1. I just had a car accident what should I do?
First, move to safety. Place your emergency flashers on and turn your engine off. If anyone has been injured call 911 immediately.
2. Should I take pictures at the accident scene?
Yes. Documentation is your not so secret weapon in the fight to receive fair compensation for your injuries. Use your phone to snap some photos of the damage to both your vehicle and any other vehicles involved. It’s also a good idea to get photos of the location of the vehicles, as well as the license plate of the other vehicles involved and any debris or tire marks in the roadway. You should also take photos of any injuries you sustained, including cuts and bruises.
3. What information should I get from the other driver/s after a car accident?
Obtain pertinent information from the at-fault driver and any potential witnesses. While you are waiting for the police to arrive (assuming, of course, that you are not seriously injured in the wreck), get the full name, address, phone number and insurance information, including policy number, of the at-fault driver, as well as the contact information of any witnesses. Obtaining witness information is crucial at this stage because witnesses frequently leave the scene prior to the arrival of the police. One way to quickly get information from the other parties/witnesses is to take a photograph of their driver’s licenses and then save their contact information into your phone. TIP: Do not discuss fault with the other driver when you are gathering information. When you file an insurance claim, the adjuster will look at all the documentation including the accident report, witness statements etc. to make an initial determination regarding fault.
4. Should I go to the emergency room immediately after a car accident?
Seeking medical care after an accident should be your first priority. If you are experiencing pain after a car accident (even minor pain) the best practice is to go to the emergency room. (Related blog article: https://gwofirm.com/blog/2019/05/what-you-need-to-know-about-going-to-leconte-medical-center-emergency-room-after-a-sevierville-car-a.shtml ) Going to the emergency room protects your health and your legal rights. Insurance adjusters often use a claimant’s “delayed medical treatment” as justification for offering low-ball, unfair settlements that do not even cover all the related medical bills. TIP: Do not provide the hospital with your auto insurance information while you are at the Emergency Room. Give them your health insurance card and say that any charges need to be processed through your health insurance. Related Blog Article: Why you should submit your medical bills to the insurance company .
5.When and how should I report my car accident to my insurance company?
You should report the accident to your insurance company as soon as possible. Your insurance policy almost certainly has a clause which requires you to notify your insurance company following an accident. You can report your car accident by calling the phone number on the back of your auto insurance card or going on online to your auto insurance company’s website. Below is a list of several auto insurance carriers and how you can contact them to report a car accident:
Phone: (800) 841-3000
Farm Bureau Insurance Tennessee:
Phone: (800) 367-3743
5. When and how should I report my car accident to the at-fault driver’s insurance company?
Unlike your own auto insurance company, you are not contractually obligated to speak to an adjuster with the other side’s insurance company. However, from a practical standpoint you may need to speak with the other side’s insurance company in order to expedite your vehicle repairs or obtain a rental car. It is important to remember that the primary goal of the other driver’s car insurance company is to pay out as little money as possible. The company does not have your interests in mind. It wants to find evidence that you were at fault for the accident, and that your damages or injuries are minor (or nonexistent). The best way to protect your legal rights after an accident is to hire an experienced personal injury attorney who would in turn handle all communications with the at-fault driver’s insurance company for you. TIP: Do not give a recorded statement. You are not required to give a recorded statement to the other driver’s insurance company and it is not usually in your best interest to do so.
6. How can I get a copy of the Accident Report prepared by the investigating officer?
The investigating officers will prepare an accident report which will both diagram the vehicles positions on the roadway and also offer the officer’s opinion whether any laws were broken and who was at fault. While portions of the accident report may or may not be admissible in a personal injury trial, they can provide powerful incentive for the adverse insurance company to accept responsibility and attempt to settle a claim. The officer will give you a card with the report number as well as the officer’s name and badge number. You can use the information on that card to later obtain a copy of your accident report. Depending upon the specific location of your Sevier County car accident one of the following agencies would investigate the wreck:
Gatlinburg Police Department ( https://www.gatlinburgtn.gov/departments/police/index.php)
Pigeon Forge Police Department ( http://www.cityofpigeonforge.com/police-department.aspx)
Sevierville Police Department ( https://www.seviervilletn.org/index.php/government/departments/police/106-sevierville-police-department.html)
Sevier County Sheriff’s Department ( https://www.seviercountysheriff.com/)
Tennessee Highway Patrol ( https://www.tn.gov/safety/driver-services/crashreport.html)
