It happens in a flash; you are driving your car, going about your daily business, running errands or driving with your family, when another driver hits you. You are not at fault. What should you do? For many drivers in this situation, there is a certain level of anxiety that arises from a situation like this; drivers know that the natural next step is to call their insurance company but there is a certain level of anxiety that comes with that phone call to the insurance agent. Many drivers fear that by calling their insurance company, they will be penalized with an increase in rates, a failure to renew or even cancellation of the policy. It is a reality in some states that your rates may be increased, your insurance company may fail to renew your policy or your policy could be cancelled even if you are not at fault. It is no wonder that drivers are hesitant to get their insurance company involved even if they know that they probably should.
Drivers in Washington State, however, should know that they are protected. Washington State has a law in place which does not permit an insurance company to increase a customer’s rates, refuse or fail to renew the policy at renewal time, or cancel a policy if the accident was not the customer’s fault. This is a very important protection for Washington drivers and it should serve to put many drivers at ease after an accident. If you have been in an accident, and the accident was not your fault, be sure to get a police report, if necessary; also, get the other driver’s insurance information and any relevant contact information. Finally, if it is possible, try and take some photos even if it is only on your cell phone. Take all of this information and have it ready when you call your insurance company. Your insurance company should work for you; remember, you are their customer and pay a premium for their service.
When you call your insurance agent, it is possible that the agent will attempt to persuade you that it would be better to use the other driver’s insurance company to get your car repaired and to cover any bills you may have. The agent may tell you that it would save you money and prevent your rates from increasing; know that under the Washington law, however, your rates can not be increased! Do not count your own company out and do not be afraid to use your own company; it may end up that it is better for you to use your own insurance company than that of the guilty driver.
The best thing that you can do after an accident in which you are not at fault is to remember to stay calm and collected and to remember your rights as a consumer of insurance products and as the victim of an accident. Do not be afraid to contact an attorney who will be able to help you navigate the sometimes confusing path toward accident settlement or litigation and always remember to do what feels comfortable and right to you. You are the victim and should never feel as though you are forced or coerced into any action from either your insurance company or the other driver’s.
For more information on all of Washington’s insurance laws, please visit the following website: http://www.insurance.wa.gov/.