multiple-car accident insurance issues

Multiple-car accidents, which involve three or more vehicles, can lead to complicated legal cases and a variety of insurance issues. Think of multi-car accidents this way: It’s easy to split a pizza when there are only two people dining, but when you add a third person, splitting the pie equitably can be tricky — especially when the pie only has eight slices!

The Most Common Type of Multi-Car Accident

The most common example of a multiple-car accident is the three-car rear-end collision. This is when a car hits another car from behind and pushes the rear-ended car forward, into the car in front of it.

To illustrate, let’s imagine this example with color-coded cars. A red car causes the whole accident by running into a green car from behind. The impact then smashes the green car into the back bumper of the blue car. Is the red car responsible to the green and blue cars for any damages caused? Yes.

Let’s try a slightly different example: What if the driver of the blue car says she felt two impacts? In other words, what if the driver of the blue car says she was hit by the green car and then hit again when the red car hit the green car and pushed the green car into the blue car? This scenario is quite a bit more complicated. Is the red car responsible to both the green and blue cars — or just one of them? Is the green car responsible to the blue car as well? How does that work?

This simple example illustrates how quickly multiple-car accidents can become challenging to navigate. Multi-car accident cases are very different from your traditional two-car accident claims. For this reason, it’s important to work with an attorney who has experience with multiple-car accidents.

Multiple-Car Accident Insurance Issues Faced by Drivers

What are the most typical multiple car accident insurance issues faced by drivers?

By their very nature, multiple-car accidents involve multiple insurance companies, multiple insurance policies, and multiple attorneys. Finger pointing is often the result.

What’s more, when one of the vehicles involved doesn’t have insurance, or what if there isn’t enough coverage to fully compensate everybody involved, the tension between parties may only increase.

As you pursue your multi-car accident case, be wary of getting fooled by your own insurance company. Claims adjusters may speak with you informally and try to make you comfortable as they collect information about your case. They might give you the impression that they are going to take care of you. But the contrary is often true: Your insurance company will only look out for itself, by paying out as little in damages as possible.

Hiring an Attorney with Multiple-Car Accident Experience

How important is it for a personal injury lawyer to have experience handling multi-car accident cases, compared with typical two-car accidents?

An experienced attorney will investigate your multiple-car accident to collect evidence that will help determine who is at fault. Evidence can come from police reports, body camera footage, witness statements, surveillance videos, and even experts like an accident reconstructionist.

A personal injury lawyer who has experience in multiple-car accidents will make sure you are covered throughout your case.

An attorney will establish a roadmap of what you can expect as your case is processed, protect your legal rights, ensure that you get appropriate medical treatment, construct a case value, manage all the paperwork that needs to be executed related to your case, and — if necessary — file a lawsuit and go to trial.

Remember, the earlier you involve an experienced car accident attorney with your case, the better. This is because evidence is perishable and insurance policies can be exhausted.

If you wait too long to get a lawyer involved, you could miss out on your slice of the pie!

Call Negretti & Associates with Your Multi-Car Accident Questions

If you’ve been involved in a multi-car accident in Arizona, California, or Colorado, Negretti & Associates will be happy to explore your legal options with you.

Call us at (602) 531-3911 in Arizona, (619) 777-3370 in California, or (720) 636-3444 in Colorado. You can also contact us online or send us a text

A Lawyer Answers Common Car Accident Questions

should i get an attorney after a car accident

If you have been in an accident and you’re wondering Should I get an attorney after a car accident?, here’s a quick and honest answer: not everyone needs an attorney after a car accident.

Even though I am a car accident lawyer, I firmly believe this. Just as you don’t need a real estate agent to sell a house or a certified public accountant to file your taxes, you don’t need to have an attorney to help you manage your car accident case.

Yet, the very reason we hire professionals — real estate agents, CPAs, and lawyers — is because they have skill sets that the rest of us simply don’t have. Professionals add value to our situations. The guidance insight of a professional can give you peace of mind that everything has been done the right way.

As a lawyer, I have bought and sold numerous houses. In each transaction, I have always had a real estate agent assisting me. I could certainly handle my own real estate transactions. However, I would rather have someone that does real estate every day by my side. I am capable of doing my own taxes, too, but I hire a CPA to help me to ensure everything is filed correctly.

The same goes for hiring an attorney to help you with your car accident claim. You simply have to decide if a legal professional’s help and peace of mind is worth the fees you may pay after your case settles or if it succeeds in court.

Why would you need a car accident lawyer? To answer this question, let me explain more about what a car accident lawyer does. This will help you make an educated decision about hiring a car accident lawyer to help you.

What a Car Accident Attorney Can Do To Help Your Case

  • Establish a roadmap of what to expect: This ensures that you always know where your claim is headed and that no surprises pop up along the way.
  • Protect your legal rights: Insurance companies and their attorneys are really proficient at getting you to say and do things that oppose your legal rights.
  • Help you get treatment: If you are struggling to find doctors or get the medical treatment that you need to recover from your injuries, a good car accident attorney can put you in touch with medical providers who can help you.
  • Construct a case value: Your compensation from a car accident is the sum of your economic damages (i.e. medical bills) and your non-economic damages (i.e. pain and suffering). You should expect your car accident lawyer to assist you in determining what your case is worth and how to properly present your claim to the opposing party.
  • Draft and review all the paperwork that needs to be executed related to your case: When filing a car accident claim, there is more paperwork than you realize. Some of the language in these documents can be hard to understand. Your car accident attorney should review and explain everything before you sign it.
  • File a lawsuit: Not all cases settle. If you find yourself filing a lawsuit, you would absolutely want to have a car accident lawyer representing you.
  • Go to trial: Some cases end up in trial. This is a complicated and stressful situation to be in. An experienced attorney can help you pick a jury, present your case, and argue for fair and just compensation for your damages.

What a Car Accident Attorney Does Not Do

  • Settle quickly: A car accident attorney should not settle your case too quickly. You only get one bite at the apple, so to speak. If you bite too soon, you could be left with lasting reminders of how poorly your case was handled.
  • Provide jackpot justice: There is a misconception that car accident attorneys support the idea that because you have been hurt you should be entitled to millions of dollars. When you’re in an accident, you haven’t won the lottery. In fact, it’s the exact opposite: you’ve been hurt and now have to deal with the aftermath of a life-altering event. The law allows for you to be compensated — to “make you whole” or, in more simple terms, give you the right amount of money to balance the imbalance that has occurred in your life. That’s it. Nothing more, but certainly nothing less.
  • Send you to “their” doctors: Although your car accident lawyer may work with many different medical professionals, your lawyer won’t have any of these doctors on retainer. There is no back room deal between the doctor and the attorney. Your attorney should provide you with medical recommendations. From there, you and your treatment providers work together to resolve your injuries.
  • File frivolous lawsuits: The insurance industry loves to promote the idea that your lawsuit is frivolous and should be dismissed immediately. This is a bunch of rubbish! Car accident lawyers don’t file frivolous lawsuits. They file lawsuits because insurance companies treat your claim like it is frivolous. This is an important distinction.
  • Guarantee anything: No car accident lawyer should be guaranteeing a certain outcome. The world of car accident law is difficult, confusing, complicated, consuming, and overly intense. There are many moving parts and there are certainly no guarantees.

“Should I Get an Attorney After a Car Accident?”: Answers to Questions We’re Frequently Asked

Here are some “no B.S.” responses to many questions that our attorneys at Negretti & Associates get asked about hiring car accident lawyers.

Why would I need a car accident lawyer?