7. What if the Crash Report from my car accident is wrong?
Correcting factual errors. If the law enforcement officer got some objective information wrong — details about your vehicle, your insurance coverage, or the location of the accident, for example — you can probably get the report changed or amended as long as you provide documentation in support of the correction.
Changing disputable information. If you simply don’t agree with something that is in the report — an account of the accident given by a witness, or the officer’s finding that you violated a traffic law — you’ll have a much tougher time getting any change made. In that situation, the best you can probably do is write up your own version of the detail you’re disputing and hope that it be included as a supplement to the report. But in most cases, whether it is added to the report will be up to the law enforcement agency.
Our law firm routinely submits and obtains amendments to incorrect accident reports for our clients from our local law enforcement agencies if required to set the record straight.
8. Does the at-fault driver’s insurance company have to provide me with a rental car?
9. What tips do you give clients about dealing with vehicle repairs after a car accident?
Tip #1: You can choose which insurance company to use. If you are not at-fault for the accident and you have both comprehensive and collision coverage on your policy then you have the option to go through your auto insurance company to handle the damage to your vehicle. (If you have liability only on your auto policy you will not have the choice to go through your own insurance company.) Of course, you can also go through the at-fault driver’s insurance company to repair or pay you the total loss amount of your vehicle. There are pros and cons to each. If you go through your own insurance policy, you will have to pay the deductible outlined in your policy which is usually $500.00. You would eventually be reimbursed by your insurance company for your deductible, but many accident victims do not have an extra $500.00 laying around given mounting medical bills and missed time from work. A pro to going through your insurance company is that it is usually much faster because you don’t have to wait for a determination of liability before starting repairs on your vehicle.
If you go through the at-fault driver’s insurance company, it’s likely you will have to wait at least the 5-10 days for the accident report to be generated before the company will process your claim. The at-fault driver’s insurance company will not start processing the claim until a formal determination of liability is made which can take up to 2 weeks. Once they admit liability, the advantage is you didn’t have to come up with the $500.00 deductible. Some people might ask, “Why would I go through my own insurance company? This will cause my premiums to go up.” Premiums go up based on fault. The insurance company is trying to assess future risk. They don’t go up based on claims. If you make a claim and you are not at fault for the accident, your insurance will likely not go up.
Tip #2: You can pick the auto body shop of your choice.
Insurance companies usually have a preferred auto repair shop that they use. They will give you the name and contact information of those shops and recommend you use them. You can go with the repair shop the adjuster suggests BUT you don’t have to. The repair shops that work with a particular insurance company regularly are probably not shysters, but it’s fair to say that those shops are motivated to keep costs down to keep getting the insurance company’s business. You do have the right to take your car to the shop of your choice however, the insurance company may require that the repairs are fixed for the same amount that their shop bid or that their adjuster bid.
Tip #3: You can choose whether to fix the car, or keep the money.
You can actually choose to fix your car or not. If your car is not totaled but it is damaged, but you prefer the cash rather than the repair, you have that option. Let’s say your car has $1500.00 worth of cosmetic damage but the issue isn’t something that bothers you. You can opt to take the money and not have the repair done. They owe you that money whether you get the car repaired or not. You could also have a bid from a shop that is high and then take the car to a friend or someone that will do the work for much less and then pocket the difference. That is your choice. If you do decide to take the money and not get the repairs done, the insurance company may exclude that portion of your car from any future repair in case another accident were to occur and damage the same area of the car. Another fact to be aware of if that if you have a lienholder, or lender, on your auto then you will probably need to get the repairs done. If you do not, you may encounter a problem when you try to sell the car. Body damage causes the value to go down and may actually cause you to be “upside down” on your auto loan. Meaning you owe more than the car is worth.
