Analysis of the steps necessary for handling a personal injury claim stemming from a car wreck.

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Today, I met with a new client who had just been in a car wreck.  It was a significant wreck as the airbags of both vehicles deployed and my client was taken by EMS to the trauma unit of the University of Louisville Hospital.  It was a rather interesting discussion because his sister had been in a wreck previously so she was rather savvy to the legal process involving a car wreck.  However, there were some key points that an attorney, who does not handle car wrecks regularly, would have missed.

First, one of the pictures taken at the accident scene showed the at-fault driver’s license plate. As a result, I can start tracking down that person’s insurance information before the police report is even ready. Second, the car wreck happened just outside Louisville.  Since Kentucky is a no-fault state, my client immediately has $10,000 of no-fault coverage, for his medical bills and lost wages, through his own insurance carrier.  However, my concern is that the University of Louisville hospital bill may already be over $10,000 considering that several CT scans were performed.  As a result and as allowed by the Kentucky Motor Vehicle Reparations Act, KRS 304.39 et seq., I may reserve his no-fault coverage for his lost wages until I know for sure how much his medical expenses will be.

Third, my client was in a vehicle that had just been purchased from a car dealership on a Friday evening and the accident happened on a Saturday morning.  As a result, the car my client was driving had not yet been put on his friend’s insurance policy.  Nevertheless, I believe that the insurance company of my client’s friend will still have to supply coverage for this wreck.  While the better practice is to call your insurance company and inform them of your purchase before you take your new car off the dealer’s lot, most insurance policies have a provision wherein a newly acquired vehicle is automatically covered for an interim period.  That interim period, and any other conditions that might also need to be fulfilled, can differ according to the insurance policy.  However, in most circumstances, as long as you notify them of your purchase within a reasonable time period, most likely 7 to 14 days, your insurance carrier will still cover the new automobile even though they did not know about your purchase prior to the car wreck.

Lastly, if for some reason this newly acquired vehicle proves to be uninsured, I will look back to the insurance company for the automobile dealership to see if they did everything they needed to in order to transfer the risk of loss to the purchaser before the car left the lot.  If the car dealership did what they were supposed to and are off the hook, I would then look for uninsured motorist coverage through my client’s own car insurance and possibly the Kentucky Assigned Claims Plan to cover his no-fault benefits.

The final point for you as a consumer is two-fold: 1) Don’t make assumptions about insurance coverage when it comes to car wrecks and; 2) Have uninsured motorist coverage on your own car insurance policy of at least $100,000 per incident.