You don’t need a car accident lawyer to handle your case. But, more often than not, I would recommend that you have one. For reasons outlined above, you are making a choice to have someone help you.

Should I get an attorney after a car accident even if the accident wasn’t my fault?

First, if the accident was your fault, your insurance company will eventually appoint a defense attorney to represent you.

You do not need to hire a car accident lawyer if you are at fault. If you are not at fault, then see my previous answer.

How soon after my accident should I hire an attorney?

Fairly quickly. This is because evidence can perish over time. If certain evidence isn’t preserved right after a car accident, then you may be at a disadvantage later on down the road.

Is it ever too late to hire a car accident lawyer?

It’s probably never too late, but you may have a hard time finding a good car accident lawyer the longer you wait. This is because some car accident lawyers prefer to be involved early on. Free piece of advice: If your deadline to file (statute of limitations) is rapidly approaching, seek out a car accident attorney immediately. Most attorneys won’t take on a case if your deadline is just a few weeks away.

Do I need a lawyer to seek a car accident settlement?

No. Just like you don’t need a Realtor to buy a house. You have to decide if the value add is worth hiring a car accident attorney to help you.

What happens after I hire a car accident attorney?

Car accident lawyers do and do not do certain things. From a practical standpoint, typically the first thing a car accident lawyer does after you hire them is contact the insurance company and instruct them to stop contacting you. This allows you to receive treatment and get better without having the worry and concern of fielding phone calls from insurance adjusters. A good lawyer will ensure that you’re able to have the mental distance from your case, so that you can concentrate on healing.

Find a Car Accident Attorney in Arizona, California, or Colorado with Negretti & Associates

If you are considering hiring a car accident lawyer in Arizona, California, or Colorado, Negretti & Associates would be happy to see if we can help with your case.

For a free consultation, call us at (602) 531-3911 in Arizona, (619) 777-3370 in California, or (720) 636-3444 in Colorado. You can also contact us online or send us a text.

who is at fault in a self-driving car accident?

The driverless vehicle is no longer science fiction. Fully autonomous vehicles are currently being tested on public roadways.

Yet, one large concern is acting as a roadblock to autonomous vehicles’ progress: liability. Who is at fault in a self-driving car accident? This is a complicated question.

When determining fault in a self-driving car accident, we cannot simply point the finger at one driver or another, as we would in a traditional car accident. Instead, we might point the finger at a technology — a product, rather than a person. This changes the legal standard entirely.

Self-driving car accidents are ultimately product liability claims, which are very different from negligence claims. Manufacturers of autonomous vehicles are likely to be named as defendants in instances where vehicles, not humans, are likely the causes of crashes.

Recent incidents are shaping the issues of fault related to self-driving vehicles. In March 2018, an Uber vehicle operated in autonomous mode killed a pedestrian. In December in 2017 a motorcyclist crashed into a Chevrolet Bolt being driven in self-driving mode.

Both of these cases have raised questions about fault for autonomous vehicle crashes. They also raise issues regarding safety standards.

Not surprisingly, self-driving car manufacturers are seeking government regulation and are urging lawmakers to create policies that grant them immunity in accidents and shield them from fault.

What Causes Self-Driving Cars to Crash?

More often than not, the root cause of a self-driving car crash is not autonomous technology. Rather, human error is the cause. This is not to say that the autonomous technology is fail-proof. It is not. The technology can fail and often has trouble with complex decision-making that, arguably, only the human mind is capable of.

According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), in 2019, more than 36,000 people were killed as a result of a motor vehicle crashes. It is fair to say that a good portion of these fatalities were the result of some form of human error. However, it is also fair to say that product failure led to a significant portion of these deaths — airbags failed to deploy, brakes did not engage, and fuel tanks were designed poorly.

In order to better understand how self-driving cars work, it is important to explore the different levels of autonomous technology, as defined by the Society of Automotive Engineers (SAE). This is an organization that provides the who, what, and when surrounding ever-evolving self-driving technology.

  • Level 1: Driver Assistance. Example: cruise control.
  • Level 2: Partial Automation. Example: vehicle can control speed and steering.
  • Level 3: Conditional Automation. Example: vehicle can drive itself under certain conditions.
  • Level 4: High Automation. Example: vehicle can complete entire journey start to finish.
  • Level 5: Full Automation. Example: driverless cars.

When autonomous technology fails, the product itself fails. Since we are only operating in Level 3 or conditional automation at this point, there is still very much a human component involved in how self-driving cars currently operate.

In the previously referenced example of the 2018 Uber crash, it was argued that the human driver — who was not paying attention at the time of the crash — would not have been able to see the pedestrian in time to react. Actually, the Uber vehicle’s light detection and ranging system (LIDAR) was able to detect the pedestrian in enough time to stop. The problem was that Uber had disabled the vehicle’s automatic braking system. As a result, the vehicle did not stop.

Who Is at Fault When a Crash Involves a Self-Driving Vehicle?

When it comes to self-driving vehicles, fault is fickle. On one hand, self-driving technology is intended to reduce automobile crashes and make the roadways safer for all of us. On the other hand, technologies can fail. Moral dilemmas of complex decision-making will be tough to incorporate into this technology.

In a utopian society, the only way that a self-driving vehicle actually works is if all other vehicles are also self-driving. This is tough sell to the masses and may never actually become a reality.

Even if all vehicles became self-driving or fully autonomous, we would still run the real risk of infrastructure failure due to data breaches or sophisticated computer hacking efforts that could take control of roadways.

For now, fault is still in the eye of the beholder. In other words, juries have the opportunity to weigh these competing interests and the facts of loss to determine who was at fault for a crash involving a self-driving vehicle.

How Is a Self-Driving Vehicle Crash Different from a Normal Crash?

In most car crashes, fault is relatively clear-cut. Evidence usually tips the scales of justice one way of the other.

In a self-driving vehicle crash, vehicle data may need to be inspected carefully, to determine whether the vehicle, itself, violated the rules of the road or failed to respond as a reasonable person would have.

As is customary with a product defect claim, an analysis of the self-driving vehicle’s performance and prior testing may factor into a determination of fault.

Data experts — not crash experts — might have to be employed to crunch numbers and run modeling scenarios to find where a failure occurred. There may even need to be a balancing test between the subjectivity of safety overall and uniqueness of the crash itself.

Questions About Who Is at Fault in a Self-Driving Car Accident? Call Negretti & Associates

Self-driving vehicles crashes are complicated and uncertain. Remember, self-driving vehicle fault extends far beyond scenarios where human drivers and their passengers are hit by self-driving vehicles. In a situation where you were to engage the autonomous technology in your own vehicle and your vehicle causes a crash, you might have a claim against the maker of your vehicle’s automation technology.

If you ever find yourself in a crash involving a self-driving vehicle, and you are wondering who is at fault in a self-driving car accident, Negretti & Associates highly recommends that you give our firm a call for a free consultation. Call us at (602) 531-3911 in Arizona, (619) 777-3370 in California, or (720) 636-3444 in Colorado. You can also contact us online or send us a text.

Piecing together all of the circumstances of a car accident can be an extremely complicated task. After all, no two car accidents are the same.

Yet, determining fault in an accident — and proving fault to a jury — can be a much more daunting prospect. Fault is not always a clear-cut, all-or-nothing calculation.

For this reason, some states have laws that permit fault to be shared among two or more parties in an accident. Damages are awarded based on each party’s share of the fault.

This sharing of fault in an accident is what is called comparative fault, or comparative negligence.

Arizona, California, and 10 other states are what we call “pure comparative fault states.” In these states, anyone found partially at fault in an accident is responsible for paying his or her relative percentage of damages.

