Last updated Nov. 18, 2010
It’s always upsetting to be involved in a traffic accident, but your stress level will rise rapidly if an at-fault driver refuses to reveal his auto insurance information.
If this happens to you, don’t panic. Not having immediate access to an at-fault driver’s auto insurance information doesn’t mean that you will be stuck with paying for car repairs or medical care on your own. While it helps to collect as much information as possible at the scene of an accident to submit to car insurance companies, you can file a claim even if the other driver is uncooperative.
Car insurance companies have plenty of experience tracking down such motorists. After you contact your insurance company, a claims representative will generally get back to you within 24 hours. If you do not hear from a representative soon, contact your agent or insurance company.
Taking stock of damage and injuries
Remember, your first priority after an accident should always be to make sure nobody is injured. If someone has been hurt in the accident, call 911 immediately. In some communities, the police will not respond to all accidents. They may decline to respond if there are no injuries. Nevertheless, always notify the police, since that may be a requirement of your auto insurance policy. If the police agree to respond, do not move your vehicle until they arrive, unless it becomes necessary for safety reasons or it is required under the law.
Gather information for your car insurance claim
You should attempt to get the names, addresses and telephone numbers of all involved parties, along with their insurance information. Document the accident scene with a camera or a camera-equipped cell phone. If for some reason you cannot copy information from the other driver’s license plate, write down a description of the vehicle. If there are witnesses, write down their contact information and share it with the police and your insurance company. “Keep in mind that insurance follows a vehicle, so if you have a license plate number, you can track down the owner, even if the driver isn’t cooperative,” says Allstate Insurance Co. spokesperson Christina Tyler Loznicka.
Experience counts for car insurance companies
After the accident, the work shifts to the car insurance companies. Patricia Lombard, spokesperson for Insurance Brokers and Agents of the West trade group, says insurers often will work out the details of which motorist is responsible for the damage that occurred. “What the insurance company will do is track down the other person’s insurance company and they will subrogate. They will say, ‘Hey, your customer hit our customer.’ That is a very, very common practice.”
In some cases, your car insurance company will be able to recover your deductible for you through subrogation, if you had to make a collision claim for an accident that wasn’t your fault.
The specific terms of your policy will dictate whether you are covered for property damage or injuries caused by drivers who leave the scene without sharing insurance information, says Joanna Moore, chief claims officer for the Mercury Insurance Group. “You really need to familiarize yourself with your policy benefits,” she said.
To avoid leaving things to chance, it’s wise to consider buying coverage for uninsured and underinsured motorists, says Rick Ward, director of auto claims for MetLife Auto & Home. When someone leaves the scene of an accident without revealing their identity – and they can’t be tracked down — they generally are considered uninsured for the purposes of an insurance claim.
Other insurance claim situations
The same general guidelines apply for situations where you suffer property damage or personal injuries due to someone who refuses share insurance information, says Lombard. In some cases, home insurance may cover your damages. For example, if you are bitten by a dog and the animal’s owner refuses to share insurance information, write down as much information as you can, describing the animal and the owner. If you know where the dog owner lives, write down the address and report the information to your home insurance company as well as police and animal control authorities.
“While it is a civil issue, there may be laws in that venue about an unleashed dog,” says Ward. “Contact your own home insurance company and contact your medical provider if you have a health plan that covers you for injury.”