How to Sue an Insurance Company After a Car Accident

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You might have to sue an insurance company after car accident if the other driver’s insurance company fails to provide an acceptable settlement. You will generally bring the lawsuit against the other driver, not the insurance company. Since the other driver's insurance company will be the one to pay any compensation, the insurer will have a team of lawyers on its side to defend against the lawsuit. 

Insurance companies sometimes use bad faith tactics to deny or undervalue car accident claims. If the insurer acts in bad faith, you can sue that insurance company after a car accident directly. In both scenarios, you need a personal injury lawyer with an excellent record of handling insurance companies on your side. The car accident lawyer will protect your interests, battle the insurer’s lawyers, and help you navigate the process.

Filing a Car Accident Claim Against the Other Driver's Insurance

Iowa is an at-fault, or “tort” state when it comes to motor vehicle accidents. If you get into a car accident because of another driver's negligence, you can bring a claim against that driver’s liability insurance. This type of claim is known as a third-party claim. 

When you file a claim against an insurance company after a car accident, the insurer will open an investigation into the claim to determine the following:

  • Whether its client is liable for the accident. If so, what is the client’s degree of liability? 
  • Your recoverable damages. 
  • Whether a causal relationship exists between your recoverable damages and the accident.

No law requires you to supply the other driver’s insurer with the information. 

You should, however, provide detailed information to prove your claim. Let your lawyer guide you in this process to avoid providing any information that could compromise your claim.  

 Making a Claim Against Your Own Insurance

If you have full coverage insurance on your vehicle (comprehensive and collision coverage) and/or you have MedPay, uninsured motorist coverage, or underinsured motorist coverage, you may be able to make a claim against your own policy. 

Call your insurer immediately if you need to file an insurance claim after a car accident. The insurer might email you the claim form to help you commence the claim process. Fill out the form carefully and email it back together with all other required documents. 

Some insurance companies allow claimants to file claims on their websites or mobile apps. Find out whether your insurer has embraced that technology. If so, making a claim will be hassle-free and convenient. 

Try to preserve evidence and protect your right to compensation before contacting your insurer. Taking specific after-accident steps can help you do that. These steps include:

Checking for Injuries 

The first step is to ensure you and others in your vehicle are safe. Seek emergency medical services if anyone has sustained serious injuries. You can do that by calling 911 yourself or asking someone else to do it for you. 

Move to a Safe Location Near the Crash Scene 

Move your vehicle away from oncoming traffic to prevent further damage. You can pack it at a safe place near the crash scene if you can do it safely. Your insurance company might decline to cover any subsequent damage if you failed to move your vehicle despite the ability to do it safely. 

Notify the Police of the Accident 

Inform the police of the accident as soon as possible. A police report might be necessary to make a claim against your insurer. The State of Iowa requires you to report any accident resulting in injury, death, or property damage of more than $1,500 to the Department of Transportation (DOT) within 72 hours. Failing to return your car accident form before the deadline may result in the suspension of your driving privileges. 

Assemble Evidence 

Scenes of accidents get cleaned up quite fast. Vehicles are hauled to the auto repair shops. Drivers, passengers, and witnesses leave the scene. You need to gather information from the accident scene and parties involved within that short period after the accident. 

Start by writing down the other driver’s information. The details to record include names and physical addresses, vehicle registration details, insurance information, and driver’s license information. Note down the make, model, identification number, and license plate number of the other driver's vehicle. 

Talk to any potential witnesses to determine if they have helpful information for your claim. Note down the physical addresses and contact information of any cooperative witnesses. You can also request them to write down a statement and sign and date it. 

Take photographs or videos as you move around the accident scene. Take photos of damage sustained by your car and the other involved car. Also, take photos of the road and weather conditions, such as snow, ice, or rain. Such weather conditions might make you wonder, “is it actually more dangerous to drive in winter than summer?

Ensure your insurance company’s investigator has inspected your damaged car before repairing it. Cooperate with the investigator throughout the entire process. As previously stated, ensure you provide all the necessary information and documentation about the accident. 