A Simple Comparative Fault Example

Let’s explore a comparative fault example through the following hypothetical accident, as described from two completely different points of view:

Testimony of Driver A: “I was driving down the road approaching an intersection. At that intersection, I intended to make a left-hand turn. I crept into the intersection waiting for oncoming traffic to clear. Eventually, the light turned yellow. I started to make a left turn and then, out of nowhere, an oncoming vehicle crashed into my passenger-side door. I did everything right. I was following the rules of the road.”

Testimony of Driver B: “I was driving down the road approaching an intersection. I was traveling straight ahead. I saw a vehicle in the left-turn lane waiting to make its turn. I clearly had the right of way. The light turned yellow, but I was almost at the intersection. I could not stop without slamming on my brakes and potentially causing an accident behind me. So, I proceeded through the intersection with caution. However, the vehicle waiting to make a left turn darted in front of me. I could not stop before hitting it in the passenger-side door. I did everything right. I was following the rules of the road.”

As you read these two accounts, who do you think is at fault?

Now, imagine you are on a jury and you are being asked to decide which driver was at fault. Fortunately for you, as a juror, you are in luck! The law has given you a tool called comparative fault, allowing you to apportion fault to drivers of both vehicles. You can say that both drivers are partially responsible for the accident. In this comparative fault example, you might choose to assign a 50% fault to each party.

Absent an agreement by the parties, by and through their insurance companies, partial fault is something decided by the trier of fact — in other words, a jury. Only a jury can arrive at a binding determination of fault.

To put this differently, the police do not have the authority to decide partial fault. One insurance company does not have the mandate to determine partial fault. An attorney does not have the grounds to assign a partial fault percentage.

How Does Comparative Fault Apply to Jury Awards?

Remember, anyone found partially at fault in a comparative fault state is responsible for paying its relative share of damages. If Driver A were found to be 50% at fault for the accident, and the jury awarded Driver A $100,000 in damages, Driver A’s award would be reduced by 50%. Driver A would only receive $50,000 of the $100,000 total award. The other half would be apportioned to Driver B.

Have a Comparative Fault Question?

If you have experienced a real-life comparative fault example like the one described above, you may still have a claim to recover compensation even if you were partially at fault. To learn more about your rights and options moving forward, call Negretti & Associates for a free consultation. Call us at (602) 531-3911 in Arizona(619) 777-3370 in California, or (720) 636-3444 in Colorado. You can also contact us online or send us a text.

tiger woods accident single-vehicle crashes
Workers move a vehicle after a rollover accident involving golfer Tiger Woods on Tuesday, February 23, 2021 in Rancho Palos Verdes, CA. Woods suffered leg injuries in the one-car accident and was undergoing surgery, authorities and his manager said. (Getty Images / Mark J. Terrill)

Tiger Woods is on everyone’s minds because of the single-vehicle crash that he was involved in Rancho Palos Verdes, California — near Los Angeles — earlier this week. There are a lot of unknowns at this point. There’s a lot of speculation as to what might have happened.

I would like to talk about what a personal injury attorney may look at when considering a single-vehicle crash. This type of accident is less common; most automobile crashes involve two or three vehicles. Single-vehicle crashes typically raise questions as to whether there was something wrong with the vehicle itself, something wrong with the roadway, or a combination of the two.

In the case of Tiger Woods’ accident, the first responders said that the area in Los Angeles where the crash occurred is one that has many crashes. It’s a dangerous area. According to their description of the accident scene, it’s an area where a crash would not be unforeseen.

In a media briefing following the accident, Los Angeles County Sheriff Alex Villanueva explained the road’s conditions as follows: “Because it is downhill — it slopes and it curves — that area has a high frequency of accidents.” Further, he described accidents in that area as “not uncommon.”

Los Angeles County Sheriff Alex Villanueva and others assess Tiger Woods’ recent rollover accident in Rancho Palos Verdes.

This is a huge problem for the governmental entity that designed the road, whether it’s the City of Rancho Palos Verdes, Los Angeles County, or even the State of California. If the city designed a roadway that is hazardous for drivers, the city could bear some responsibility for crashes that occur on that roadway.

Of course, the argument can be made that the driver of the vehicle should understand or appreciate the dangers of that roadway and, therefore, slow down or drive with more caution. But this argument makes sense only if the driver has driven that roadway before, and has familiarity with that roadway and its dangers.

The problem is, if you’re not usually on that roadway or area of road — if you’re not comfortable with that area of road — and if you don’t understand the sharp turns or potential downhills and bends that may be present in Rancho Palos Verdes, you could argue that there’s a design defect with the roadway.

Roadway Design Defect Cases

Roadway design defect cases are extremely complicated and have a very, very high burden. In other words, the burden is what you, the plaintiff, would have to prove against the governmental entity that designed the road. You would have to show that there was knowingly a design flaw in this roadway, or that the city, county, or state was put on notice — or notified — about the dangers of this roadway.

It’s possible that multiple accidents occurring over a short period of time, or many accidents over a longer period of time, would give the city, county, or state notice that there’s something wrong with the road. A simple warning sign that says “slow down” may not be sufficient. The frequency of accidents should lead officials to consider a redesign of the road, or investigate how to provide a roadway that’s safer for the people who are driving it.

Jonathan Negretti’s perspective on the Tiger Woods single-vehicle accident is part of his Legal Beagle Podcast, which is available on Negretti & Associates’ YouTube channel and on Anchor.

The appropriate way to inform a governmental entity about a dangerous roadway is by filing a notice of claim. This must be filed within a certain period of time following an accident. In California, a notice of claim must be filed 180 days from the crash itself.

Tiger Woods suffered his rollover crash on February 23, 2021. He therefore has until August 22, 2021 to notify the city that he has an intent to bring a claim against the city or county for a dangerous condition: the design of this particular stretch of road.

In turn, the city would have the opportunity to evaluate the claim and then determine whether it is interested in resolving the claim with Tiger. If the city is not interested, then Tiger has an accelerated deadline — a statute of limitations that dictates how long you have to file a lawsuit or you lose the right to your claim. In more common language, it’s a deadline to file a lawsuit. If you miss the deadline, you can’t file a lawsuit. Tiger would have one year from the date of his crash to file that lawsuit. That’s assuming there’s enough evidence to support his claim.

Evidence Collection in a Roadway Design Defect Case

Where would Tiger find the evidence to support his claim? Well, he would have a law firm, like ours, work with an investigative team — engineers and roadway design experts — to look at the roadway. Together, the team would explore the following:

  • Whether the governmental entity that has jurisdiction over this roadway — city, county, or state — failed to mitigate these dangers.
  • Whether the city, county, or state failed to provide safeguards against these dangers.
  • The area’s prior crash history. This is a little bit more difficult to acquire, because not all accidents are public record. But you can find most of them, if there are police reports and things of that nature.

It would take time to investigate all of these factors and determine whether there’s a claim against the governmental entity. That’s an important determination that needs to be made pretty early in an investigation. You face an accelerated deadline to both let the governmental entity know about your intent to bring a claim and then you have that accelerated deadline to file your lawsuit, because normally you get two years. In California you get the years to file a lawsuit or you lose the right to do so.

A Potential Product Defect Case

Another consideration that a personal injury attorney might look at is what’s going on with the vehicle itself. Tiger was driving a Genesis GV80. This was a courtesy vehicle provided by the sponsor of the golf tournament that had just occurred in Los Angeles. Tournaments traditionally have vehicle sponsors, which provide vehicles to the golfers. In this case, Genesis was the title sponsor of the event. If you’ve seen the images of the accident, you can tell the vehicle was badly damaged. The whole front-end looks crushed. There is significant damage to the vehicle itself. Does that mean there is anything wrong with the vehicle? Maybe. You don’t know until you start to look, until you start to investigate.

