Auto Insurance Frequently Asked Questions

Frequently Asked Questions concept with bulbsIt may shock you to learn how deceptive insurance companies can be when they deal with car accident victims and their families – even when those people are their own policyholders. To protect your legal rights and interests after a crash, you need to arm yourself with information about the insurance claims process. You also should seek help from an experienced Memphis auto accident attorney.

Here, we provide answers to questions that people in Tennessee and Mississippi frequently have about car accidents and insurance. The answers reflect attorney David E. Gordon’s many decades of experience with handling auto accident claims in Memphis and surrounding communities. That experience includes working for insurance companies before he dedicated his career to helping injury victims to seek the compensation they deserve.

To discuss the specific facts of your case, please contact The Law Office of David E. Gordon today. We will provide a free, no-obligation consultation.

Do I need auto insurance?

First, let’s talk about what the law requires. In both Tennessee and Mississippi, drivers must have proof of financial responsibility, or the ability to pay for the injuries and property damage they cause others to suffer in a crash. The easiest way to meet this requirement is to have liability insurance in the required minimum amounts. If you lack the required insurance, you could face fines and other penalties. (In fact, Tennessee recently enhanced its penalties in an effort to reduce the state’s number of uninsured drivers.)

In Tennessee, the minimum limits are:

  • $25,000 for bodily injury per person
  • $50,000 for bodily injury per accident (two or more persons)
  • $15,000 for property damage per accident

In Mississippi, the minimum limits are:

  • $25,000 for bodily injury per person
  • $50,000 for bodily injury per accident (two or more persons)
  • $25,000 for property damage per accident

Second, let’s talk about what common sense demands. If you cause a car accident, and you lack liability insurance, then you could end up losing a significant amount – if not all – of your personal assets in order to pay the other person’s damages. That’s a risk that you should never take. To better protect yourself, you should actually consider buying liability coverage above the minimum limits.

Neither Tennessee nor Mississippi require you to have other types of coverage such as uninsured motorist (UM), underinsured motorist (UIM), collision, comprehensive or medical payments coverage. However, as we explain below, the benefits of having UM and UIM coverage far outweigh the risks you face if you don’t have that coverage. Also, if you have a car loan, the lender may require you to buy collision and/or comprehensive coverage.

If you are unsure of the coverage you have available to you after a crash, attorney David E. Gordon can review your policy and discuss your options.

What should I do if my auto insurance coverage lapsed?

A lapse in auto insurance coverage can occur for many different reasons. For instance, your insurer may cancel your coverage because you:

  • Missed a payment or made a late payment
  • Failed to renew your policy before it expired
  • Were convicted of a DWI or other serious traffic offense.

If you drive an uninsured vehicle in Tennessee or Mississippi, you violate the law and risk being held personally liable for any injuries or property damage you cause in a wreck. Check with your insurer as soon as possible. Find out why the insurer canceled your coverage and learn what you must do to get it reinstated as soon as possible. If necessary, you should get in touch with other insurers. The bottom line: You don’t want to be without coverage.

What’s the difference between a first-party claim and a third-party claim?

A first-party insurance claim is a claim that you file with your own insurance company.  Uninsured motorist (UM), underinsured motorist (UIM), collision, comprehensive and medical payments claims are examples of first-party claims.

A third-party insurance claim is a claim that you file with the insurance company of another party. For example, if another driver caused a car accident that left you with serious injuries, you would file a third-party claim with that driver’s insurance company.

Some people think that first-party claims will go smoother than third-party claims because those claims involve  their own insurance company. That isn’t true. Despite what you hear from TV ads, insurance companies are not on your side when you file an injury claim of any kind.

To make a profit, the premiums they collect must exceed the claims they pay out. So, whether you file a first-party or third-party claim, you should expect the insurer to look for every opportunity to deny or minimize your claim. This is why it is important to get help from an experienced Memphis auto accident lawyer who will be solely focused on protecting you and your legal rights.

