When you’re in a car accident in Arizona, the at-fault driver is responsible for the damages caused by their negligence or unreasonable carelessness. As long as the driver is insured, the financial responsibility for your damages will likely fall to their auto insurance company.
Unfortunately, auto insurance companies are notoriously slow to pay accident claims. They’ll often delay the process as much as possible, whether it’s waiting weeks to return your calls and emails, requesting unnecessary documents, making lowball settlement offers, or denying liability.
Even if you have an ironclad claim with plenty of proof, don’t be surprised if the insurance company denies your claim after months of back-and-forth.
How to Get an Insurance Company to Pay a Claim
When the at-fault driver’s insurance company won’t pay your claim, you have three choices: work it out through your own auto insurance provider, sue the other driver, or pursue a hybrid approach.
Option One: Have Your Insurance Provider Cover the Repair Costs
Most auto insurance policies provide collision coverage, even if the other driver is uninsured. As long as your insurance policy carries this benefit, you can choose to have your own insurance policy cover the damages. Assuming the other driver was at fault, using your collision coverage won’t increase your monthly premium.
In this scenario, your insurance company would cover the claim out of pocket, then they’d turn around and recover the damages from the other driver’s insurance policy. That means you’ll get your car repaired or replaced much faster, and you don’t have to go through the hassle of working with the other driver’s insurance company.
The only downside to this option is that you’ll have to pay your auto insurance deductible. Some policies offer a $0 deductible (or a “vanishing deductible” that eventually drops to $0), though most policies have a deductible in the ballpark of $250 to $1,000. Some high-deductible policies can even go as high as $2,500.
While paying the deductible may seem unfair when you’re not at fault for the accident, it’s often the best way to resolve small claims for accidents with no personal injuries. You’ll need to weigh the cost of the deductible against the added cost and time it would take to pursue your claim in court.
Sue the At-Fault DriverWhen the at-fault driver’s insurance company refuses to pay your claim and you don’t want to go through your own insurance company, the only other option is to file a lawsuit. You can’t sue the insurance company directly, but you can sue the driver to force their insurance company to the bargaining table.
When filing a lawsuit for property damages, you’re entitled to sue for the full amount of your costs and losses. That includes the cost of repairing or replacing your vehicle, towing charges, and a reasonable car rental while your vehicle is out of commission. That’s right — if you need a rental car, the other driver’s insurance is responsible for the payments, not you.
If the total damages in your case are less than $3,500, you can file a Small Claims lawsuit in Arizona. You don’t need an attorney to represent you in Small Claims court, though you’re welcome to retain legal counsel if you choose. Either way, Small Claims court is much simpler and faster. When damages exceed $3,500, you’ll need to file a civil lawsuit in the state’s general jurisdiction court, the Superior Court of Arizona.
When an auto accident includes injuries or fatalities, the lawsuit is technically classified as a personal injury suit. This is an important distinction, as personal injury suits are entitled to greater damages. Not only can you seek additional compensation for economic damages (medical bills, lost income, etc.), you can seek non-economic damages for pain and suffering when appropriate.
Option Three: The Hybrid Approach
If you’re cringing at the prospect of paying a large deductible but don’t want to pursue a full-blown legal battle, consider this alternative. Process the claim through your own insurance provider, pay the deductible, then turn around and recover the cost of your deductible from the other driver through Arizona Small Claims Court.
You can’t recover double damages so suing for the charges that your insurance company covered is out of the question, but you can absolutely seek repayment for the deductible from the other driver. If the amount is small enough, the other driver may choose to pay it on their own without involving their insurance company.
When Will Insurance Not Pay Out?
Insurance companies will do everything they can to stall and ultimately deny claims, and no excuse is off the table.
The most common reason to refuse a claim is denying fault. After all, if the insured driver wasn’t at fault, the insurance company isn’t liable for the damages. Initially, the insurance company will require evidence to prove fault — a police report, eyewitness statements, a statement from the collision shop, and maybe even an expert opinion.
Once all of the evidence has been gathered, the insurance company may determine there isn’t enough proof to establish that the insured driver was actually at fault, leading them to dismiss the claim.
It helps to do everything you can to avoid a dismissal on the basis of fault, but in the end, it’s not uncommon for an insurance company to dismiss a case where they’re clearly at fault. If you don’t have an attorney backing you, they might be hoping that you’ll give up and either accept a lowball settlement offer or choose to go through your own insurance company.
Of course, therein lies the answer to overcoming this challenge: you need an experienced attorney in your corner. A good attorney will know what types of evidence you need to prove fault, so the insurer won’t be able to postpone or deny a claim due to missing documents.
If it doesn’t look like the insurance company is willing to offer a fair settlement, your attorney can file a lawsuit against the driver to force their hand.
Keep in mind that filing a lawsuit doesn’t mean your accident case must be resolved in court. Most cases reach a private settlement outside of court once all of the evidence is gathered and analyzed, so you probably won’t have to wait for a judge or jury to award damages.
Receive Help Getting an Insurance Payout in Arizona
If you are located in Arizona JacksonWhite’s personal injury team can help you get the most compensation when filing a lawsuit against an insurance company. When entering a lawsuit with an insurance company you want to make sure that you have an experienced attorney that knows how to get you what you deserve.
Call our Personal Injury team at (480) 467-4392 to discuss your case today.