At Negretti & Associates, we handled a single-vehicle crash case in which our client had a medical episode, ran off the road, hit a tree, and her airbags failed to deploy. That shouldn’t happen when you hit a tree at 45 miles per hour. Your airbags should trigger and should deploy. So, we had to start investigating and asking questions. We got experts involved, and we started to tear into that vehicle, look at the mechanics of that vehicle, the data the vehicle can provide, and tried to figure out what happened in that particular situation.

Tiger Woods would have the same potential claim here if there were something wrong with his vehicle. At this point, we just don’t know what exactly happened. I think I heard a news report that there are no skid marks on the roadway at the point where he veered off it. That’s suspicious. Typically, our reaction, as drivers, is to hit our brakes if there’s some sort of issue — whether it’s something that runs in front of you, or you were texting and all of a sudden you realize the vehicle’s going off the road. Either way, you still apply the brakes. In this case, there’s nothing like that. Did the brakes fail? We don’t know yet. Again, there’s a lot of speculation as to whether there was intoxication or other contributing factors — all of which could determine whether Tiger Woods has a claim.

What’s especially important is timing. These investigations have to happen quickly. As a potential plaintiff in a single-vehicle crash, you should not wait for the authorities to do their investigation before you begin yours. Sometimes, authorities will take an awfully long time to do their investigations. They may have to send things to labs. Simply coordinating evidence from different responders into a report can take a long time. They’re available to you once they are produced. Regardless, you don’t want to for it to arrive. You want to have your own investigative team looking at the accident as soon as possible.

If there’s suspicion that something may be wrong, you’ll want to call a personal injury attorney and explain what you think happened: “This is what I’m concerned about. Do you think we have a potential case here?” That’s what happened in the aforementioned airbag case that we had. The wife was incapacitated, because she was the driver. The husband wasn’t in the vehicle at the time, but he’s the one who called me and said, “This is all I know. My wife had a medical episode. She hit a tree, and the airbags didn’t go off. I’m just wondering what happened.” So, our firm got involved and said let’s figure out what happened.

Roadway Design Is an Important Factor in Tiger Woods’ Accident Case

To circle back to Tiger Woods’ case, it concerns me to hear officers give interviews to the media and say that the roadway is unsafe. It’s troubling for the governmental entity in which they actually work. In this case, it’s the county. It’s troubling because it sounds like the authorities know that this is a dangerous stretch of roadway and maybe there were not enough safeguards in place to eliminate these types of accidents.

There remains much more to learn in this case. I’m sure the media will keep us updated and informed on what is going on, not only with Tiger’s recovery, but the potential factors that created this crash event.

Until we learn more, I wanted to jump in right away to explain how we might evaluate this case — without knowing anything more than what we all know at this point. We wish Tiger Woods a speedy recovery. We hope that this case isn’t more complicated than perhaps some sort of mishap.

In conclusion, if you find yourself in a single-vehicle accident, don’t assume that it’s just your fault and that there aren’t other factors at play. There could be reasons that you have a viable claim to pursue. Call us at (602) 531-3911 in Arizona, (619) 777-3370 in California, or (720) 636-3444 in Colorado. You can also contact us online or send us a text.

car accident claims - a wrong-way traffic sign

At Negretti & Associates, we’ve been handling car accident claims for many years. As prospective clients have approached us regarding legal representation, we have encountered a wide variety of misconceptions, myths, and bad advice about how to resolve car accident cases.

Let’s dispel those myths!

Myth #1: A traffic citation equals fault.

This is a common misconception. Traffic citations do not equate to fault.

In fact, the police officers who respond to a crash do not determine fault. They simply issue citations for committing a traffic offense, such as speeding. After evaluating the whole situation, the insurance companies involved will decide on fault. However, the insurance company’s decision is not final. Fault is really decided by a jury of your peers. Learn how fault is determined in car accidents.

You shouldn’t assume that you are in the clear just because the other party was issued a citation. Conversely, don’t think you are out of luck because you were issued a citation.

Myth #2: You don’t need to call the police at the crash site. You can just exchange information with the other driver.

This simply isn’t true. You should always call the police if you are involved in a crash. The police can be instrumental in helping to acquire information that will be necessary to pursue your car accident claim. Officers may also take photographs and document other evidence that could be utilized later on.

Parties involved in a crash may provide old, invalid insurance cards or licenses that don’t have up-to-date home addresses. People are less likely to do this with the police.

Myth #3: I need to give a statement to both insurance companies: mine and the other party’s.

Do not give a statement to the opposing party’s insurance company without the assistance of an attorney. This could be fatal to your case.

Here’s an example to illustrate this point. Negretti & Associates once had a client who called the other party’s insurance company and gave them a recorded statement. When asked how our client was feeling, he said of his party, “We’re fine.” His response wasn’t meant to indicate that members of his party weren’t injured. He was simply responding politely. The insurance company later refused to pay for our client’s medical treatment claiming that our client was “fine” right after the crash.

Further reading: How to talk to insurance claims adjusters after an accident.

Myth #4: If I just get a chance to tell my story, the insurance company will do the right thing.

Don’t ever give an insurance company the benefit of the doubt. If an insurance company can find a way to pay you very little — or not pay you at all — it will do exactly that.

Insurance companies increase their profits be denying, rejecting, and failing to pay fair value on car accident claims. Thinking you can convince an insurance company to do the right thing is like thinking you can trust a thief with your wallet!

Myth #5: Initial offers made by the insurance company following an accident need to be accepted — or else, they will disappear.

The initial offer from the insurance company is going to be the lowest offer that they will ever make to you. Accepting it would be a mistake. Notwithstanding, the insurance company documents the file with the offer that they have made and places a range of value on your case. The initial offer will never disappear. It would simply be foolish to take it.

Myth #6: I get to keep everything the insurance company is offering as a settlement.

If the insurance company makes a full and final settlement for your car accident claim, that settlement includes your attorney fees, costs, medical bills, health insurance reimbursements, and any other outstanding balances or loans related to your case. If the insurance company makes an offer to settle your claim, the real question that you should be asking is, “What is the net amount to me?” This will tell you what get to keep.

Myth #7: Insurance companies will make a fair offer to settle immediately after the accident.

The word “fair” is subjective. What is fair to one person is not fair to another person. At Negretti & Associates, our experience tells us that most insurance companies will offer roughly $500 to settle your car accident claim sight unseen. That may seem fair at the time, but let’s play that out. A day or two after you settle your claim for $500, you start to experience terrible back pain. That back pain wasn’t there before the accident. You go to the doctor to get checked out and after trying conservative treatment option, you are recommended for surgery. After your surgery, your medical bills total over $100,000. You owe most of those medical bills out-of-pocket. At this point, would $500 still sound fair to you?

Myth #8: You should definitely go to the ER — even if you are not injured.

This bad advice probably originated from personal injury attorneys that really don’t understand injury law. If you are hurt, you should go to the ER. If the first responders recommend that you go to the ER, you should probably go to the ER. What you shouldn’t do is take an ambulance to the ER for the sake of doing so. It’s a waste of time, money, and resources. However, the adrenaline of an accident can mask the way that you are feeling right after an accident. If you get home and start to experience issues, don’t be afraid to go to the ER to get checked out.

Myth #9: If you’re not that hurt, you shouldn’t hire a lawyer.

