Since that change, insurance companies are becoming bolder in denying claims because of the increased difficulty in proving liability without a police officer’s finding of fault.
Car accidents occur every day, but according to data collected by insurance companies, on average, a driver will only file a claim once every 17.9 years. That means that most drivers involved in an accident are not particularly experienced or knowledgeable as it relates to
documenting the scene of an accident.
Persons involved in an accident—particularly those not at fault—need to do everything they can to make sure the facts of the accident are conveyed from a credible source (i.e. not merely the word of each driver) to the insurance company so the insurance of the party at fault will cover the damages.
The first thing any party in an accident should do is call the police. Even though Metro has limited the type of accident they will respond to, not all valley police work for Metro—Henderson Police, for example, are still responding to and documenting accidents. Moreover, Metro will still respond to certain types of accidents, including the following:
—Accidents with injuries or fatalities;
—A driver under the influence of alcohol, narcotics or other substances;
—A driver who doesn’t have a driver’s license, proof of insurance or
—A hit and run;
—A vehicle disabled on the roadway as a result of an accident; and
—An uncooperative driver (i.e. will not exchange information) or any
other disturbance meriting a police response.
Thus, someone involved in an accident who suspects any of the above may be true should report their suspicions to the police operator.
Also understand that many who are injured in an accident are not aware of their injuries until a day or two after the accident. This is particularly true where the injuries are soft-tissue injuries, which in many cases can be more debilitating and longer lasting than something immediately apparent, like a broken bone. Anyone who suspects they may be injured should report to the police that there are potential injuries.
A police report, though inadmissible hearsay at trial, nonetheless goes a long way to convince an insurance company that a given claim should be covered. Having a police officer who investigated the scene declare that the other driver was at fault is the easiest way to get an insurance company to take responsibility for the damages caused by its insured driver.
If the police do not respond, no police report will be prepared, and a prudent person will, to the extent possible, document as much as possible. That includes photographs of the vehicles, the road conditions, the scene of the accident itself, the other driver, all passengers, road signs, and everything else that will help corroborate
the location of the accident, the injuries, the property damage, and the cause of the accident.
Additionally, because it is not uncommon for at-fault drivers to admit fault at the scene of the accident but then deny fault (i.e. lie) after they have had a chance to think about the consequences, it is a good idea to get the at-fault driver’s admission in some durable medium. This can be accomplished by writing down a statement about what happened and having the other driver sign it or by taking a recorded statement from the other driver about what happened.
In Nevada, recording a private conversation is a felony unless all parties consent, and although Nevada courts have not had the opportunity to address whether an outdoor discussion constitutes a “private conversation,” courts in other jurisdictions generally agree that there is no expectation of privacy in public places outdoors. To be sure the recording is not only legal, but admissible evidence, it should be done with the other party’s knowledge and permission.
If there are witnesses to the accident, get their business cards or at least their names and contact information. If time and circumstances permit, also take their written statements.
Even with all these precautions, insurance companies will still sometimes deny a claim if the insured insists that they were not at fault. If this occurs, it is time to involve an attorney, particularly if there are injuries. The same insurance companies that know that most people are powerless on their own to contest a denied claim also recognize that attorneys have the tools at their disposal to hold insurance companies accountable for paying out on covered claims.
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Zachariah B. Parry is a civil litigation attorney and partner at his firm, Pickard Parry Kolbe. He can be reached at email@example.com, 702-910-4300, or through his firm’s website at www. pickardparry.com, or https://plus.google.com/+