercial claim representatives have spent years learning how to investigate accidents and manage injured victims.
Some large trucking companies self-insure their liability claims. They usually hire captive or independent claim investigators to handle their claims. The money comes directly from their company assets when they pay a claim. This may affect their willingness to settle injury claims.
Most casualty claim processes follow a series of predictable steps. When the claim involves a trucker and serious or catastrophic injuries, the process is similar to a minor crash but far more intense. Commercial insurers recognize that trucking accidents have an inherent risk of yielding large settlements and judgments. They take immediate steps to maintain control and prevent this from happening.
Both Drivers Report the Accident
Even if you believe the trucker is responsible for your damages, you must report your accident to your insurer. Most personal auto policies require that you report any accidents to which the insurance coverage might apply. This is important as you won’t know immediately if the trucker’s liability insurer will pay your claims. Also, if you eventually make a Medical Payments, Uninsured or Underinsured Motorists claim, your insurer won’t reserve their rights because of a delayed reporting issue.
The Trucker’s Insurer Investigates the Accident
When the trucker’s insurance company conducts an investigation, they take their investigative cues from their driver. If the driver says they didn’t cause the accident, the insurer’s investigation considers their point of view.
Ultimately, they assess liability based on available evidence and analyze the evidence using the basic negligence formula:
- Duty owed: Did the trucker owe a duty to drive safely: stop at a light, stay in their lane, etc.?
- Duty breached: Did the trucker fail to meet this duty?
- Proximate cause: Were the trucker’s actions the cause of the accident?
- Damages: Are the damages (injuries, vehicle damage) directly result from the trucker’s failure to meet their duties?
During the liability insurer’s investigation, they obtain police reports, site photos and diagrams, witness statements, and other available information. If you don’t have a legal representative, they ask you for your version of the accident. If you agree, they ask you questions and record what you say. They sometimes ask to take your statement in person, but they can easily do it over the phone.
Liability insurers need your medical and wage loss information to evaluate your claim. They usually ask you to sign releases so they can obtain the information directly from the sources. Informed medical releases tell a medical provider what records release you authorize. Insurers sometimes use them to request narrative medical reports that may or may not give a clear picture of your injuries.
The Problem with Recorded Statements
When a claim investigator takes your recorded statement, they create a permanent record of your version. They ask what seem to be simple questions–the weather, the pavement, your speed, where you are going, or if you wear glasses, etc.–but each one has its purpose.
It helps them determine if your actions caused or contributed to the accident. If the statement process makes you nervous or on pain medication, you might say something you didn’t mean to or shouldn’t have said to the insurance agent. Your answers might sound like you were at least partially at fault, and you can’t take them back.
When a truck accident attorney represents you, they usually prevent insurance investigators from taking your statement. They control your information and release relevant information to insurers when appropriate.
Your Insurance Company Pays Your Covered Losses
If you have collision coverage for vehicle damage, your insurance company owes vehicle repairs or a total loss settlement. While you might prefer the trucker’s insurer to pay your collision claim, it’s usually simpler for your insurer to do it.
Some liability insurers will only pay your vehicle damage once you’re ready to settle your injury claim. Also, if you have Med Pay coverage, your insurer may need to pay what they owe.
Your Insurer Has Subrogation Rights
Once your insurer pays your covered damages, they have a legal right to recover what they paid on your behalf. This is a process known as subrogation. Your insurer will also recover any deductible you paid for your collision damages. If you settle your claim or file a lawsuit against the trucker, your policy requires you to protect your insurance company’s subrogation rights.
The Liability Insurer Decides Whether They Owe Your Claim
Most liability insurers complete their investigations in a matter of days. They usually set an initial claim reserve within a few weeks of receiving your claim.
If you sustained serious or catastrophic injuries, the investigator and a claim management team would usually review everything they learned during their investigation. Together they establish a reserve based on their guesstimate as to how much compensation they will eventually pay.
The Liability Insurer Sets a Claim Reserve
The insurance investigator handling your claim will never mention that they need your liability and injury information to set a reserve. Insurance companies pressure their investigators to establish a dollar claim reserve even when a claim is relatively new.
An insurer must set aside a dollar amount based on estimated potential claim costs and need accurate reserves for several reasons:
- It helps underwriters determine if they want to continue insuring the trucking company.
- Insurers need to know projected claim amounts to calculate retrospectively-rated premiums (based on incurred losses).
