Most states require drivers to have liability insurance, which reimburses the other driver if the insured person is at fault in an accident. Many drivers also opt for collision insurance, which covers damages to your vehicle regardless of who caused the accident. If you’re financing a vehicle, your lender will likely require you to purchase collision coverage, but many people let it go once their cars are paid off. If you do not have collision coverage, you’ll have to depend on the other driver’s liability insurance for reimbursement, and you’ll need to take specific steps to ensure you receive what you’re owed.
If you have an auto accident, identifying who caused it determines what steps you take next. If you’re at fault, you’ll have to pay for the damages to your car out of your pocket because you’re not covered by the other driver’s liability insurance. You’ll also be responsible for the other driver’s damages, which your liability insurance should cover. If the other driver caused the accident, he’s responsible for your damages and you’ll need to take sufficient measures to ensure you’re reimbursed.
Verify the Other Driver’s Insurance Information
Exchange information with the other driver, including his name, address, phone number and license plate, and his insurance information, including policy number and the name, address and phone number of the insurance representative you should contact. Ask to see documentation with this information, such as driver’s license and insurance verification card, so you can be sure the information the person gives you is accurate. You can also call the insurance company from the scene to verify the person’s identity and that he is insured with that company.
Document the Accident
If you have a cell phone camera or can quickly obtain a camera, photograph the damages to your car as proof, in case the driver or insurance company disputes your claim. If you don’t have access to a camera, take extensive notes, documenting the location, the circumstances surrounding the crash and the damage to your vehicle. For more binding evidence, call the police. You can use the police report as proof the other driver was at fault when you file your insurance claim. According to legal publisher NOLO, in their reports officers frequently offer an opinion regarding who caused the accident in addition to noting any citations they issued. However, in many cities the police won’t respond to an accident if it’s just a fender-bender with no injuries. In that case, they’ll tell you to exchange information with the other driver.
Take Legal Action
Even though state laws require liability insurance, many drivers don’t have it. If you’re involved in an accident with an uninsured driver, you’ll have to trust the other person to reimburse you. Even if she has liability insurance, she may dispute your claim. If you can’t go through her insurance provider, you can sue, usually in small claims court. Each jurisdiction has its own financial limit. For example, the small claims court of Oklahoma County, Oklahoma, accepts only those cases involving claims of $10,000 or less. If you sue the driver, be prepared to bring extensive documentation of the accident, cost of repairs and witness statements. If you receive a judgment against the driver and she doesn’t pay, you can notify the agency that issues driver’s licenses, such as the state's department of motor vehicles, which in many states will suspend a person’s license if she has an auto accident-related court judgment against her.
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