When you have been involved in an accident, there are two types of insurance claims that you may file: a first party claim or a third party claim. The type of claim you pursue will depend on a variety of factors, including who was at fault for the accident and the amount of coverage available.
A first party insurance claim is one that you file with your own insurance company. A third party claim is one that you file with the insurance company of the person who you were in an accident with. If you were injured in an accident, one of the very first things you need to do is report that claim to the appropriate insurance company. In almost every situation, you will file a claim with your own insurance carrier so that you can get access to important benefits such as Med Pay and so that you can get your vehicle repaired.
Filing an insurance claim is the most common way to obtain compensation for your injuries. The other method is filing a lawsuit.
An Overview of First Party Claims vs. Third Party Claims
As discussed above, a first party claim is one that you file with your own insurance company and a third party claim is one that you file with someone else’s insurance company. Determining which company you will file your claim with depends in large part on who it was that caused the accident.
Fault as a Measuring Stick
If you caused the accident that lead to your injuries, then you will be dealing primarily with your own insurance company in what is considered a first party claim. For example, if you were following too close to someone and then rear ended them, then you were at fault and any damages you incurred will need to be handled with your own insurance company.
On the other hand, if the other person was at fault for the accident, then you would primarily pursue a third party claim against their insurance company. In North Carolina, every auto insurance policy is required to maintain the following minimum policy limits:
- $30,000 bodily injury for each person;
- $60,000 total bodily injury for all persons in an accident;
- $25,000 for property damage.
Assuming that the person who hit you has insurance, then this is the minimum amount of coverage that would be available to pay for your injuries and property damage.
It is also possible that you would file a claim with both the other person’s insurance company (a third party claim) and your own insurance company (a first party claim). This is most common when the person who was at fault for the accident either doesn’t have enough insurance for the accident, or you aren’t sure what type of coverage they have. In this situation, you would be making a claim under your own policy for an underinsured or uninsured motorist.
The Process for Filing an Insurance Claim
Regardless of who was at fault for the accident, you will want to file a claim as quickly as possible. Filing a claim is as simple as calling your insurance company and/or the at fault parties insurance company to let them know you were in a crash and that you want to initiate a claim.
They will ask you if you are “alright”. Make sure you tell them that you don’t know yet, you will be going to the hospital or you don’t yet know the extent of your injuries.
While it is important that you be truthful and honest with the insurance company about what happened, you don’t need to get into details about your injuries and how you are currently feeling. Just tell the that you were in an accident, that the other person hit you, and that you are seeking treatment. Anything else and it is possible the insurance company will use what you tell them against you later on.
After you report the claim, the insurance company will assign a “claims adjuster” to your case. Their job is to elicit as much information from you as possible and try to settle the case as quickly as possible for the least amount of money. They will try to get you to sign forms and give a recorded statement.
Do NOT, under any circumstances, sign any insurance company forms or give a recorded statement until such time as you have spoken with a lawyer. We can coach you through what to say to the adjuster and what not to say so that you can increase your chances of getting the financial compensation you deserve.
After you have finished your medical treatment and the insurance company has completed its investigation into your crash, you may want to send a demand letter that describes the accident, your injuries, and the financial compensation you are seeking.
Although there are times when drafting a demand letter and negotiating with the insurance company without a lawyer is possible, we still recommend that you talk to an auto accident attorney before you attempt to do either. The insurance company will do one of three things after receiving your initial demand letter:
- They will accept your demand and write you a check for the amount of money you asked for (possible, though not likely);
- They will deny your claim outright;
- They will offer you less compensation than you requested and attempt to negotiate a settlement with you.
If you are able to agree with the claims adjuster on a settlement that adequately and properly accounts for your injuries and anticipated future financial losses, you will need to execute a number of legal documents before they will write you a check.
Accepting a personal injury settlement comes with a number of legal and financial consequences. Not surprisingly, we recommend that you speak with a lawyer before accepting a check or signing any paperwork.
If, on the other hand, you are unable to come to a settlement, either because the insurance company denies your claim or because you are unable to negotiate a settlement that is adequate for you, then filing a personal injury lawsuit against the person or entity responsible for your injuries may be the next logical step. However, filing a personal injury lawsuit has a number of its own legal and financial consequences, and requires a through understanding of the laws involved, how the legal system operates, the rules of civil procedure, and evidence rules.
If you have a question for us, you can submit it confidentially online by clicking here. You can also call The Hart Law Firm at (919) 460-5422. We are happy to speak to you and answered any detailed questions you may have.