Tip #4: You can choose to keep the car after a total loss of not.
If your car is totaled in an accident, you can choose to keep the car or not. What this means is that if your car is damaged and the repair estimate comes back higher than the value of your vehicle, then the insurance company, whether it’s the at-fault company or your own, has the option to pay you value of your vehicle. They can do that, it is their option. If they do choose to do that, they will run an evaluation, or a fair market analysis, and come back with a value and make you an offer. They may or may not be low on that offer and you may have to negotiate with them as well and prove that the car is worth more. For instance they may not have considered that your car has very low miles or you had made special upgrades to it that made its value go up. But that’s not the point, the point is whether or not you want to keep the car. Let’s say your car is worth five grand. They are going to pay you five grand but maybe that car can still run. Even though it is totaled and even though it has major damage it can still get around. Or maybe you want to take the tires off of it or salvage the parts. Whatever that reason might be, you have the right to keep it. You can have the insurance company deduct their salvage value from their offer. So if their offer is $6,000 and their salvage value is $500, they would give you a check for $5,500 and instead of them picking the car up, you would keep the car. Keep in mind that if you plan on driving the car, it will need to be able to pass inspection and be insurable. Your own insurance company would probably exclude the existing damage from future comprehensive or collision coverage unless the repairs are made at some point.
Tip #5: You do not have to accept their offer.
his goes back to a total loss of your vehicle. Just because they say they figured out your car is worth $5,000 and they send you a check in the mail—that doesn’t mean that you have to accept that amount. You have to agree. If they are offering you $5,000 and you think your car is worth more then you will have to go through the effort of proving how much your car is worth. Facts that could affect the value of your car would be details like extremely low mileage, upgrades by the manufacturer of yourself, custom paint jobs or limited edition automobiles. Any of these factors could increase the value of your car and the insurance company needs to be aware of them. If you have brought these details to the adjusters attention and the final bid is still too low, then you could contact a local attorney and they could help you figure out how to provide proof of the value of your car.
10. What legal rights do I have regarding the repair of my vehicle after a Tennessee car accident?
The Tennessee Unfair Claims Settlement Practices Chapter 0780-01-05 ( https://publications.tnsosfiles.com/rules/0780/0780-01/0780-01-05.20171009.pdf ) contains your legal rights regarding your vehicle’s repair after a car accident. According to the Unfair Claims Act:
(4) Vehicle Repairs. If partial losses are settled on the basis of a written estimate prepared by or for the insurer, the insurer shall supply the insured a copy of the estimate upon which the settlement is based. The estimate prepared by or for the insurer shall be reasonable, in accordance with applicable policy provisions, and of an amount which will allow for repairs to be made in a workmanlike manner. If the insured subsequently claims, based upon a written estimate which he or she obtains, that necessary repairs will exceed the written estimate prepared by or for the insurer, and differences remain unresolved during the course of the repair or negotiation process, the insurer shall: (a) Pay the difference between the written estimate and a higher estimate obtained by the insured; or
(b) Promptly provide the insured with the name of at least one (1) repair shop in areas proximate to the local market area, including the closest major metropolitan areas within or without the state, that will make the repairs for the amount of the written estimate, not considering the cost of supplemental or additional repairs which may be uncovered as part of the repair process. The insurer shall assure that such repairs provided by such repairers designated by the insurer are performed in a workmanlike manner. The insurer shall maintain documentation of all such communications. If such communication is made by means other than writing, an appropriate notation of the communication shall be made in the claim file of the insurer and dated.
(5) When the amount claimed is reduced because of betterment or depreciation, all information for such reduction shall be contained in the claim file. The deductions shall be itemized and specified as to dollar amount and shall be appropriate for the amount of deductions. (6) When the insurer elects to repair and designates a specific repair shop for automobile repairs, the insurer shall cause the damaged automobile to be restored to its condition prior to the loss at no additional cost to the claimant other than as stated in the policy and within a reasonable period of time.
