Understanding the Insurance Claim Process After an Accident

By Greg Kohn

The first thing a person should do following an accident is to contact the police to report the accident. The second thing a person should do following an accident is to seek medical treatment for injuries. Seeking medical treatment is not only wise because you need to protect your health, but it is also important for the insurance claim process. To recover compensation for your injuries, you need to document those injuries with medical evidence. These are just two of the things that an accident victim should know to protect their legal rights when dealing with the insurance claim process. A New Jersey personal injury attorney can provide legal advice and guidance regarding other steps in the insurance claim process.

Limited and Unlimited Right to Sue Automobile Insurance Policies 

After being injured in a traffic accident, you should report the accident to your insurance provider. You may also need to report the accident to the other driver’s insurance company if the other driver was responsible for causing the accident. An insurance claim filed with the other driver’s insurance company is referred to as a third-party claim.

In New Jersey, car owners can choose between limited right to sue and unlimited right to sue automobile insurance policies. Assuming that you chose the unlimited right to sue insurance option, you can pursue a third-party claim against the at-fault driver for all damages, including pain and suffering damages. If you chose the limited right to sue option, you may or may not be able to sue the other driver for all damages. 

A personal injury lawyer can review your insurance policy and the facts of your case to determine the various options available to you for recovering compensation for damages. In many cases, New Jersey drivers have a claim against their no-fault insurance policy and may have a third-party claim against the other driver.

How Does the Insurance Claim Process Work?

Your first insurance claim is filed against your Personal Injury Protection (PIP) coverage. Your PIP coverage pays for medical bills, loss of income, and some essential services up to the policy limits and according to the policy restrictions. PIP insurance pays regardless of who caused the crash. Therefore, even though you did not cause the car accident, the insurance claim process begins with a claim against your PIP coverage.

If you have an auto insurance policy with an unlimited right to sue, you can sue the at-fault driver for additional compensation, including reimbursement for financial losses not covered by your PIP policy and noneconomic damages. Noneconomic damages or pain & suffering damages include:

  • Physical pain
  • Emotional distress
  • Mental anguish
  • Permanent impairment or disability
  • Scarring and disfigurement

If your auto insurance policy has a limited right to sue, you cannot sue the at-fault driver for noneconomic damages unless you sustained a permanent or catastrophic injury. You can sue for economic damages not covered by your PIP insurance policy without sustaining a permanent or catastrophic injury. Injuries that fall into this category include permanent disabilities, amputations, spinal cord injuries, loss of a fetus, traumatic brain injuries, scarring, disfigurement, and displaced fractures.

Before filing a lawsuit, you begin by filing an insurance claim with the other driver’s insurance company. The insurance company investigates your claim to determine whether its driver caused the accident and the company is liable under the insurance policy. 

If the insurance company agrees that it is liable, it may offer to settle the injury claim. Before settling a claim, it is wise to consult an attorney to ensure that you are receiving a fair amount for your claim. Once you settle the insurance claim, you cannot sue the driver or the insurance provider for additional compensation even if you discover additional injuries, damages, or losses.

Contact a New Jersey Personal Injury Attorney for More Information

If you have questions about New Jersey insurance claims or the insurance claim process, contact us today for a free consultation to discuss your case.

About the Author
Greg Kohn is a partner at Nagel Rice and specializes in complex civil litigation cases, including professional malpractice, personal injury, class actions, wrongful death, products liability, and commercial litigation.  He has extensive experience representing clients in both state and federal court. Greg has tried many jury trials to verdict and has recovered over $50 million in settlements and verdicts in all types of personal injury matters including automobile accidents, wrongful death cases, slip and falls, and other catastrophic injury cases. Greg also handles medical malpractice cases, involving misdiagnoses, wrongful birth, and delayed cancer diagnosis. If you have questions regarding this article, you can contact Greg here.