Things You Might Not Know about Auto Accidents

In some states, your medical benefits are lower if you were not wearing your safety belt at the time of a crash.

If you live outside of Michigan and you carry only liability insurance, there is a very good chance that the most you can collect for damage done to your car by another driver while you’re in Michigan: $1,000.00. (The grammar on that sentence was atrocious. Sorry. Also, there are some exceptions.)

Even if you have a clause in your auto insurance for the protection of your pets, it’s probably not what you think it is. It probably maxes out at $500 toward vet bills or — even more common — “replacement” if your beloved pet dies. Pets are legally considered personal property and are not entitled to medical protection without these clauses.

Traffic cops often — often — fill out their police reports in whatever way solves the immediate problem (drivers angry with one another), and the reports often will not provide enough information to your claims adjuster to help with liability. Similarly, a ticket does not conclude liability for a claims adjuster. Neither does a police officer’s opinion. (It’s kind of like how O.J. was acquitted in the criminal trial and found liable in the civil trial. Adjusters are basically the civil end, not the criminal end, and the results can be different.)

When you’re told that the insurance in your state is “no fault,” so that “everybody goes through their own insurance,” that really only refers to medical expenses unless you’re in Michigan.

You are more likely to be involved in an accident while leaving a sporting event than while arriving at a sporting event.

It may be no surprise that grocery store parking lots are high-frequency areas for auto crashes, but two other parking lot locations that are high-frequency that may not have occurred to you: parking lots in small- to medium-sized churches in small- to medium-sized communities; and parking lots at funeral homes.

Hands-free phones have not proven to be any safer than non-hands-free phones when talking on them. They are obviously much safer than using non-hands-free phones for purposes of texting or browsing the web or using apps.

Driving while tired has been shown to be as dangerous or even more dangerous than driving drunk.

It is possible — and in fact very, very common — that if both vehicles were moving during an accident (as opposed to a rear-ender on a stopped car, or striking a parked vehicle) that both drivers can be found to be partially at fault. This will often affect your insurance payout from the other party’s insurance.

If more than one driver is at fault for an accident, and you are a faultless victim (say, for example, two cars crash in an intersection and one spins out and strikes your parked vehicle), your state laws will determine whether you have to collect an appropriate percentage of your payout from each liable party, or whether someone has to pay all your damages and then collect back from the other liable parties.

Nationally, one in seven drivers are uninsured.

Insurance companies are frequently given very low priority for orders of police reports.

Sometimes, your claim will have all the indicators of fraud, even if you are completely innocent of fraud. You will be investigated, whether or not your adjuster is actually suspicious. Your contract obligates you to cooperate. Generally, nobody is happy about this, including your adjuster.

Repairs are unbelievably expensive. What may look like a scratch to you could be a two thousand dollar payout from your insurance company to the person that you rear-ended at a stop sign. Yes, this may affect your rates, but remember: paying for this damage in the first place is the reason you have insurance. If you think the potential rate increase is worse than the dollar amount of the payout (seldom true), ask your adjuster if you can reimburse the insurance company. Some companies let you do this and it will “zero out” the payout on the claim, which is considered when your rates are renewed. BUT: this is not generally recommended, BECAUSE you will be on the hook for any supplemental payments required by the body shop, you will not have the power to negotiate rates and prices like your insurance company, and you will have to pay for the other party’s rental vehicle while they are repairing their own, AND it still may not prevent your rates from going up.

And finally, if you are the driver of a black Nissan Cube with a bumper sticker for the Pacers and another one for Dave Matthews Band and a license plate so smudged as to be pretty much unreadable, you have dangerously cut me off three times in the past month on the morning commute on I-465, and I very strongly recommend that you make sure your policy premiums are up to date.

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One Response to Things You Might Not Know about Auto Accidents

  1. Stevie says:

    I love the “behind the curtain” glimpses you give us of the very mysterious world of car insurance! One other thing I learned from experience – if you are involved in an accident, and are definitely NOT at fault, don’t just agree with whatever the police officer making out the report says! I t-boned a woman who ran a red light and the police officer said something along the lines of “well, sometimes you just have to give the right of way…” and I didn’t correct him on the situation, and it took my insurance company 1 year of fighting to get the other insurance company to pay! And in the meantime, I had to pay my own car rental… Luckily there were some witnesses to the accident to set the other insurance company straight!

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