If you were involved in a motor-vehicle collision through no fault of your own, you may be wondering whether to file a first- or third-party claim for the resulting property damage. Because California is a fault state in regard to auto accidents, you might be inclined to opt for the latter and bring the claim against the liable party’s insurer.
It’s reasonable to assume that filing a third-party claim has advantages. You won’t have to cover the deductible, for example. Also, you may already be seeking compensation for your medical bills and lost wages from the at-fault motorist’s carrier. Surely, tacking on the property damage to the existing claim would be easier than putting together an entirely separate claim with your own provider, right?
Unfortunately, the drawbacks of letting the defendant’s insurer handle your property damage claim far outweigh any potential advantages. Assuming your policy includes collision coverage, it is advisable instead to repair or replace your vehicle with help from your own carrier.
Let’s take a look at some of the biggest reasons to let your auto insurance provider handle your property damage claim, even if you weren’t to blame for the wreck:
1. Better Customer Service
Insurers are inclined to prioritize the claims of paying policyholders because customer loyalty has a major impact on their bottom line. At the end of the day, it costs considerably more to acquire new clients than it does to keep existing ones.
For this reason, you can expect more personalized and attentive service by filing a claim with your own carrier. This will be a welcomed relief given the adversity that you are no doubt facing. Your own provider will probably be more responsive, and they might not ask for documentation that they can obtain without you.
2. A Potentially Faster Resolution
In order to recover a payout from the other motorist’s insurance provider, you must prove liability. Should the insurance adjuster end up challenging the claim, this could delay payment for months or perhaps well over a year if the case proceeds to litigation.
Delays are also likely if you happen to be filing a bodily injury claim, as well. The defendant’s insurer may refuse to compensate you for all necessary vehicle repairs until the entire case is resolved. Since it might be strategically advisable to put off the settlement negotiations until you’ve reached maximum medical improvement, this could extend the duration of the proceedings considerably.
Filing a claim under your own collision coverage, on the other hand, may lead to a faster resolution. As long as you weren’t violating the terms of the policy and there aren’t any issues with your claim, your carrier should be willing to work diligently with you.
3. Legal Protection
Insurance providers have a fiduciary duty to those who have active policies with them; however, this legal obligation does not extend to third-party claimants. That means you will have little recourse if you seek compensation for property damage from the liable motorist’s insurer and they act in bad faith. If, on the other hand, your own carrier acts in bad faith, you’ll have grounds to take action against them.
While there are scenarios in which third-party claimants may sue for bad faith, such cases are inherently more complicated. What’s more, the potential recoverable damages may be limited.
Do I Still Need an Attorney If I’m Working with My Own Insurer?
Although your own carrier has incentive to give your claim the attention it deserves so you continue being a customer, you and the adjuster ultimately have competing goals. Whereas you want to secure a payout that will allow you to repair all the damage resulting from the accident—or replace the vehicle—the claims adjuster wants to protect the company’s bottom line by settling for the lowest figure possible.
In other words, recovering the compensation needed to restore or replace your vehicle could involve an uphill battle regardless of which insurer you bring the claim against. As such, it’s wise to hire a car accident attorney before getting started.
Your lawyer can handle all correspondence with the opposing party from day one if you choose to resolve your property damage claim with the 3rd party carrier. The 3rd party carrier is not entitled to a recorded statement from you. Your insurance carrier however is entitled to a recorded statement from you so having an attorney at your side during this process is always helpful.
Your attorney can also assist with your third-party personal injury claim against the defendant’s carrier. Your legal team can investigate the incident, interview eyewitnesses, track damages, and apply legal pressure as needed to gather evidence.
Your lawyer will also handle settlement negotiations on your behalf. Should the defendant’s insurance provider prove uncooperative, your attorney can help you determine if filing a lawsuit and proceeding to litigation would be a smart option.
While most personal injury claims are resolved before going to trial, there’s always the chance that you will end up before a judge or jury. As such, it’s wise to look for a lawyer who has extensive trial experience.
Discuss Your Claim with a Car Accident Attorney in Long Beach
Your Injuries Are Personal to Me
Attorney Michael D. Waks is a top-rated trial lawyer who knows how to build car accident claims that hold up under even the harshest scrutiny. Michael will use all the resources at his disposal to help you gather the evidence needed to build the strongest claim possible.
From the moment you hire Michael D. Waks to the day your case is resolved, you will receive aggressive and compassionate representation. To schedule a free consultation with a car accident attorney in Long Beach, send us an email or dial (562) 206-1939.
Download Our Car Accident Emergency Response .PDF
Should you end up in a wreck, you will want to document the scene thoroughly to give your subsequent claims the best chance of success. To ensure you don’t overlook any critical evidence, refer to our Car Accident Emergency Response .pdf. By keeping this document in your glovebox, you will have a comprehensive guide on hand in the event of a collision. Download it HERE for free.
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