I’ve heard a lot of stories and misconceptions over the years when it comes to auto claims and insurance coverage. Here is some insight to keep you from making some common mistakes:
- The at-fault insurance company will not pay your medical bills up front (unless you are a pedestrian or bicyclist and the at-fault driver has PIP coverage). They may make you think they will be paying your bills when they request access to your records early on, but don’t be fooled—under the law they do not pay a cent until the conclusion of your entire claim. The at-fault company’s real motivation for getting those records is to see what’s going on with your treatment so they can begin to build defenses to minimize your claim later on.
- Make sure you tell your providers to not bill the at-fault insurance company because it is a total dead end. Bills should go to your own auto insurance under your PIP policy. If you don’t have PIP, bills should be sent to your health insurance. Ultimately, these related medical expenses are recovered from the at-fault party, but only at the conclusion of your claim.
- If you have PIP, use it! There is a popular misconception that by using your own benefits you will somehow get a black mark on your insurance record, or your rates will get raised or policy cancelled. Rest assured that it is against state law for your insurance company to raise your rates if you are not at fault. And here in Washington, PIP is considered “no-fault” coverage, so it is available to you no matter who caused the collision or how it happened. I have heard many people over the years tell me that they don’t feel it’s right for their insurance company to pay when they didn’t do anything wrong, but using your PIP benefits is precisely why you paid money for the policy. That’s what it is there for, so use it.
- If you have comprehensive coverage under your auto policy, use it to get the damage to your vehicle fixed. Again, it may seem weird to make a property damage claim with your insurance company when someone else is at fault, but it isn’t necessarily wise to let the at-fault insurance company be in charge of paying for the repairs. Remember, they are not on your side, and they do not have the same duties and are not bound by the same rules governing fairness that your insurance company does when it comes to handling your claim.