The Unfair Claims Act is not the only Tennessee law that addresses a consumer’s rights pertaining to the repair of their motor vehicle. TCA § 66-19-104 (https://law.justia.com/citations.html) states before any repair work is begun, an automotive repair facility must inform a consumer that she or he:
(A) May request a written estimate for repairs that cost more than $250.00; and
(B) May not be charged an amount over 25 percent in excess of the written estimate without the consumer’s consent or good faith attempt to acquire the consent; and
(C) That repairs not originally authorized by the consumer may not be charged to the consumer without the consumer’s consent unless a repair facility makes a good faith attempt to acquire the consent prior to providing additional repairs.
11. How do I know if my car is a “total loss?”
In Tennessee, a vehicle is considered a “total loss” if the repair estimate exceeds 75% of the retail market value as determined by the current published retail costs. TCA 55-3-211 (9)(A).
12. How is the “total loss” settlement amount the insurance company pays for my vehicle determined in Tennessee?
If you are involved in a collision in Tennessee and your vehicle is determined to be a total loss, then the insurance company should use mileage, options, and condition of the vehicle at the time of the accident to determine the value. The Tennessee Unfair Claims Settlement Practices Chapter 0780-01-05 ( https://publications.tnsosfiles.com/rules/0780/0780-01/0780-01-05.20171009.pdf) states:
The insurer may elect a cash settlement based upon the actual cost, less any deductible provided in the policy, to purchase a comparable automobile including all applicable taxes, license fees and other fees incident to transfer of evidence of ownership of a comparable automobile. Such cost may be derived from:
1. The cost of two or more comparable automobiles in the local market area when comparable automobiles are available or were available within the last ninety (90) days to consumers in the local market area; or
2. The cost of two (2) or more comparable automobiles in areas proximate to the local market area, including the closest major metropolitan areas within or without the state, that are available or were available within the last ninety (90) days to consumers when comparable automobiles are not available in the local market area pursuant to part 0780-01-05-.09(1)(b)1. above;
It is important that you make sure the total loss settlement offer from the insurance company includes “all applicable taxes, license fees and other fees incident to transfer of evidence of ownership of a comparable automobile” as required by the Tennessee Unfair Claims Settlement Practices (0780-01-05-.09)(b). Each county has varying sales tax percentages for vehicles as well as differing fees for vehicle registration so you will need to you contact the county court clerk in the county where you live to verify the amount that should be included in the settlement offer from the insurance company for sales tax and registration fees.
13. Who is going to pay my medical bills from the car accident?
This question has only gotten more and more complicated over the past few years as health insurance companies now routinely deny (or at least initially deny) claims related to car accidents. Below I break down the pros, cons and the “never going to happen(s)” pertaining to possible avenues of payment for medical bills related to a car accident:
Liability Carrier –The at-fault driver’s insurance company WILL NOT pay your medical bills as you send them in—the at-fault’s driver’s insurance company will only pay if you sign a complete release absolving their insured of any future liability for your injuries. The adjuster for the at-fault driver’s insurance carrier will often tell injured claimants to “send me your medical bills as you receive them,” and then they usually follow up with something to the effect of “we will make this right” or “don’t worry, we are accepting liability.” This kind of misleading rhetoric from adjusters leads claimants to believe that the at-fault driver’s insurance company will pay their medical bills related to the accident upon receipt. This is not true. The at-fault driver’s insurance company will not piecemeal settlement monies by paying your individual medical bills. The insurance company for the at-fault driver will not pay out any money on your injury claim unless you agree to release their insured from any and all liability. In other words, they don’t pay you a cent until your entire injury claim is resolved. Many injury victims have their credit scores ruined by unpaid medical bills because they mistakenly believe the at-fault insurance company is required to pay their medical bills once they are submitted.
