When handling the aftermath of an auto accident, it is important to understand the difference between a first-party and third-party claim. A first-party claim is filed with your own insurer, and the governing insurance policy will require you to cooperate with their reasonable requests as they investigate your claim. You can file a first-party claim with Allstate over the phone or by visiting its website. By contrast, a third-party claim is filed with the at-fault party’s insurer, who will look for any reason they can to deny your claim within the constraints of the governing policy and law. To protect your right to full and fair compensation for injuries sustained in an auto accident you did not cause, it is best to let an attorney handle communication with the insurer processing your third-party claim. The experienced injury attorneys at Butler Kahn know how to deal with insurers. We are ready to thoroughly investigate your case and handle your third-party claim on your behalf. Contact us today for a free, no-obligation consultation. Read on to learn more about auto insurance claims in Georgia.
What is a First-Party Insurance Claim?
A first-party insurance claim is filed with your own insurance company. There are a number of scenarios in which you might file a first-party claim after a car accident, including when seeking coverage for:
- Your injuries through your Medical Payments (MedPay) or health insurance policy.
- Property damage to your vehicle through your collision coverage or comprehensive coverage policy.
- Your injuries and/or property damage through your Uninsured/Underinsured Motorist (UM/UIM) policy.
The specific coverage available to you will vary depending on your policy. In general, remember that insurance policies are littered with fine-print coverage exclusions. You should read yours carefully and consult with an experienced attorney if you have any doubts. The legal team at Butler Kahn is ready to answer any questions you may have. To preserve your first-party coverage, insurers normally require you to report your accident before a certain deadline. You are normally given a month or two to make your report, and failure to comply with the deadline can eliminate your coverage altogether. You can file your first-party claim with Allstate by calling 1-800-ALLSTATE (1-800-255-7828) or visiting the company website.
What is a Third-Party Insurance Claim?
Third-party auto insurance protects policyholders from liability when they cause an accident. If you are injured in an accident caused by someone else, a third-party insurance claim filed with their auto insurer will be a primary source of compensation. The at-fault policyholder would be the “first party,” and you would be the “third party.” All drivers in Georgia are required to carry third-party liability insurance that meets at least the following minimum coverage levels set by state law:
- $25,000 per person in bodily injury coverage
- $50,000 per accident in bodily injury coverage
- $25,000 per accident property damage coverage
Depending on your case, these amounts may or may not be enough to cover your injuries and losses. Either way, failure to comply with the coverage requirements results in a misdemeanor. Penalties may include a fine between $200-1000, up to 12 months behind bars, or both.
What If the At-Fault Driver Was Uninsured/Underinsured?
According to the Insurance Information Institute (III), roughly one in eight drivers on Georgia roads had no auto insurance in a recent year. An accident caused by one of these drivers can result in an enormous headache for injury victims. Even if you secure a judgment against them, chances are they will not have the funds to compensate you for your injuries and losses out of pocket. This is where your own Uninsured/Underinsured (UM/UIM) coverage can save the day. As the name suggests, this kind of insurance covers your injuries and losses in the event the at-fault driver’s coverage is insufficient or nonexistent. Though UM/UIM insurance is not legally required in Georgia, all drivers should seriously consider including it as part of their auto insurance. All insurers in the state are required to offer this kind of coverage when customers purchase a new auto liability policy. They must offer it in amounts at least equal to the liability coverage chosen by the customer, who can then reject the offer in writing if they choose to.
What Should I Do When the At-Fault Driver’s Insurance Provider Calls After an Accident?
You should proceed cautiously when discussing your third-party claim with the at-fault party’s insurer, as their adjusters will look for as many reasons as they can to deny your claim. The best way to protect your right to compensation is to let your attorney handle all communication with the at-fault driver and their insurer. In fact, when their insurer calls, you are not legally required to speak to them at all. However, if you do before securing legal representation, the following tips will help make sure you do not undermine your own claim:
- Do Not Admit Fault – If you do, your third-party claim will be denied. Of course, do not lie either, as doing so would constitute fraud and could lead to serious legal consequences. Instead, wait for your attorney to conduct a thorough investigation and determine who is truly at fault for the accident. Remember that even a simple apology can be construed as an admission of fault.
- Do Not Speculate – In particular, do not speculate about the cause of the accident. Speculating and providing unsolicited details can easily backfire by giving the at-fault party’s insurer ammunition to pin the blame on you. Again, let your attorney conduct a thorough investigation and handle communication with insurers.
- Do Not Give a Recorded Statement – Never give the at-fault party’s insurer permission to record your conversation with them. You are not legally obligated to do so. If you do, they will go through everything you say with a fine-toothed comb to find any reason they can to deny your claim.
- Do Not Sign a Medical Record Release – Your medical records are confidential and strictly protected by state and federal law. If you sign a release, this protection will be eliminated. The at-fault party’s insurer will then have access to your entire medical history, which they can use to argue that the injuries you sustained in the accident are not covered because they were preexisting.
- Do Not Accept an Early Settlement Offer – You may be tempted to accept an early settlement offer from the at-fault party’s insurer. However, offers they make early on, especially those made before you secure legal representation, will probably understate the true value of your claim. Remember, just because a settlement offer is made early on does not mean it is in your best interest to accept.
Consult With an Experienced Personal Injury Lawyer
Dealing with insurers after an accident can be time-consuming and frustrating, especially when trying to focus on recovering from your injuries. Always remember that insurers, including your own, are eager to save money by denying your claim. Instead of dealing with insurers yourself, it is a good idea to let an attorney do the talking for you. At Butler Kahn, our personal injury lawyers are ready to make sure you know your rights and explore all potential sources of compensation. We have decades of experience helping injury victims secure the justice and accountability they deserve. We also know how to deal with tricky insurers. While you focus on your recovery, let us focus on securing your full and fair compensation. Contact us today for a free, no-obligation consultation.