Let’s say you’ve been involved in a car accident: A careless, at-fault driver rear-ended you on the boulevard.
Most of the time, you first move the vehicles out of the travel lanes (if it’s safe to do so, of course). Then, if there are no injuries, you exchange information with the other driver — insurance companies, names, addresses, phone numbers, license plate numbers, etc.
Then you maybe take photos of the damage. (Actually, no maybes here; always take photos of the damage to your car and the other vehicle(s) involved in the collision.)
You may need to file a police report. (It’s a good idea to review state law to make sure you’re compliant with this requirement.)
Then you usually leave it to the insurance companies to sort out.
What happens if and when the other driver refuses to cooperate with the insurance company’s investigation? Or if the other driver has no insurance? And what happens if, despite exchanging information, the driver does not respond to your repeated telephone calls?
At-Fault Drivers and ‘Duty to Cooperate’
Unfortunately, there’s not much you can do when the at-fault driver refuses to cooperate with the insurance investigation. This is a tremendous breach of trust — if not a breach of contract. But there’s nothing you can legally do to compel the other driver to cooperate.
Insurance policies contain cooperation clauses (or “duty to cooperate” clauses). Investopedia explains:
“A cooperation clause is a passage in an insurance contract that requires the policyholder to work with the insurer if a policy claim occurs,” they write. “Under this agreement, the policyholder must participate in and contribute to any investigation of the insurance claim.”
The National Law Review cites a court case, Staples v. Allstate (2013) in which the court noted the following.
“Cooperation is essential to the insurance relationship. That relationship involves a continuous exchange of information between insurer and insured interspersed with activities that affect the rights of both. The relationship can function only if both sides cooperate.”
When a policyholder refuses to cooperate, their insurance company may deny them coverage. But what good does that do you? Not much. This can be incredibly frustrating.
Hopefully, your own insurance company will take care of business on your end. In other words, it pays out a claim for damages. That way you can get your vehicle fixed while pursuing all necessary legal remedies on the side of the at-fault driver who will not respond.
The Oregon State Bar has some helpful advice for anyone who’s been in an accident. That advice includes the following:
“Don’t play ‘super lawyer’ at the scene by debating fault or damages with others involved in the collision. Stay nonconfrontational. Just exchange information such as other people’s names and contact information. Take photos of their license plate numbers, and of their insurance cards if they can produce one. Share your own contact information.”
Be sure you maintain adequate insurance coverage. There are severe penalties in most states for drivers who operate motor vehicles without it. In Oregon, for example, drivers without liability insurance who get into an accident may have their license suspended for one year.
“Insurance companies and agents must tell DMV about any accident when they believe a driver is uninsured,” writes the Oregon Driver & Motor Vehicle Services. “If the information is correct, we will suspend the driver license of the uninsured person for one year.”
You can’t control whether the at-fault driver’s insurance is able to get them to cooperate. But you can make sure that you’re adequately — and legally — covered.
You should also look into adding uninsured motorist coverage to your policy.
McCollum Auto Body
Finally, when the time comes to get your vehicle back to pre-loss condition, your best bet is to contact McCollum Auto Body. We can help with insurance claims, loaner cars, rentals, and all the other red tape so you won’t have to worry about it.
Our vehicle technicians are the best in the business, and our customer service sets the industry standard. Get in touch with us today, and let us get to work on returning your vehicle to its pre-loss condition.
Getting into an accident is stressful. There’s so much to think about.
- Property damage
- Personal injury law
- Car insurance
- Filing a claim
- Worrying about whose insurance company pays medical expenses for pain and suffering and other continuing medical bills
- Paying for damages
- Working with law firms.
Let McCollum ease the load a bit by providing you with the absolute best in auto body repair.