Uninsured/Underinsured Motorist Carrier– If the driver that hit you was uninsured or underinsured, you may be dealing directly with your auto insurance carrier regarding your injury claim. Similar to the at-fault driver’s insurance carrier, your uninsured/underinsured motorist coverage will not pay individual medical bills prior to the resolution of your injury claim
Medical Payment Coverage-– Medical Payment Coverage is an optional type of coverage available on your auto insurance policy. It may help pay your or your passengers’ medical expenses if you are injured in a car accident, regardless of who caused the accident…Medical payment coverage is sometimes referred to as medical expense coverage or just “med pay.” Medical Payment Coverage is the only type of auto insurance coverage that will pay your medical bills upon receipt prior to the resolution of your injury claim. Typically, medical payment coverage has a policy limit of $5,000 or $10,000 per person. Whether or not you should use your medical payment coverage to pay your medical bills after a car accident can be a somewhat complicated issue. Tip: Regardless of whether you decide to use your medical payment coverage or not, one of the first things you should do after a car accident is notify your auto insurance carrier in writing NOT to make direct payments to any medical providers under your medical payment coverage without your explicit approval. This prevents the emergency room or hospital that treated you after the accident from using part or all of your medical payment coverage.
Health Insurance- Submitting your bills to your health insurance carrier is the best way to get your medical bills paid after a car accident. Your group health insurance plan (eg. BlueCross, Aetna, Humana, etc.) provides you with a benefit you’ve likely never considered in paying your medical bills. It’s called a negotiated fee plan, under which your doctor or hospital agrees to provide service at a rate below billing charge. That is, your insurance company will say to your doctors and hospital “we will provide you with our insureds as patients, but at pre-approved rates.” Once the doctor agrees to accept this negotiated, lower insurance company payment, you may not be billed for the difference between the negotiated rate, and the doctor’s billing rate. By processing your bills related to your car accident through your health insurance, you get to keep more of your settlement in your pocket. (Not to mention the bills got paid timely so your credit is still in tact.) Again, getting your health insurance carrier to pay the claims related to your car accident can be complicated. Making sure all related medical bills are paid by the health insurance carrier per the policy is a service we offer to all our personal injury clients and is included in our representation agreements for no additional fee beyond the standard contingency fee.
Self-Pay- If you do not have health insurance or medical payment coverage available then we recommend that you set up a payment plan with your medical providers in order to avoid having your bills sent to collection and also to benefit from the self-pay discount offered by many medical providers. We also routinely send “letters of protection” stating a client’s medical bills will be paid out of any settlement or judgement received if necessary. Letters of Protection are one tool that we use to try and prevent damage to our clients’ credit scores due to unpaid medical bills related to their car accidents.
14. My doctor won’t see me because I was injured in a car accident. What should I do?
We hear this from our car accident injury clients ALL THE TIME. There are multiple Sevier County physicians that simply refuse to treat a patient if he or she was injured in a car accident. When your trusted primary care physician refuses to treat you because you were hurt in a car accident it can be very disheartening not to mention frustrating and stressful. So why do certain physicians refuse to treat even their established patients if there is a car accident involved? Primarily because they don’t want the “hassle.” The physician may have treated a patient previously for injuries sustained in a car accident and been “burned” aka they never got paid. With multiple insurance carriers involved which complicates billing procedures and the new trend of health insurance companies denying claims related to car accidents, many physicians say they have a “rule” against treating someone hurt in a car accident. Is it fair—heck no. But outside of hospital emergency rooms and life threatening injuries doctors can refuse to treat individuals based on how they were injured. What should you do if your doctor refuses to treat you because you were in a car accident? Seek treatment somewhere else ASAP. Don’t let too much time pass before you find another doctor who is willing to treat you. You can go to a local Urgent Care Clinic or depending on the severity of your injuries you may want to go back to the Emergency Room. Being a local law firm with deep community roots, we help our clients who have been refused treatment by their physician find a qualified and caring doctor or specialist willing to help accident victims.