- A large reserve alerts an insurance company’s corporate staff about potential high-dollar claims.
- Official Code of Georgia Annotated § 33-3-21.1 requires annual reports from insurers with details about claim reserves.
- Insurers must list claim reserves as a liability when determining annual profits and losses.
Liability Insurers Never Admit Liability
Liability insurers never admit that their insured is legally responsible for an accident. (They consider that an issue for a court to decide.) If their investigation proves that their insured is liable for your accident, they may (or may not) offer to pay your vehicle damages or your insurer’s subrogation claims. If they decide to settle your injury claim, they address that part of your claim when you’re ready. Even if they settle your claim, the release you sign acknowledges that they are not admitting liability.
They Might Deny Your Claim
Sometimes a liability insurer decides that the evidence shows that both drivers were negligent. Georgia’s comparative fault statutes, O.C.G.A §51-11-7 and O.C.G.A. §51-12-33, recognize that more than one person may contribute to an accident. Insurers may reduce a claim based on a driver’s liability percentage. If the liability insurer decides you were 49 percent negligent or less, they may eventually offer you a reduced settlement. If they decide you were 50 percent negligent or greater, they may deny liability for your claim.
The Liability Insurer Might Keep in Touch With You, but They Might Not
If the liability insurer decides that they may owe you an injury settlement, they might only tell you their intentions if you ask. They may contact you periodically for an update on your injuries and potential disabilities, but not necessarily. If they discover your injuries are more serious than anticipated, they update their claim reserve as necessary.
The Liability Insurer Might Not Offer You a Settlement
Some insurers walk a line that borders on bad faith. Even if they decide that their insured was negligent, they won’t necessarily offer to settle your claim. As long as you have their contact information, they consider it your responsibility to contact them. They won’t usually remind you if you don’t demand a settlement. They won’t tell you when your statute of limitations deadline is close. They expect you to figure it out for yourself.
They Still Want to Know About Your Injury
If an insurer doesn’t deny liability for your claim and they haven’t called you, they probably still have an open claim file. They might not contact you but still want updates about your injuries and recovery.
If you sign a medical authorization form, they use it to get medical updates. They conduct activity checks to get the necessary information if you need to. They use alternate sources and find out as much as possible without asking you directly.
This may involve:
- Taking photos and videos of you entering and exiting your home
- Trying to capture pictures of you performing duties around your yard
- Talking to your friends, neighbors, and employer
- Checking out your social media activities
- Checking your credit to determine your financial status
You Must Negotiate Your Settlement
If a liability insurer offers you a settlement and you don’t have a lawyer, you must negotiate the settlement yourself. Insurers understand that injured people sometimes need to learn how much their claim is worth.
If you agree to settle for a low amount, the insurer won’t try to convince you to ask for more. Once you reach an agreement, they request that you sign a release of all claims. Once you have a signed release, they pay you the agreed amount and close their claim.
If your insurer has a pending subrogation claim, you must pay them their portion of your settlement. If your health insurance carrier paid any medical bills, you must also protect their subrogation rights.
Insurers don’t play negotiation games with truck accident attorneys. They understand that attorneys research to determine the true worth of every injury claim. They also realize that an attorney will file a lawsuit and take them to court.
Don’t Let an Insurance Company Control Your Claim
When you sustain serious injuries in a truck accident, every decision you make determines how and when the claim process moves forward. Insurance companies do whatever they can to take decision-making out of your hands.
Claim representatives don’t tell you what to do; they talk to you and seek ways to gain your trust. They talk compassionately about your accident, injuries, and medical bills. They lull you into believing that everything is going to be okay. Of course, that’s their job.
A truck accident attorney can help you maintain control over your claim. When you establish a working relationship with an attorney as soon as possible after an accident, they intervene on your behalf.
Contact a Truck Accident Lawyer in Augusta
Dealing with the aftermath of a truck accident can feel overwhelming and stressful. You do not have to go through the process along, and you need an attorney to help you understand your rights and responsibilities and the steps you must follow to get the compensation you deserve.
An experienced personal injury attorney in Augusta is ready to help you tackle the complex process of determining who bears liability for your truck accident injuries, filing your injury claim with the insurance company, and seeing the process through from beginning to end. Having truck accident attorney on your side should offer you peace of mind a trusted professional is looking out for your best interests and fighting hard for you.
Contact the Augusta truck accident attorneys at The Hawk Firm today and get the help you need to get the compensation you deserve.