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Arizona Non-Injury Accident Kit | Dealing With the Insurance Companies

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Dealing with the Insurance Companies

What should I do if the other party does not have insurance?

Which insurance company should I contact?

What will the insurance companies do?

What if the accident was partially my fault and partially the fault of the other driver?

What happens when more than two vehicles are involved?

Am I entitled to a rental car?

What should I do if the other party does not have insurance?

The “exchange cards” or other information you have obtained from the other driver should tell you if that party has insurance. If the other party was not insured, you can make a claim under the collision coverage of your own policy, assuming the damages exceed your deductible. Your uninsured motorist coverage will not apply. Uninsured motorist coverage is limited to claims for bodily injuries. If you do not have collision coverage, however, your only option will be to attempt to recover your damages from the driver or owner of the car who caused the accident. If you want to have your car repaired immediately, you will most likely have to pay the cost yourself, and then try to recover that expense from the other driver or his insurance company. You can start that process by sending the other driver a letter, along with copies of the estimates or repair bills, and ask for payment for the cost of the repairs. It may be necessary to work out a payment schedule if the other person is not able to pay all the damages at once.

If the person responsible for the accident refuses to pay your damages, your only recourse may be to file a civil lawsuit. You either can hire an attorney, or you can file suit yourself in Small Claims Division or Justice Court. Instructions on how to do this are available on the internet or at your local Justice of the Peace Court. If your damages exceed the Justice Court limitations, your case must be filed in Superior Court. It will be difficult, however, for you to handle the case in Superior Court without a lawyer. Generally, the parties to an accident are not entitled to have their attorney’s fees paid by the losing party in a lawsuit. Consequently, depending on the amount in dispute, with most property damage claims, it may not be economically feasible to hire an attorney. You may, however, wish to discuss your claim with a lawyer before you file a lawsuit. Shop around for consultation fees; they vary widely for this service.

All vehicles in Arizona are required to have minimum levels of liability insurance. Unfortunately, some drivers still are not in compliance with the law. Under the Arizona law, if another person was not insured and you obtain a court judgment against him or her, that person’s driver’s license and vehicle registration can be suspended until the judgment has been fully paid. This creates some additional incentive for the person who caused the accident to pay your damages.

You do not need to take any action to involve the Motor Vehicle Division. Once you obtain a written judgment from the court for the damages owed you, if those damages are not paid within 60 days, the court has a duty to automatically send a copy of that judgment to the Motor Vehicle Division. The driver’s license and automobile registration of the party who caused the accident will be suspended by the Motor Vehicle Division until the judgment is satisfied in full or until you fail to renew the judgment. (Judgments must be renewed every five years. The Justice Courts have information about the procedures for renewal.) In addition, the party who caused the accident also must provide proof of financial responsibility (generally, insurance) for the future before his or her license and registration can be returned.

Which insurance company should I contact?

If you think the accident was partially or entirely your fault, you should contact your own insurance company. If the accident was entirely your fault, the only claim you can make will be under the collision coverage of your policy, if you have that coverage. If you believe the accident was at least partially the fault of the other driver(s), you still should contact your own insurance company but you also should notify the other driver’s insurance company that you intend to make a claim.

What will the insurance companies do?

The insurance companies will investigate the claim and make a determination regarding liability (that is, who is responsible for the accident). The insurance company often will ask you to give a written or recorded statement of your version of the accident. Before providing any type of statement to the insurance companies, you should make every effort to prepare for the statement and organize your thoughts so the statement is an accurate description of what happened.

What if the accident was partially my fault and partially the fault of the other driver?

Arizona is known as a “comparative negligence” state. This means that in determining responsibility for the accident, the relative fault of each of the parties is established. If it is determined that you are completely without fault and the other driver is 100% responsible for the accident, that driver or his insurance company is responsible for 100% of your damages. On the other hand, if the other driver is 60% responsible and you are 40% responsible, the other driver or his insurance company is responsible for only 60% of the damages to your car, and you or your insurance company will be responsible for the remaining 40% of your own damages. Similarly, you and your insurance company are responsible for 40% of the damages to the other driver’s car, and that driver is responsible for the other 60% of his own damages. The allocation of fault in these cases is a complicated issue. As a result, these cases often are difficult to negotiate. The issue of comparative fault (the respective percentages of fault of each driver) is negotiable.

What happens when more than two vehicles are involved?

Multiple vehicle accidents can become very complex because the relative degrees of fault, and hence percentage of responsibility for the accident, must be determined and allocated to the respective drivers. If you believe two or more other parties were at fault for the accident, you should contact each party, or the insurance company for each, and try to work-out the percentages of fault for each. If you only are able to settle with one party, be sure the release papers state that the party is compensating you for a specified percentage of your total damages. For example, if you agree with party “A” that “A” is 40% at fault and your total damages are $1,000.00, you can only collect $400.00 from “A”. Party “B”, also partially at fault in the accident, is not bound by your agreement with “A” (either as to percentages of fault or the total amount of your damages), but would not be liable for more than 60% of your damages in any event. (In this example, the other party’s liability could not exceed $600.00.)

Am I entitled to a rental car?

Because automobiles are so essential to our way of life, obtaining a rental car is often a major concern to individuals involved in an automobile accident. As a basic rule, if the other driver clearly caused the accident, and your car is not safe to operate or is undergoing repairs, you are entitled to a rental car or compensation for the loss of use of your car while it is inoperable. Whether the other driver’s insurance company will assist in providing you with a rental car varies from company to company. Some insurance companies will provide a rental car for your use until your vehicle is repaired. In that case, you generally will not have to pay any money out of your pocket. Other insurance companies will require that you rent an automobile on your own and the company will reimburse you at a fixed daily rate. This rate usually is fairly low, so you should shop around to get the best rental price. Some insurance companies will compensate you on a weekly basis while others will not reimburse you until your entire claim is settled.

Although you are entitled to a car that is comparable to the car that was damaged, as a practical matter, most insurance companies will willingly compensate you only for basic transportation at a fairly low rental rate. If you rent a more expensive car and pay for the difference out of your own pocket, it may be difficult for you to obtain the difference from the insurance company without getting involved in a lawsuit.

The rental car will be available to you until your automobile either is repaired, or if the insurance company “totals” your car, until a reasonable offer is made on your car. You are entitled to a rental car even if you have other transportation available to you.

Some car rental companies have “replacement car” rates that are lower than regular rental charges. Be sure the rental company knows you are temporarily replacing a dam-aged vehicle.

If you are unable to make appropriate arrangements with the other driver’s insurance company, you should check your own policy to see whether or not you have coverage to provide a rental vehicle.

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