Imagine that you were going to go play kickball against a really good team. Would you show up by yourself? Of course not! You would put together the best possible team so that you can beat the other guys. The same logic applies here. The insurance company is an entire team of people looking for ways to avoid taking responsibility and paying you for your losses. Don’t go into that game without help.

Myth #10: You can’t resolve your property claim until you resolve your bodily injury claim.

We often get called with this question. You can resolve your property claim before your bodily injury claim. In fact, you not only want to, but the law may require this. When you are involved in a crash, you have a duty to mitigate your damages. This means that you have to take responsible steps to avoid running up bills. You can’t go rent a car for a year and expect the insurance company to pay for it — absent a really unusual circumstance.

Myth #11: I can determine the value of my case by “Googling it.”

Sure, the Internet is a terrific resource. However, the Internet can also provide you with some bad information. Some personal injury attorneys have created what they call settlement calculators for you to use. These let you plug in your medical bills and lost wages, and the calculator will spit out a case value.

Unfortunately, these calculators are wrong. They try to use a one-size fits all approach for personal injury claims, which are entirely unique.

Do you know who else uses a one-size-fits-all approach? Insurance companies!

Don’t trust these calculators and don’t rely on generic articles that may be published by the insurance industry telling you what your case value is. Instead, hire an attorney and talk to her or him about how case value is determined.

Myth #12: You only have 30 days to make a car accident claim.

You typically have two years to resolve your claim or file a lawsuit to protect your rights to bring a claim. There is no legal requirement that you have to make a claim within a certain number of days. It’s probably important to put insurance companies involved on notice of your intent to bring a claim, but this is a fairly easy thing to do.

Insurance companies like to tell you what you have to do and how much time you have to do it. Don’t let them bully you around. Have a conversation with an attorney to get proper advice on how to put people on notice of your claim.

Myth #13: You shouldn’t make a claim with your insurance company if you are not at fault.

Oh, unlucky Myth #13 … This myth reflects the biggest disinformation campaign we have ever seen! It makes politics seem like child’s play! This myth was started by insurance companies to stop people from making claims, which obviously cost them money.

Why would you purchase coverage to use in the event of a crash, but then not use it if you have a crash? This makes no sense! Your insurance coverages are there to help you in the event that you have a crash.

Your insurance company might make it tough for you to use your coverages, but this doesn’t mean that they aren’t available to you. In fact, there are laws in most states that prevent your insurance company from raising your insurance premium if you make a claim and you are not at fault for the accident.

Myth #14: The insurance company will pay all of my medical bills.

As stated above, insurance companies are only interested in one thing: keeping their money. An insurance company will not pay all of your medical bills. It is more likely to argue that the treatment that you received was unnecessary and that the billing for your treatment was unreasonable. In other words, it will contend that your medical provider charged too much.

At Negretti & Associates, we have experienced situations where insurance adjusters have told people that they will pay all of their medical bills, only to turn around later and refuse to make payments.

Don’t get trapped by an insurance company! Rely on an attorney to help ensure your medical bills are paid.

Myth #15: Personal injury claims resolve quickly.

Injury claims take as long as they need to. This ensures that the injury claimant is fairly compensated for what has happened to him or her.

Of course, the insurance company will be happy to pay you fast — as long as you are willing to take a huge discount on what you are owed.

But, ultimately, the claims process should not be rushed. You only get one bite at the apple, so to speak, so resolving a claim too quickly could result in leaving compensation on the table.

When you hire an injury attorney, he or she will be as interested as you in resolving things expeditiously. Your attorney won’t get paid until you get paid.

Any good injury attorney will tell you to be patient, allow your medical treatment to play out, and don’t hurry to the finish line.

Myth #16: I don’t have health insurance, so I can’t get medical treatment.

Whether or not you have health insurance, there are always treatment options available to you, regardless of your ability to pay. If you find yourself in a crash and don’t have health insurance, you can still go to the ER and you won’t be turned away. If you need follow-up treatment, give Negretti & Associates a call, and we’ll give you some recommendations. Don’t suffer through your injuries thinking that you can’t see a doctor because you don’t have health insurance.

Myth #17: When I sue, I’m suing the insurance company.

Wrong! Incorrect! When you file a lawsuit related to your crash, you are suing the person who caused the crash. The insurance company of the person who caused the crash will hire and pay for an attorney to represent that person. The insurance company is still very much involved, but you are not suing it directly.

No one wants to sue or be sued. A lawsuit is borne out of necessity. It’s important to remember that the insurance company is forcing everyone into court — not the injury claimant (the plaintiff) or the person who caused the crash (the defendants).

Myth #18: You are “being greedy” when you ask for money to pay for your injuries.

You are not being greedy when you ask for money to pay for your injuries. Rather, you are asking to be made whole for what happened to you. This is your legal right.

Our judicial system is not an eye or an eye. We provide monetary justice. You get paid for what happened to you. You are allowed to recover, in the form of money, what you lost. It’s not supposed to be a windfall. You don’t win the lottery. That’s it. Nothing more, nothing less.

You are not being greedy if you hire an attorney and pursue a claim. To the contrary, you are being smart.

Potential Myth #19: My past medical history has nothing to do with my current claim.

We would love to say this is a myth, but it remains a possibly true, on a case-by-case basis.

Your past medical history may not have anything with your current claim. However, if your injuries stem from prior issues, there may be a need to disclose parts of your past medical history. This can be a tricky situation. Having an experience injury attorney on your side is extremely important here.

What you don’t want to do is sign blanket authorizations for the insurance company and let it dig into your medical history. Not only are there privacy issues at play, but the insurance company is likely to point the finger at things that they find and say that your current injuries were not caused by the crash.

Potential Myth #20: I was a passenger in my friend’s car. Do I have to sue my friend?

This, too, remains a possibility — and not necessary a myth. Yet, this attitude reflects a misunderstanding of how things work. If you friend was at fault for the crash, then yes, there is a possibility that you will have to sue your friend to resolve your claim. But remember, as stated above, the insurance company for your friend would be the culprit here. If they would be fair and compensate you accordingly, there isn’t a reason to sue anybody.

If you have any questions regarding your car accident claim in Arizona, California, and Colorado, Negretti & Associates will be happy to help you find answers. For a free consultation with our legal team, call us at 602-531-3911 in Arizona, 619-777-3370 in California, or 720-636-3444 in Colorado. You can also contact us online or send us a text.

should i call my insurance company after an accident

This article is the third of a three-part series on car insurance. The first two articles in this series are State-Minimum Car Insurance Is Not Enough and Full-Coverage Car Insurance Is a Myth.

At Negretti & Associates, we are asked frequently, “Should I call my insurance company after an accident and it wasn’t my fault?” People often worry that if they use their car insurance, their rates are going to go up.

We tell everyone uniformly that yes, they should contact their insurance companies. There are laws in every state that prevent insurance companies from raising your rates if you are not at fault for an accident and you dip into your own policy. That would be penalizing you for using the policy that you pay for — and contrary to logic. More important, it cannot happen by law.

Regardless, many people live under the impression that they shouldn’t use their insurance, because their premiums will go up, and their insurance providers will seek to recover the amount of the previously filed claim.

Dark Realities and Seedy Underbellies

While all of the above is true, there is a dark reality that you should be mindful of. I have worked with insurance companies long enough to know how the insurance industry works. I have heard countless stories from people who have not been at fault for accidents, and all the sudden there is rate review of their premium, or they are denied coverage the next time their premium comes due.

In essence, the insurance carrier doesn’t want to cover them anymore. This isn’t necessarily stated anywhere in the claim file that this change was due to an accident claim. But it becomes quite clear that this is what is happening.