When You Should Sue an Insurance Company After a Car Accident

You can directly sue an insurance company after a car accident if it intentionally denies your claim for unfair reasons or without performing a complete investigation. Consider the following factors before deciding to sue an insurance company: 

Who Was Legally Responsible for the Accident? 

The other driver must be liable for you to initiate a successful lawsuit against that driver’s insurer. You will need evidence to show the other driver was legally responsible for the crash before attempting to initiate a lawsuit. A lawyer can analyze the evidence available in your case to determine the other driver’s degree of liability. A lawyer familiar with your state tort laws can also help you establish whether the liable driver acted negligently. 

What Is the Insurance Policy Limit of the Liable Driver? 

Determine whether the liable driver has adequate insurance coverage to pay the full extent of your damages and injuries. Initiate a lawsuit if the insurance company has refused to offer a reasonable settlement despite the insured having sufficient coverage to cover your losses. You (or your lawyer) should continue negotiating with the insurer for a fair settlement if the insured lacks adequate coverage. 

How to Sue Your Insurance Company After a Car Accident 

Obtain all required documents and follow the correct process before suing an insurance company. Start by notifying the insurance company that a covered loss has happened with the help of your attorney. You can do that by email, online claim form, phone call, mobile app, or in writing. Consider suing the insurance company if it delays paying your claim or denies it without a justifiable reason. Follow the following steps to initiate a lawsuit against the insurance company: 

Carefully Examine Your Insurance Contract 

Determine whether a breach of your insurance contract has happened before starting a lawsuit against your insurer. Request a full version of your insurance policy from your insurer if you do not already have one. Check if the terms of your policy cover your claim. Check all deadlines to confirm if you have followed all the necessary steps. 

Compile Evidence 

You must prove your original claim was valid and covered by the terms of your insurance contract. Compile all documentation and evidence. Ensure you include pictures submitted to the insurer, medical reports, medical treatment bills, and property repair or replacement estimates. 

Compile a detailed log of phone calls, emails, or meetings with the insurer and its representatives. Record the date, name of the participants, and an overview of the discussed topics. 

Appeal the Denial 

Start by appealing the denial with your insurance provider’s supervisor. File an appeal with your state insurance regulatory agency if the supervisor upholds the denial. Your insurer may decide to pay your claim during the appeals process. Keep a detailed log of all your engagements with the insurer. Be sure to document the reason for the denial, as well. 

Send a Final Demand Letter 

Exhaust all options for settling your claim before moving forward with a lawsuit. Use a return receipt to mail a final written demand letter to your insurer. The return receipt will act as proof that you indeed mailed the letter. 

Give the insurer up to 60 days from the date you made a final demand to settle your claim. Let the insurer know that failure to make timely and correct claim payments will result in a lawsuit. You can only initiate a lawsuit once the response time for the insurer has elapsed. 

Submit a Complaint to Your State Department of Insurance 

The department of insurance is in charge of regulating insurance providers and how they process claims. This department is available in each state. Ensure you make a complaint to your state insurance department if you believe your insurer has mismanaged your claim. The department may hold a mediation to try to resolve your issue. 

File a Lawsuit 

Determine which court has jurisdiction over your insurer before filing a lawsuit. Is it the state or federal court? Can you include negligence, fraud, and breach of contract as part of your lawsuit? A lawyer who has handled several bad faith insurance cases successfully can help you answer these questions and navigate the process of filing the lawsuit.

Photo of Niko Pothitakis
For the past 15 years Mr. Pothitakis has focused his practice on Workers Compensation and Personal Injury Cases. The firm has two locations, one being in Burlington, Iowa and the other in Keokuk, Iowa. Mr. Pothitakis works with many area unions and employee organizations to provide advice, assistance, and guidance as it relates to employment issues. Mr. Pothitakis provides free consultations to those with legal questions in the firm's areas of practice. In this initial meeting or conference potential clients are provided advice on their need for assistance and how they need to proceed.