What insurance will cover my medical bills after a crash?

At The Law Office of David E. Gordon, we always advise our clients to get medical treatment as soon as they are aware that they have an injury. The longer you wait before you get treatment, the more opportunity you give the insurance company to argue that your condition did not result from your accident.

If another driver caused your crash, that driver’s insurance company will wait until you finish treatment before it pays your medical bills. So, you need to keep copies of all medical bills you incur. Those bills will serve as important evidence in your claim.

As you wait for the at-fault driver’s insurance company to pay for your medical expenses, you can use your own health insurance or, if you have purchased it, your own medical payments (or “medpay”) coverage. Typically, your automobile medical coverage will pay for your treatment until you reach the limits of your coverage (usually $5,000). At that time, your own health insurance should pay.

If you face any problems with getting needed medical coverage, an attorney from our firm can help you to find solutions. Your health should always be the top priority.

If I was in a car wreck, should I call my insurance company?

Even if the car accident was not your fault, you should call and report your crash to your insurance company. Here are two good reasons why:

  • You might need to file a claim – Your insurer may require you to report your accident within a certain period of time. If you fail to meet this deadline, the insurer may try to deny a claim you file with the insurer such as an uninsured motorist (UM) or underinsured motorist (UIM) claim. You want to preserve your right.
  • Get help while your other claim is pending – If another driver caused your crash, you will file a claim with that driver’s insurance company.  However, that insurer may take time to accept responsibility or may try to deny your claim. If you initiate a claim with your insurer, you can get a rental and get your car repaired or replaced while waiting to hear from the other driver’s insurer. If your insurer charges you a deductible or a co-pay for a rental, it will be reimbursed when the other insurance company pays your insurer.

When you work with The Law Office of David E. Gordon, we can help you to report your accident and/or file a claim with your own insurance company.

Should I talk with the other driver’s insurance company?

It is common for the other driver’s insurance company to call you within days – maybe even within hours – after an accident occurs. If you talk with the insurance adjustor, you risk falling into three pitfalls:

  • Giving a recorded statement – The adjustor may ask you to give a taped interview about the accident and your injuries. However, the adjustor may – and most likely will – use anything you say against you in an effort to deny or minimize your claim.
  • Giving medical authorization – The adjustor may also ask you to sign a document that will allow the insurance company to access your medical records. However, the adjustor will use this access to find out whether you have any pre-existing injuries or other medical issues that the insurer can use against you.
  • Accepting a settlement offer – In some cases, an insurer may make a settlement offer immediately after a crash. However, this offer may fail to fully and fairly compensate you.

For these reasons, you should talk with a Memphis car accident attorney first before you give a recorded statement, grant medical authorization or accept a settlement offer from the other driver’s insurance company. A lawyer will protect your rights and deal with the insurance company on your behalf while you focus on your physical recovery.

The other driver’s insurance company denied my claim. What can I do now?

If you already filed a claim with the other driver’s insurance company, and the company denied your claim, you should speak with an attorney immediately. Call The Law Office of David E. Gordon without delay.

Our firm can investigate your case, review your medical records, consult with experts, examine all relevant insurance policies and take many other steps to determine whether the other driver should be held liable as well as the amount you should seek in damages. If necessary, we will file a lawsuit in the proper court.

You need to move quickly because of the statute of limitations, or the limited period of time that you have to file a personal injury lawsuit. Generally, you must file a lawsuit within one year after an accident in Tennessee and within three years after an accident in Mississippi.

Can I recover anything if the other driver has no insurance?

Unfortunately, this situation commonly arises. Both Tennessee and Mississippi have a high number of uninsured drivers. A study by the Insurance Research Council (IRC) found that 22.9 percent of the drivers in Mississippi had no insurance (third highest in the country), while 20.1 percent of the drivers in Tennessee lacked insurance (sixth highest).