There is a seedy underbelly in the insurance industry that does do these sorts of things to affect policyholders in the event that claims are made, whether they were at-fault in a claim or not.

You Paid for the Insurance, So Use It

Knowing that your insurance company might eventually raise your rates should not discourage you from making your claim. You buy insurance for a reason. If you have the insurance, use the insurance. Don’t be afraid at all. If you have the right coverages, I would not tell you to avoid using your insurance coverage, because of this fear.

If your insurance company tries to raise your rates, go to a different insurance company. There’s a lot of choice out there. I would not hesitate for a second to bounce to a different insurance company if they raised my rates. If I didn’t cause an accident, and all the sudden they’re playing games to try and claw back some of the money that they’re paying out due to a claim, find another provider.

I’ve had enough of these stories come through our office, and we’ve talked to so many people about this issue. While the law is clear about what insurance companies can’t do, it is quite difficult to prove that an insurance company actually raised premiums directly because of a previous accident claim. They will never admit anywhere, in writing or over the phone, why your rates went up. They’ll offer you a billion reasons, but they’ll never make it about the claim you made.

It would be very coincidental that you all the sudden have a rate increase, because you filed a claim against your insurance. I don’t believe in coincidences.

Be Prepared to Switch

If you are planning to file a claim with your insurance company, you should be prepared to switch insurance carriers. Now might be a good time to reach out to an insurance broker, to start comparing insurance policies and rates.

Don’t forget that you have choices! Don’t wait for your policy to come up for renewal. You can change your coverage at any time.

If this article has spared any questions about your insurance or a claim that you’ve made, don’t hesitate to call our office at 602-531-3911.

full coverage car insurance is a myth

This article on full-coverage car insurance is the second of a three-part series on car insurance. The first article is State-Minimum Car Insurance Is Not Enough. The final article in this series is Should I Call My Insurance Company After an Accident?

There is no such thing as “full coverage car insurance.”

Full coverage car insurance is a vague and arbitrary term that really doesn’t mean anything. What seems like full coverage to one person may be minimal for others.

Ask your friends or family what kind of car insurance they have, and they’re likely to say one of two things. Either they’ll say, “I have minimum coverage” — which is what a state mandates you to carry, in terms of coverage — or “I have full coverage.” Usually, there’s no in-between.

When the term came into common usage years ago, it served as a generalized way to speak about having different coverages such as collision and comprehensive insurance in one’s auto insurance policy. Collision insurance covers property damages that you, as a driver, might incur upon another driver’s vehicle, if you were to cause an accident. Comprehensive insurance is property damage that occurs in situations that don’t involve a crash, such as wildfire or a tree falling on your car during a bad storm.

Put Down Your Full Coverage Car Insurance Calculator

When you really think about all possible accident outcomes, is there ever a situation in which you can be entirely covered in full?

Let’s just use the most obvious example — one that’s really quite hard to imagine. Suppose that you’re in a car accident and you kill the other driver. There is no way to purchase a policy that would be commensurate with the loss of a life. You can’t say, “I’m fully covered. If I kill someone, I have enough insurance to protect myself.”

How do you value a human life? It’s really hard to put a dollar amount on the other person’s life. From a legal restitution standpoint, it’s well into the seven figures — possibly eight figures and beyond. And if a car accident resulted in multiple fatalities? Commonly accepted ideas about full coverage assuredly do not take such scenarios into account.

So, if you’re conducting an online search for a full coverage car insurance calculator, stop right now. Put the topic to rest and move along. You can only have a level of insurance coverage that would be considered adequate or sufficient. Think instead about coverage that you think is sufficient for your financial position and how much coverage you would need in the event of a terrible accident.

Think About Achieving Adequate or Sufficient Coverage Instead

How do you decide how much car insurance to buy? Start the analysis by asking yourself, “How much coverage do I want to carry to adequately protect myself, to make sure that I’m not personally responsible for paying for injuries and damages out of my own pocket?” In other words, ask yourself how much insurance can you purchase so that you will never have to write a check out of your personal bank account, to pay for damages that may happen if you cause an accident.

Your analysis may start with questions such as, “Do I own home? Do I have a business? Do I have things that could be in jeopardy if I cause an accident, and I don’t have enough coverage to protect me, and then the person I harmed comes after me personally?”

Whether you have a lot of assets or feel as if you don’t have much to protect, you will still want to put yourself in a position where you are protecting others in the event that you cause an accident. That is truly a matter of civic duty and personal responsibility, regardless of your financial position. You can still purchase more car insurance than the state minimum.

Fact is, you can get good coverage that projects you in the event that a very bad accident were to happen. If your state-minimum insurance is $15,000 in per-person bodily injury liability coverage, try asking your insurance broker or insurance carrier to give you a price for 10 times that amount, or $150,000. Compare the price of that coverage with the state-minimum, and most likely you’ll find that they difference in price is not significant, especially when parceled out as a per-month cost.

UM, UIM and Umbrella Coverage

You can also look into uninsured motorist coverage (UM), underinsured motorist coverage (UIM), and an umbrella policy that would kick into effect if the underlying coverages are insufficient. UM is designed to protect you when another driver lacks insurance. UIM protects you when the other driver has an inadequate policy limit, such as the state minimum. One recommendation is to purchase UM and UIM in the same amount as your liability insurance. In other words, if you’re going to purchase a bodily-injury liability policy of $100,000 per person, per accident, purchase a UM and UIM policy in the same amount to protect yourself.

Umbrella coverage is an extra layer of liability coverage that kicks in when your underlying coverage limits are met. Remember, medical expenses can reach seven-figure amounts. In an event when the other driver does not have enough insurance, umbrella coverage ensures that you have additional protection. You can have anything from $1 million to $5 million in umbrella coverage.

Bottom line, you don’t want to experience a very bad crash and then wish you had the right amount of coverage after the fact.

My Idea of Adequate Car Insurance

In closing, I would like to share my car insurance coverage limits to show you that I put my money where my mouth is. I wouldn’t encourage you to do something that I don’t do myself!

  • $500,000 Liability Coverage (to protect others)
  • $100,000 Property Damage (to fix someone else’s vehicle)
  • $1,000,000 Umbrella Coverage (to protect others)
  • $500,00 UIM/UM Coverage (to protect myself and passengers)
  • $1,000,000 Umbrella Coverage on UIM/UM (to protect myself and my passengers)
  • $50/day rental reimbursement (for a rental while my vehicle is being repaired)
  • $5,000 Med Pay (for medical expenses related to a crash)
  • Comprehensive and Collision Coverage (to repair my vehicle)
  • $500 deductible

Regardless of how much coverage I have, I would never say that I have full coverage car insurance. Instead, I will tell you that I have what I consider to be sufficient coverage — or in alignment with my financial position.

Next time you shop for insurance, remember that there are many good people out there who can guide you on how policies work and what coverage they recommend for you. Insurance brokers, in particular, can be a great resource. I like using a broker, because rather than obtain quotes from multiple insurance companies separately, the insurance broker can collect quotes for you. By looking at coverage limits and prices from multiple insurance companies, you can confidently make an educated decision.

state-minimum car insurance is not enough

This article on state-minimum car insurance is the first of a three-part series on car insurance. Other articles in this series are Full-Coverage Car Insurance Is a Myth and Should I Call My Insurance Company After an Accident?

Every time we get into our cars and drive somewhere, we’re exposing ourselves to the risk of getting into in a car accident. This is true whether we think we’re exemplary drivers or our driving record has room for improvement. Getting behind the wheel involves some degree of risk — of either causing an accident or being hit by another driver.

