If Someone Rear Ends You, Whose Insurance Do You Call? - Hensley Legal Group, PC

If Someone Rear Ends You, Whose Insurance Do You Call?

There are more than six million car accidents in the United States per year, nearly a third of which result in injury or death. No two accidents are exactly alike, but some fact patterns recur more often than others. The most common car accidents by far are rear-end collisions, which make up about 29 percent […]

May 3, 2024

There are more than six million car accidents in the United States per year, nearly a third of which result in injury or death. No two accidents are exactly alike, but some fact patterns recur more often than others. The most common car accidents by far are rear-end collisions, which make up about 29 percent of all crashes.

Though there may be exceptions, the driver who hits the vehicle to his or her front is generally considered to be at fault for a rear-end collision, which could make that driver’s insurance company fiscally liable for any damages inflicted. So, if someone rear ends you, whose insurance do you call? Join us as we explore what you should do in the aftermath of a rear-end car accident.

How Do Rear-End Car Accidents Happen?

Before we discuss how you should respond if you are rear ended in traffic, we should take a look at how rear-end car accidents happen. While the specific circumstances may vary, the actions of the driver to the rear are usually to blame. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), driver error accounts for 94 percent of the “critical reasons” resulting in crashes. When it comes to rear-end car accidents, misconduct by a driver that could bring about a collision may include:

  • Following too closely – Frequently referred to as “tailgating,” following too closely is the top contributor to rear-end car accidents. Drivers must keep enough of a space cushion between themselves and the vehicles ahead of them so that they can adjust their speed when traffic slows down or even grinds to a halt. The National Safety Council recommends a “three-second rule” for assessing a safe following distance. Essentially, when a vehicle in front passes a fixed roadside marker, such as a sign or a tree, count out how many seconds it takes for you to pass the same spot. If fewer than three seconds go by, increase your following distance until you meet the three-second threshold. (If you are driving a large truck or semi-trailer, a “four-second rule” may be preferable to compensate for the longer stopping distance.) The three-second rule is easy to obey and eminently sensible. Unfortunately, drivers with aggressive tendencies are constantly trying to “beat” everyone else around them, encroaching on their territory in a way that could upset the other drivers while leaving a narrower window in which to respond, perhaps making a rear-end car accident inevitable.
  • Speeding – Another mistake associated with aggression is traveling too fast. Speeding drivers have less time to react and need more time to stop, which can increase both the probability and the severity of a rear-end collision.
  • Distraction driving – The NHTSA estimates that there is “some form or degree of driver distraction” in 87 percent of rear-end crashes. Distracted driving has grown into an epidemic with the rise of cellphones, which can take a driver’s eyes off the road and hands off the wheel all at once.
  • Drunk driving – Automotive intoxication remains a major problem, with 37 Americans killed in alcohol-related collisions each day – the equivalent of one death every 39 minutes. Drivers who are drunk or high have impaired judgment and dulled reflexes, which could keep them from noticing or responding to stopped vehicles until it is too late.
  • FatigueDrowsy driving can sometimes be as dangerous as drunk driving. A driver who has not slept for more than twenty hours may experience the same level of impairment as a driver with a blood alcohol concentration of 0.08 percent, the legal limit for intoxication in most states. Fatigue is linked to 100,000 domestic car accidents, 50,000 injuries, and 800 deaths across the country annually, so there is a good chance that a rear-ending driver is not a well-rested one.

Aside from driver error, various external factors could play a role in a rear-end car accident as well, such as:

· Mechanical failure (locked brakes, tire blowouts)

· Bad weather (rain, sleet, snow, ice)

· Road hazards (loose gravel, oil spills)

While these sorts of mishaps could make it harder to stop, their mere presence may not be enough to let a driver off the hook. Anyone operating a car is supposed to deal with issues as they arise. Even if the roads worsen or their cars start moving erratically, drivers are still expected to slow down or take evasive maneuvers to prevent rear-end car accidents – or face the music when they do not.

What to Do After You Are Rear Ended

Being rear ended can be disorienting. One moment, you may be sitting comfortably in your car, possibly stopping for a red light or simply decelerating in traffic. The next, you may feel a sudden impact behind you, a jolt that could turn your world upside down, even if you do not realize it yet.

