What to Do When the At-Fault Driver Is Not Cooperating with Insurance
When an at-fault driver won’t cooperate after a car accident, it can make it much harder to recover damages, but there are options that can help cover at least some of your costs.
If you’re injured in a car accident that’s not your fault, you’ll have to deal with the other driver’s insurance company in order to get compensated for your damages.
But what if the at-fault driver doesn’t cooperate with their insurance company? When that happens, it will likely bring your claim to a crashing halt.
If your case is stalled because the other driver won’t respond, you’ll have to find ways beyond a typical third-party insurance claim to recover damages. This could mean tapping into coverage provided by your own insurance company or filing a lawsuit against the driver. It can get complicated, and you may not get enough money to cover all of your bills from the accident.
What Happens If the At-Fault Driver Does Not Respond to an Insurance Claim?
Every auto insurance liability policy has a “duty to cooperate” clause that requires the policy-holder to provide information after an accident, answer questions, and help as much as possible to get the claim resolved.
The duty to cooperate is with the company that insures you and holds your policy. Therefore, you have a duty to cooperate with your own insurer, and the person who hit you has a duty to cooperate with his. The at-fault driver does not have a duty to cooperate with your insurance company, or with you.
Cooperation by both sides provides the information needed to resolve the claim. But if the at-fault driver won’t cooperate, it can bring your claim to a standstill.
The consequences of not cooperating may be termination of the at-fault driver’s policy, depending on which state they live in, but that won’t help get your claim resolved.
How Third-Party Claims Typically Work
If you’re in an accident in which the other driver is at fault, you will be making a claim against their insurance. This is a “third party claim” – you are a third party, seeking damages from the other driver and their insurance (the other two parties).
A first-party claim is when you seek coverage from your own insurance company.
Even though you’ll be making a third-party claim if the other driver is at fault, the first thing to do if you are in an auto accident is to contact your own insurance company. Not only will they defend you if the other driver’s insurance tries to make a case that you’re actually the one at fault, you also may need to use you own coverage to pay some of your damages if the at-fault driver doesn’t respond.
If you live in a no-fault state, you always start with your own insurance. Your personal injury protection will cover your medical damages up to a point, with the at-fault driver’s insurance kicking in, if your damages exceed the amount you’re covered for.
Even with your own insurance company notified, keep in mind you are dealing with the other driver’s insurance, and their duty is to their client, not you.
The steps for a third-party typical third-party claim are:
The at-fault driver’s insurance company investigates your claim. They’ll want to talk to you and get your account of the accident, any photos you may have taken, witness names, medical records, car repair estimates and more. Keep in mind, they will try as hard as possible to find that their client isn’t at fault, which is why their client’s cooperation is as important to the investigation as yours is.
Based on its investigation, the insurance company will determine how much to pay you and offer you a car accident settlement. If it’s a fair offer that covers your damage, you accept it. If it’s lower than what you needed, or they reject your claim, you may appeal.
Appealing a Settlement
Most insurance companies spell out the appeals process when they notify you of their claim decision. If the settlement offer is too low, or they deny your claim, don’t accept their decision. It may be a matter of you not filing all the documentation needed, or it may just be a matter of negotiating with them. If your appeal is unsuccessful, you may file a lawsuit to get your damages covered.
Options When the At-Fault Driver Refuses to Cooperate
When the at-fault driver has not contacted their insurance, or is not cooperating in some other way, the typical third-party claim process breaks down. That is not good news for your claim.
The insurance company will likely tell you they can’t investigate the claim until they can get information from the at-fault driver.
Meanwhile, your car is damaged, your medical bills are piling up, and you need resolution. There are better options than sitting around waiting for the other driver to contact insurance.
If the at-fault driver didn’t contact insurance, or isn’t responding, contacting a personal injury attorney to help you review your options is a smart move. Consultations are generally free, and an attorney will help you determine whether it’s worthwhile to file a suit, or if another option is better.
If there was bodily injury, or other expensive damages, a lawsuit is probably the only way to get fully compensated.
There also may be options through your own insurance to cover at least some of your damages, though if the damages are extensive, your coverage may not take care of the entire bill.
Filing a Lawsuit
Pros of filing a lawsuit are:
- It will force the at-fault driver to respond.
- In most states, you can seek pain and suffering compensation.
- You can include legal costs in your claim.
Cons of filing a lawsuit are:
- You are suing the driver, not their insurance, and it may be difficult to recover much money.
- It can be expensive for you, and take a long time.
You likely have collision coverage in your auto insurance policy. This covers damage to your car, no matter who is at fault.
Pros of collision coverage:
- This will cover damage to your vehicle, up to your coverage limit.
- Your insurance pays, then it’s up to them to pursue reimbursement from the other driver’s insurance.
Cons of collision coverage:
- It does not pay for bodily injury, which is often more expensive than property damage.
- You will have to pay a deductible.
Uninsured Motorist Insurance
Uninsured motorist insurance is required in 19 states and must be offered in most others. If you have it, it covers bodily injury, lost wages and more if the at-fault driver doesn’t have insurance.
Pros of uninsured motorist coverage:
- Your medical bills, lost wages, and more, will be paid, up to your coverage limit.
- You are dealing with your own insurance company, so it’s faster and more efficient.
Cons of uninsured motorist coverage:
- Your insurance company may not agree, since the at-fault driver is insured, but simply not cooperating.
- Many states have low coverage requirements, so you may not have enough coverage to take care of all your bills.
- You must have it to use it.
Hire an Attorney
If the at-fault driver is not responding to a claim, a consultation with a car accident attorney should be your first step. Most attorneys offer a free initial consultation and can review your case and help you determine what the best option is for recovering damages from your accident.
- Leefeldt, E. (2022, November 1) How to File a Car Insurance Claim. Retrieved from https://www.forbes.com/advisor/car-insurance/car-accident-insurance-claim/
- Metz, J. (2022, November 10) What is Uninsured Motorist Coverage? Retrieved from https://www.forbes.com/advisor/car-insurance/uninsured-motorist-coverage/
- N.A. (2018, June 5) Can’t We All Just Get Along? The Duty to Cooperate. Retrieved from https://www.natlawreview.com/article/can-t-we-all-just-get-along-duty-to-cooperate
- N.A. (ND) Insurance Can’t Get in Touch with At-Fault Driver. What should I do? Retrieved from https://www.personalinjury-law.com/faq/insurance-contact-at-fault-driver