A third-party car accident claim is a claim made by an injured party with an insurance company other than their own. Third-party claims are one of the most common types of car insurance claims made. Read on to learn more about how they work.
Making a third-party car accident claim can be as simple as writing a letter. If you believe you have a valid third-party car accident claim, contact the responsible insurance company via telephone as soon as possible to inform them of the claim (you should have taken down the other driver's insurance policy information at the car accident scene). This is called “giving notice” and is often overlooked. Proper, prompt notice can mean the difference between recovery and walking away empty-handed.
Follow your verbal notice with a letter giving written notice of the claim (snail mail is a good idea in these instances). Once you’ve given proper notice, the insurance company’s policies, procedures and requirements start to take over, and the claim is on its way.
Third-party insurers can have mountains of red tape to cut through before paying on a claim, so be prepared to be interviewed or asked for a written statement of your story. Begin creating a record of your claim so if it ever becomes contentious or morphs into a lawsuit, you have all the evidence you need to support your claim near to hand.
Detail how the accident occurred, the injuries or damages you’ve sustained and (if applicable) the dollar amount you are claiming. Gather relevant records related to the car accident, be they medical bills, repair estimates, or police reports. Give the insurance adjuster all the reasons in the world to pay out on your claim. You may wish to retain an attorney to assist you with making the claim if you are uncomfortable doing it yourself, or if things get particularly contentious.
(This article explains the process and what to expect in filing a third-party claim for car accident vehicle damage.)
There are some characteristics of a third-party car accident claim that are universal. First and foremost, a third-party claim does not involve a contractual obligation between the injured party and the insurance company. This sounds more complicated than it really is. Simply put, a third-party claim is the legal name for making a claim on another’s auto insurance policy. Exactly how and when such claims can be made vary based upon the presence (or lack thereof) of no-fault laws, but the overriding principle remains constant.
Making a claim with “the other driver’s” insurance company? That’s a third-party claim. Driving a company car and sustain an injury? You’re making a third-party claim there, too. Injured while driving your own car in the course of your job? A third-party claim with your employer’s insurance company would be your mechanism for recovery of medical and repair costs. Any claim made to an insurance company other than your own is considered a third-party claim.
Third-party claims are much more prevalent in “fault” states than in “no-fault” states. While no-fault generally require an injured party to first recover from their own insurance company, fault states have no such requirement. In fault states, if you sustain an injury to your person or damage to your vehicle in a car accident you can make a claim with “the other driver’s” insurance company -- provided they were at fault for the accident.
A third-party claim of this type can be very simple or extremely complex depending upon the facts and injuries of a particular accident. If fault is not in question, insurance adjusters will normally attempt to resolve third-party claims quickly and with a minimal expenditure of time. Normally a few brief interviews, a cursory review of medical records or repair records and a thorough understanding of any law enforcement reports will result in an offer of settlement. However, in cases where fault is disputed, or where injuries are significant, the road to recovery can get bumpy in a hurry.
In third-party car accident claims where fault is in dispute, lengthy investigations can be the norm. Insurance adjusters will investigate the claim thoroughly, often hiring outside parties to conduct interviews, take statement and review any and all records (medical or otherwise) pertaining to the case. You may even need to attend an independent medical examination. The adjuster will then make his or her own determination as to fault and the settlement value of the case.
It is not uncommon for insurance adjusters to settle cases where the injured party could potentially be seen to be at fault for their own injuries or damages, because the cost of settlement is often far less than the cost of a formal lawsuit.
Third-party claims occur with less frequency in no-fault car insurance states, where you first look to your own insurance company to recover, regardless of who is actually at fault for an accident or injury. Generally, no-fault states have mandatory minimum insurance requirements, meaning that every driver carries a statutorily dictated minimum amount of insurance. If, after you’ve made the appropriate claims to your own insurance company, your claim meets your state's monetary threshold or "serious injury" threshold for stepping outside of no-fault, you may be able to initiate a third-party claim.
One of the most common third-party claims in no-fault states is the “mini-tort” claim. In no-fault states such as Michigan, “mini-tort” laws allow you to claim a small, statutorily-mandated amount of money from “the other driver’s” insurance company. Most no-fault insurers will require you to collect the mini-tort amount to offset whatever they are obligated to pay. Another common instance of a third-party claim in a no-fault state is an employment-related claim. Injuries or damages sustained in the course of your job or in a company vehicle often result in third-party claims.