And this is why car insurance exists. We buy insurance to protect ourselves and others in the event of an accident — potentially an unimaginably severe accident, whether it’s our fault or not.

So, if we think about car insurance in its proper context — as protection against risk — how do we know that we have enough to cover ourselves and other motorists when it’s needed?

At Negretti & Associates, our legal staff works with the insurance industry every day. We’ve seen all types of insurance coverage.

Here, we’d like to offer our perspective on one approach to car insurance shared by many drivers: buying just the absolute minimum level of car insurance that states require drivers to carry. We’ll outline why this approach has many drawbacks.

We hope that anyone who reads this will carefully reflect on whether they’re properly protected in the event of an accident.

Topics that we cover in this article include:

Types of State-Minimum Car Insurance

Nearly every state in the U.S. has laws that require motorists to carry a minimum level of car insurance. However, state laws only require two types of car insurance coverage: bodily injury protection and property damage.

Bodily Injury Protection: More commonly called liability coverage, bodily injury protection covers injuries to the other driver and his or her passengers. However, these amounts do not cover your own injuries.

Property Damage: Property coverage covers the damages that you cause to another driver’s vehicle. You can purchase collision coverage to protect your own vehicle in the event of an accident, regardless of fault.

Virtually every state mandates coverage amounts that drivers must carry for bodily injuries caused to other drivers and their passengers, as well as damages to other drivers’ vehicles and property.

Elements of State-Minimum Liability Insurance

Let’s take a more careful look at the types of liability protection that nearly every state requires: bodily injury and property damage.

Think of state-minimum car insurance as the maximum amount of liability coverage that drivers are required by law to purchase.

At Negretti & Associates, we are licensed to practice law California, Arizona, and Colorado. We’ll therefore use those three states as examples.

State-minimum car insurance in California is $15,000 / $30,000 / $5,000.

  • The first figure ($15,000) defines minimum per-person bodily injury liability coverage. In effect, California drivers must have policies that pay up to $15,000 for one person’s injuries in an accident. If you have California state-minimum coverage and cause an accident, the most that the other driver or any individual passenger could receive as compensation for medical bills would be $15,000.
  • The second figure ($30,000) specifies per-accident bodily injury liability coverage per accident. California drivers must purchase at least $30,000 in per-accident bodily injury liability coverage. If you have California state-minimum car insurance and were to cause an accident, $30,000 is the maximum amount that the other driver and his passengers could share as compensation for their injuries.
  • The third figure ($5,000) covers property damage liability per accident. In California, drivers must purchase at least $5,000 in property damage liability coverage. This would be used to repair damages incurred to the other driver’s car, or someone’s nearby property.

In Arizona, liability coverage amounts were raised — for the first time in decades — on July 1, 2020. Currently, Arizona drivers must carry at least:

  • $25,000 in per-person bodily injury coverage per accident.
  • $50,000 in per-accident bodily injury coverage.
  • $15,000 in property damage liability coverage.

Colorado mirrors what Arizona has in coverage: $25,000 bodily injury coverage per person, per accident; $50,0000 bodily injury coverage per accident; and $15,000 for property damage liability coverage.

What Does Liability Coverage Actually Cover?

Let’s look further at property liability coverage, which has numerous applications.

For example, the at-fault driver’s liability coverage can be used as a source of compensation for damages for any of the following:

  • Repairs made to the other driver’s vehicle.
  • Loss of use: the other driver’s car rental while his or her vehicle is being fixed.
  • A potential diminished value claim: the difference between what the other driver’s vehicle was worth before the accident and what the vehicle is worth after the accident.
  • Other losses that may occur related to the property claim.

Also, when a vehicle is declared a total loss — in other words, not repairable — the other driver must be compensated for fair market value of the vehicle prior to the accident.

How State Minimums Leave Drivers Barely Protected

When you list the possible uses of liability coverage, you quickly find that California’s minimum requirement of $5,000 for property damage coverage is extremely low.

It’s hard to find a fully functioning replacement vehicle for less than $5,000. Considering the ways in which vehicles are built today, as well as the labor needed to restore vehicles to pre-accident condition, just a small fender-bender can cost far more than $5,000 to repair.

Even in neighboring Arizona, where the cost of living is lower, the required $15,000 state-minimum property damage liability coverage does not stretch far. The average selling price of a used car is $21,000. Many cars on the road have values surpassing $15,000. State-minimum insurance often does not account for loss of use and diminished value.

It doesn’t take much math to conclude that purchasing state-minimum car insurance leaves drivers barely protected. Drivers who buy state-minimum insurance are merely complying with law. They are not even protecting themselves. This is an incredibly dangerous position to put oneself in.

If you have state-minimum car insurance and are deemed at fault in an accident, you may be liable for all expenses not covered by your policy. You may be expected to pay out of your own pocket to cover the difference between your insurance and the other driver’s actual expenses.

An attorney or a person injured in the accident could look to you personally to contribute to resolve a claim. The other driver can sue you, seize your assets, and have your wages garnished.

The Risks of Not Having Underinsured and Uninsured Coverage

Despite all of the insurance requirements written into states’ laws, the national average for uninsured motorists remains somewhere around 13%, according to a 2017 report from the Insurance Research Council (IRC). This means that one in eight drivers has no car insurance at all.

Remarkably, many people simply risk paying for insurance and hope that they don’t cause an accident. Either they don’t want insurance or can’t afford it. Some states have much higher rates of uninsured motorists. In Florida, 26.7% of drivers lacked insurance in 2015.

California, Arizona, and Colorado have uninsured motorist rates that mirror the national average. However, these three states do not have laws on the books that require drivers to purchase uninsured motorist coverage (UM) or underinsured motorist coverage (UIM), which cover damages to your own car or injuries you suffer because you’re hit by another driver.

Underinsured/uninsured coverage: In addition to liability coverage, approximately 20 states go a step further with laws that define minimum insurance amounts that drivers must purchase to protect themselves against uninsured or underinsured drivers. This covers expenses related to vehicle damage and injuries when at-fault drivers have no insurance or do not have enough insurance.

Medical Payment coverage: This insurance covers your own and your passengers’ injuries, regardless of who is at fault in an accident. MedPay can cover medical bill, transportation to appointments, and physical therapy and rehabilitation.

Some states mandate what is called Personal Injury Protection (PIP) instead; this covers the driver’s own injuries, regardless of accident fault, and can include a loss of wages.

With MedPay or PIP, you have to be mindful of how much coverage you’re buying. Some states limit how much coverage can be used in an accident. Some insurance companies will require that they are paid back in full if you collect from another coverage under the at-fault driver’s policy.

If you were hit by an uninsured motorist and you don’t have UM coverage, then you are out of luck in terms of getting help from insurance to pay for your own damages and injuries. You might still be able to file a personal injury suit against the uninsured motorist, but you would not be able to collect from insurance.

By comparison, UIM exists to protect you when you are not at fault in an accident, and your damages and injuries exceed the other driver’s liability insurance amounts.

Imagine that you are in an accident in California, the at-fault driver had merely the state-minimum bodily injury liability coverage of $15,000, yet your injuries totaled $100,000 in medical expenses. Without UIM coverage, you would have to find a way to pay the difference of $85,000. You could attempt to go after the other party personally with the help of a lawyer, and you may be successful in obtaining a personal contribution from the at-fault driver. However, it’s unlikely that the other driver would have enough assets to cover that difference.

A few years ago, Negretti & Associates represented a young woman who was seriously injured when hit by an intoxicated driver. The at-fault party only carried the state-minimum insurance of $15,000. However, our client’s injuries — including surgeries and rehabilitation — were in the hundreds of thousands of dollars.

