I was recently in a car accident and the insurance company is calling, offering to pay me money. Should I still contact an attorney?

Yes, you should contact an attorney even if the other driver’s insurance company is offering to pay you money. Even though the individual who caused the accident is responsible for your damages, his or her insurance company has no legal obligation to treat you fairly or in good faith. The primary goal of an insurance company is to make money and the adjusters that the insurance company employs to handle auto accident claims are trained professionals.

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They are free to offer you arbitrarily low amounts for your injury and force you to either accept it or file a lawsuit. While the best adjusters maintain an appearance of friendliness and goodwill, they are always looking out for the insurance company’s best interests. In order to reduce the amount of money that it will pay out in claims, insurance companies often attempt to settle potential injury claims for quick cash. These settlements come at a cost – in exchange for the monetary settlement, you give up your right to claim additional medical expenses or damages in the future. Insurance companies will often attempt to settle shortly after the accident when the extent of the medical costs or injuries are not fully known. It can take days, weeks, even months, before injuries incurred during an automobile accident manifest themselves fully.

What if the insurance company does not offer adequate compensation?

If the insurance company for the negligent driver fails to offer you adequate compensation for the injuries you received in a car wreck, you will be forced to file suit against the negligent driver if you want to fully recover your damages. It is important that you recognize that your suit must be filed against the negligent driver and not his or her insurance company. In North Carolina, this must be done within the three-year statute of limitations applicable to personal injury claims. South Carolina also has a three-year statute of limitation on personal injury cases.

The three-year limitations period starts on the day of the auto accident. Although a lawsuit will be filed against the negligent driver, the insurance carrier for this driver will hire an attorney to represent the negligent driver. The fact that this person has insurance will not be admissible at trial and the parties will be ordered by the judge not to inform the jury that the negligent driver has insurance. The jury will also not be informed of any settlement negotiations. This is why it is so important to have a good attorney representing you.

Should I contact the insurance company for the person at fault?

You have no obligation to contact the insurance company that insures the driver who caused the car wreck. You also have no obligation to talk to this insurance company if they call you. In most cases, the insurance adjuster for the person at fault will attempt to contact you immediately following the accident in order to take a recorded statement. This is usually the time that persons are upset or still in shock following the collision. When this is combined with the fact that you may be questioned in detail by an adjuster who is trained to ask questions that may benefit their denial or reduction of your claim, you may give an inaccurate statement which will severely affect your right to achieve a fair settlement of your claim. You should consult an experienced attorney prior to contacting the insurance carrier.

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