It can be a challenge to think clearly immediately following a rear-end car accident, but there are steps you should take to protect any case that you might have, including the following:

  • Get to a safe location – This may not be your last accident of the day if you linger in the middle of the street, so get to a safe location before you attempt to do anything else.
  • Dial 911 – Take out your phone and dial 911 so that police and emergency personnel will arrive to document the incident and attend to the injured. Be sure to give the responding officers a complete account of what occurred, since an erroneous police report could be detrimental to your claim.
  • Take pictures and shoot videos – While you have your phone out, take pictures and shoot videos of your surroundings. It may be a cliché, but a picture can be worth a thousand words when it comes to establishing liability and cataloging your losses, and you can use the camera to record the statements of any eyewitnesses who are present as well.
  • Seek treatment – Your health is of the utmost importance, and delays in medical care could hinder your recovery and allow doubt to be cast on the causal relationship between the car accident and your injuries. With this in mind, seek treatment right away, ideally from paramedics at the scene or at the nearest emergency room.
  • Exchange information – The viability of your case will depend heavily upon the information that you secure to build it, including the identities of the defendants. Do not leave without getting the following from the driver who rear ended you:

o Name

o Address

o Phone number

o Email

o Driver’s license

o License plate

o Vehicle year, make, and model

o Insurance company and policy number

Whether or not you ultimately choose to initiate a car accident case, accomplishing these tasks should give you a solid foundation on which to do it.

Whose Insurance Should You Call?

Once you have satisfied the most pressing concerns posed by a car accident, it is time to get the insurance companies involved. But whose insurance should you call?

In some ways, this is a trick question. Regardless of who may be at fault, you should ALWAYS let your insurance company know about your car accident, not least of all because you may be required to do so. Depending on the terms laid out in your policy, failure to alert the insurer within a reasonable amount of time could constitute non-compliance, which may create an opening for the insurance company to drop your coverage or refuse to renew it at a later date.

That may seem harsh, but your auto insurance carrier has a duty to cover the damages incurred by another party, up to the maximum limits of your liability policy, if you are found to be at fault for a car accident. In light of this duty, your insurer will want to carry out an investigation into the car accident and conclude who may or may not be liable for it. The sooner you speak to your insurance company, the sooner this process can begin.

On a more positive note, the sooner you get in touch with your insurance company, the sooner you can take advantage of the benefits that your policy may offer. Nearly all states mandate drivers to carry some minimum amount of liability insurance for the harm that they cause to others, and so should your insurance policy. But depending upon the coverage you have purchased, you might also be entitled to reimbursement for:

  • Medical payments (known as MedPay or Personal Injury Protection (PIP))
  • Towing
  • Car rentals
  • Repairs

Other types of non-liability coverage that could be available may include uninsured/underinsured motorist (UM/UIM) coverage, which would apply to incidents in which the other driver either has no insurance at all or has insurance limits that are insufficient to cover your damages, and comprehensive coverage, which would apply to non-collision events that are outside of your control. However, certain conditions may need to be met before these policies would kick in, assuming you have them at all.

These and other benefits might be accessible even if you are found to be at fault (though you should doublecheck your policy). And if another party is found to be at fault, your insurer may seek reimbursement from that party’s insurer. Regardless, do not neglect to notify your insurance company about your car accident even if you do not believe that you are culpable, as it is a prerequisite for any claim.

Can You Negotiate with the Defendant’s Insurance Company Yourself?

Just as your liability coverage may oblige your insurance company to pay for the injuries and property damage someone else incurs when you are liable for a car accident, another driver’s insurance company may be obliged to pay for the injuries and property damage you incur when that driver is liable. The truth is that the vast majority of the compensation that car accident victims receive will come from the liability carriers of the parties who are responsible for the accident.

That being said, the other driver’s insurance company probably won’t just tender the funds to you on its own. You will have to make an effort to pursue a claim with that insurance company or even file a lawsuit against its insured if you hope to get what you are owed.

This brings up a crucial point: Can you negotiate with the defendant’s insurance company on your own? While you could definitely represent yourself for your car accident, you may not wish to do so, chiefly because of your inexperience.