If the other driver has no insurance, you may be eligible to file an uninsured motorist (UM) claim through your own insurance company. In both Tennessee and Mississippi, you should have UM coverage unless you rejected it in writing. The coverage should be in the same amounts as your liability coverage unless you selected lower amounts.

Even though you will deal with your own insurance company, the insurer may try to deny or minimize your payout. However, if you work with an experienced attorney who knows how insurance companies operate, it will greatly enhance your ability to maximize your recovery. To learn more, contact attorney David E. Gordon today. He will provide a free review of your case, including a review of any available UM coverage.

I was injured in a hit-and-run accident. Can I file an insurance claim?

If you suffer injuries in a crash caused by a driver who fled the scene, you may be eligible to file a claim through your uninsured motorist (UM) coverage. You can file this claim if the hit-and-run accident occurred while you were driving your car, riding your bicycle or walking along  the road.

However, hit-and-run claims  can be highly complex. You must establish that you had actual physical contact with the other driver, and the driver was negligent. You must also provide proof that you reported your crash to the police within a reasonable amount of time after the crash, and that you made reasonable efforts to determine the identity of the driver or the person who owned the vehicle.

The Law Office of David E. Gordon can help you to collect the information that the insurance company will need to review your hit-and-run accident claim and will aggressively pursue every dollar you deserve.

What can I do if the other driver doesn’t have enough insurance to cover my losses?

If the other driver’s insurance fails to fully cover your losses – given the cost of medical care today, this is highly common – then you may be able to file a claim through your own underinsured motorist (UIM) coverage. Attorney David E. Gordon can review your insurance policy to determine if this coverage is available to you.

In a UIM claim, you would seek the difference between what the other driver’s insurance covers and the total amount of your losses – up to your policy’s limits. In some cases, issues arise concerning the amount of coverage available to you outside of UIM. These are called “offsets.”  You should seek help from a lawyer who has a keen understanding of offsets, subrogation and many other issues that arise in UIM claims.

Will the other driver’s insurance company repair my car?

If another driver caused your accident, the other driver’s liability insurance should pay for the cost of repairing your vehicle. If the insurance company determines that your car is a “total loss,” or “totaled,” then the insurer should pay you the full market value for the car.

Additionally, while your car is being repaired or while you are waiting to get a check for the total loss, the other driver’s insurance company should pay for your rental car. If you do not get a rental because you have another car available to you, then you should get money for “loss of use” of the car that was involved in the crash.

The Law Office of David E. Gordon can help you to deal with these property damage issues as we work on the bodily injury claims arising from your accident.

What insurance covers ATV accidents?

If you or a loved one suffer injuries in an ATV accident, your own auto insurance policy typically will not cover the losses you suffer. However, you may have several other options available to you. It will depend on the specific facts of your case.

For instance, you may have purchased your own ATV insurance which will cover your damages. If another ATV driver caused the crash, that owner’s insurance may cover the incident.

If a property hazard caused the accident and your injuries – for example, there was a hole on the property – the person who owns or leases the land may have homeowner’s or renter’s insurance that will cover your losses.

In many cases, ATV accidents result from a defective ATV or ATV part. In those cases, a product liability claim against the manufacturer may be in order.

You can count on The Law Office of David E. Gordon to explore all options available to you and your family and to seek compensation for you from all available sources.

I think my insurance company unreasonably denied my claim. What can I do?

If you file a first-party claim, or a claim with your own auto insurance provider, then the insurer must pay the claim within a certain period of time. The claim must be one that your policy covers. You must also make a formal demand for payment, which generally means a demand in writing. If the insurer unreasonably ignores, denies or fails to pay the full amount you are due, then you may be able to file a bad faith insurance claim against the insurer.

Attorney David E. Gordon has an extensive background with handling insurance claims on behalf of car accident victims and their families in Memphis and surrounding areas. He can help you to determine whether an insurer has acted in bad faith when handling your claim, and he will help you to pursue all legal remedies available to you.

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