Our client was fortunate to have UIM, but only purchased $15,000 in coverage. The maximum amount of insurance money that we were able to collect for our client was $30,000. She deserved so much more. She told us that she wished that someone would have talked to her about how much UIM coverage to have before her accident.

What to Consider When Shopping for Car Insurance

When considering how much car insurance to purchase, start your analysis by asking yourself how much insurance you would want to carry so that you wouldn’t have to write a check from your personal bank account to pay for damages.

Do you own a home? Do you have a business? Do you have prized possessions? All might be in jeopardy if you were to cause an accident and were underinsured.

It might be uncomfortable to do so, but you have to think about worst-case scenarios — unthinkable situations, such as causing an accident that resulted in killing someone. Regardless of the policy you have, there’s really no way in which we can purchase enough insurance that would be sufficient for such an outcome. It’s difficult to put a dollar amount on a person’s life.

This considered, rather than choose state-minimum coverage, price-out a much larger plan — perhaps 10 times the state minimum — and then compare the two policies. Quite often, the difference in price may not be that much.

To illustrate, if you’re in Arizona, where the minimum liability coverage is $25,000, try to find out how much $250,000 in per-person bodily injury coverage would cost. On a per-month basis, the difference may not be significant. But coverage you get in return would be drastically different.

With quotes for the two policies in hand, you can go back to the original question: How much coverage do I want to protect myself and my family, along with my assets and belongings, to ensure that I’m not in jeopardy of losing what I have?

Even if you don’t have many assets to protect, you would still want to put yourself in a position where you are looking out for others.

As you shop around, remember that you can always reach out to an insurance broker, who can be great resource for recommendations on available policies. A broker can help you compare insurance from several companies all at once, so that you don’t have to solicit quotes from the insurers yourself.

You can also change coverage at any time. You don’t have to wait until your policy is up for renewal. You could contact your present insurance company today, even, and ask about different coverage. You can make changes immediately, if you are so inclined.

Uninsured Motorist Coverage and Umbrella Coverage

Do not overlook the importance of uninsured motorist coverage (UM). It can be a good idea to buy the same amount in UM as what you have in liability insurance.

For example, if you are going to purchase $100,000 per person, per accident in bodily injury coverage, try to purchase that same amount in UM for yourself. In effect, you’d be protecting another driver for up to $100,000 if you hit them and covering yourself for that same amount.

Umbrella insurance is another coverage type to consider as you shop for quotes. An umbrella policy is an extra layer of liability coverage that kicks in when your limits are met on the liability policy. Injuries can get into the seven figures. It possible to have anything from $1 million to $5 million in umbrella coverage.

It’s possible to have UIM and UM with added umbrella coverage. For example, you can have $250,000 in UM and UIM coverage, and then $1 million on top of that in umbrella coverage. In a scenario where the other party that caused the accident didn’t have enough insurance, an umbrella policy can ensure that you’re protected and that’s there is enough coverage for your own injuries and damages.

Adequate Insurance Is Necessary for All

The next time you shop for car insurance, explore your options. Think about what kind of coverages you would want in the event that you had to tap into your liability coverage. Try to find ways of covering yourself well above state-minimum limits, which leave drivers barely protected.

Don’t wait for a bad outcome to happen and wish later that you had an adequate amount of coverage.

Regardless of your financial position, having car insurance is the law in virtually every state. Why not take the extra step and have a good amount of insurance, to protect yourself and others if you were to cause an accident?

This is truly a matter of personal responsibility and civic duty. Please consider purchasing more insurance than your state’s minimum — for your own benefit and other drivers’.

And let’s work toward reducing the number of uninsured drivers on the road from 1 out of 8 to 0 out of 100. Let’s make sure that everyone has insurance. Driving without insurance, or having too little insurance, is quite simply an extremely risky thing to do.

total loss car insurance settlements

When a vehicle is said to be a “total loss,” it means that the cost of repairs exceeds the vehicle’s actual cash value. While this may sound simple enough, there are many questions surrounding total loss car insurance settlements. How is a total loss settlement calculated? Can an insurance company force you to total your car? Can you keep your car once it has been totaled?

To help you navigate the total loss car insurance process, Negretti & Associates provides this overview of answers to popular total car loss questions. If you still have questions about your car accident case, reach out to us today for a free consultation.

How Is Total Loss Calculated?

What constitutes a total loss can vary between states.

About half of states use what is called the Total Loss Formula, where if the sum of the cost of repair plus the salvage value of the car exceeds the car’s actual cash value then it is considered a total loss.

Some states go by a Total Loss Threshold, where damage only needs to exceed a certain percentage of a car’s value to be determined a total loss.

  • Arizona uses the Total Loss Formula
  • California uses the Total Loss Formula
  • Colorado uses the Total Loss Threshold

How Is a Total Loss Car Insurance Settlement Payout Calculated?

In a total loss car insurance settlement, you’re compensated for the settlement amount, less your insurance policy’s deductible and your insurance company’s cost for selling the vehicle to a salvage yard. Your settlement may also compensate you for costs related to a replacement car, such as estimated sales taxes, vehicle registration fees, and title.

If Your Car Is Totaled and You Still Owe on the Loan

If you have a loan on the vehicle, the lender will be paid before you receive anything. For example, let’s say the fair market value of the vehicle (total loss amount) is $10,000, but you owe a bank $8,000. The bank will be paid the $8,000 first, and you will receive the remaining $2,000.

If your loan amount exceeds the fair market value, the lender will be paid and you will not receive anything. Additionally, absent gap insurance, you will still owe the lender the outstanding balance on your loan.

Can You Keep Your Car If It Is Totaled?

Yes. If you elect to keep the vehicle — perhaps you own a rare car, you’re a bit of a gearhead, and you’d like to rebuild it — your insurance company may require you to obtain a salvage title. This may put significant limitations on the vehicle in the future. In some states, salvage-title vehicles cannot be driven on public roads. Salvage title vehicles, once rebuilt, can also be difficult to insure and re-sell.

Your insurance company will also reduce the total loss payout by the amount that the insurance company could have received by selling the vehicle to salvage. This can be as a few hundred dollars — depending on the year, make, and model of the vehicle.

If you want to know whether you can still drive your car, after being declared a total loss, you might want to check with a mechanic.

How To Fight Your Insurance Company After It Has Called Your Car Totaled

If you disagree with the total loss amount assigned to your vehicle, and you used your insurance company to evaluate the loss, you may have the option of invoking your insurance policy’s appraisal clause.

The appraisal clause enables you to have your vehicle independently inspected and appraised, to see if the loss amounts differ. You would order the appraisal at your own cost.

If you invoke the appraisal clause and find that the amounts differ, your property expert and the insurance company’s expert are supposed to meet and confer to see if an agreement can be reached on the value.

Can Insurance Companies Force You to Total Your Car?

A more common question that we get asked is whether the insurance company can elect to repair your vehicle rather than declare it a total loss. (We’re just not sure why someone would want to have a vehicle repaired if their insurance company has already proposed to have it totaled!)

The question about repairing your vehicle is typically found in a situation where the cost of repairs falls is just below the total loss threshold/formula outlined above. If you want to push for a total loss, be sure to see if your policy has an appraisal clause that you can elect to use.

Have a Question? Give Us a Call

Wherever you are at in your process of achieving a total loss car insurance settlement, remember that you don’t have to go it alone. Reach out to Negretti & Associates today for a free, no-pressure case evaluation with one of our trusted team members. Contact us online, call us at 1-833-827-3535, or text us with your questions.