This may be your first car accident, but you can rest assured that it won’t be the first for the insurance adjuster, who may have previously handled hundreds of car accident claims or more, including some that were just like yours. This puts the adjuster at a relative advantage and you at a relative disadvantage, and he or she may be able to exploit your inexperience to minimize your claim, either extending a lowball offer or denying it altogether.

How Retaining a Car Accident Attorney Can Help

This is where retaining a knowledgeable car accident attorney can help. Just as your case won’t be the adjuster’s first, it won’t the first for a seasoned car accident lawyer either, who will have already encountered all of the standard insurance industry tactics and will not let the adjuster use them to resolve your case for less.

And that is not just an opinion – it is a statistical reality. One study found that 85 percent of what insurance companies pay out goes to claimants with attorneys, while another study by the

Insurance Research Council found that personal injury plaintiffs with lawyers obtain judgments or settlements that are 3.5 times higher than the ones obtained by plaintiffs who represent themselves.

In addition to being better equipped to interact with the insurance company, your car accident attorney will be better equipped to assess your damages. You may or may not have sustained a serious injury before, but you almost surely have not put a price tag on one before. If you do not know how much you could get for your head, back, or neck injuries, you may not know how much to ask for them or if an insurance company’s offer for them is too low.

And even if you could accurately calculate the current value of your injuries, you may not have the foresight to take the long-term consequences of a car accident into consideration, the symptoms of which may only emerge gradually over time. If you accept a settlement for an injury that only seems minor, you could have nowhere to turn when significant complications develop that you did not anticipate.

Finally, not all of your damages will come with a receipt. So-called non-monetary damages, such as pain and suffering and psychological anguish, may be tougher to evaluate, but they can sometimes be more enduring, deeply curtailing your economic prospects and your overall well-being.

In contrast, a capable car accident lawyer will be able to assess all of your damages, be they short-term or long-term, monetary or non-monetary, including your:

  • Past, present, and future medical expenses
  • Lost wages
  • Diminished earning capacity
  • Pain and suffering
  • Mental and emotional trauma
  • Reduced quality of living
  • Mobility limitations
  • Loss of consortium
  • Punitive and wrongful death damages (if relevant)

Your attorney will work tirelessly to detail the entirety of your damages during negotiations with the insurance companies so that you can reach a settlement that is worthy of your case, never willing to take “no” for an answer. While a normal individual might not know what to do if an insurance company denies a claim, a denial will barely be a setback for your lawyer, who will be aware of the best arguments with which to overcome most objections as well as the evidence needed to support them, including:

· Police reports

· Traffic citations and dispositions

· Dash cam, streetlight, and surveillance footage

· Black box data

· Witness statements

· Phone records

· Driving histories

· Vehicle inspection logs

· Accident reconstruction and forensic analysis

When confronted with an airtight case that thoroughly conveys both the liability of the insured and the totality of the losses that you have incurred, even the most obstinate adjuster can be motivated to walk back a denial rather than risk a less favorable outcome at trial.

The lion’s share of car accident cases are settled during negotiations outside of the courtroom, but should the adjuster stand firm with a denial, or persist in coming back with insultingly low settlement offers, your case may need to go before a judge or jury, where the services of a formidable litigator will be indispensable. Personal injury plaintiffs who represent themselves in court only win their cases about 4 percent of the time. On the other hand, plaintiffs who hire attorneys are more likely to prevail at trial, assuming that the merits of the case can be made apparent by a persuasive car accident lawyer.

We know how intimidating insurance companies can be, particularly to the average person, who may not have the training or the inclination to square off against savvy professionals looking to exploit any angle at their disposal in order to limit the legal and financial exposure of their multi-billion-dollar employers.

Nonetheless, insurance companies are a necessary part of the process, so it is vital to reach out to every one of them who may have applicable coverage. And if you have skilled car accident attorneys in your corner, like the Indiana car accident lawyers at Hensley Legal Group, these insurers may even provide you with the resources to become whole again.

Getting Justice for Injured Clients

It can be difficult to know what to do after a rear-end car accident, when it can sometimes seem like one false move is all it could take to put you and your family on the brink of ruin. To get your life back on track, turn to the Indiana car accident lawyers at Hensley Legal Group, who have been getting justice for injured clients for more than a quarter century.

You can call or text us at (317) 472-3333, chat with us online, or fill out our contact form to schedule a free consultation with a dedicated Indiana car accident attorney today.