What steps should I take if I was in an auto accident for which I was not at fault?

UPDATED: Sep 30, 2022

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What steps should I take if I was in an auto accident for which I was not at fault?

Hi I was involved in a car accident on Friday March 11. I was hit by another driver who failed to stop at a stop sign and tboned me. My friend and I were taken by his dad to the emergency room to get checked out. I was diagnosed with blunt trauma but had no serious injuries other than soreness. My friend was diagnosed with whiplash as his head hit the side air bags and had to get X-rays. He didn’t have serious injuries but was given ibuprofen and still has neck pain. My car was undriveable and taken to a nearby dealership. I don’t have the other person’s car insurance info and am waiting for the police report to obtain the information so I can move on with my claim. I understand there are storage fees that accumulate and I was wondering if I should pay the deductible and use my own insurance coverage to deal with the problem and be reimbursed once the at fault party is determined or if I should just leave the car there and wait for the police report and have the at fault’s insurance company deal with it. I was also wondering if I need a lawyer for this case?

Asked on March 14, 2016 under Accident Law, Wisconsin


SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 6 years ago | Contributor

If you don't have your own insurance that will cover the storage, etc. charges, then you most likely want to pay out of pocket and seek reimbursement--it could take a long time for the other driver's insurer to act, and at the end of the day, they may not pay unless you sue their driver and win (i.e. it's voluntary for driver A's insuer to pay anything to or for driver B, even if A seems to be at fault, until and unless there is a court judgment or order requiring payment; insurers often pay in advance of a lawsuit, if they feel the case is good, to avoid spending money on a doomed-to-lose defense--but you can't count on that, since they have the right to refuse to pay until you win the lawsuit). The longer you leave the car in the storage, the larger the charges, so you don't want to leave it there longer than necessary.
The issue isn't whether you need a lawyer--a lawyer always helps--but whether it's economically worthwhile to hire one. Assume that a lawyer will cost anywhere from $2,000 - $4,000 for even the typical fairly simple case, if it's doesn't settle right away--maybe you'll get lucky and pay less, but for planning purposes, you want to be conservative. If you don't have any significant injuries and not much in the way of medical costs, it comes down to the value of your car (if it is being totalled; cost to repair it, if not), towing charges, storage charges, and other out-of-pocket costs (e.g. did you miss work?). If they total to more than, say, $7,500 or $8,000, it's most likely worth getting an attorney to increase your odds of winning and maximize what you'll get. But if they total to, $5,000 or less, you probably wish to procede as your own lawyer; otherwise, attorney's fees could eat up whatever you'd win.

IMPORTANT NOTICE: The Answer(s) provided above are for general information only. The attorney providing the answer was not serving as the attorney for the person submitting the question or in any attorney-client relationship with such person. Laws may vary from state to state, and sometimes change. Tiny variations in the facts, or a fact not set forth in a question, often can change a legal outcome or an attorney's conclusion. Although AttorneyPages.com has verified the attorney was admitted to practice law in at least one jurisdiction, he or she may not be authorized to practice law in the jurisdiction referred to in the question, nor is he or she necessarily experienced in the area of the law involved. Unlike the information in the Answer(s) above, upon which you should NOT rely, for personal advice you can rely upon we suggest you retain an attorney to represent you.

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