What to Do When the Insurance Company Denies Liability for a Car Accident

Dodds Law Office, PC
A shocked man reads a court letter.

When an insurance company denies liability for an accident, it can create a great burden on the person who wasn’t at fault. To avoid having to pay for your own vehicle repairs and medical expenses, you may need to sue the insurance company to receive compensation for your damages.

A shocked man reads a court letter.

It’s not uncommon for an insurance company to deny liability for an accident. Insurance companies are in the business of collecting premiums, not paying claims. Therefore, some companies may feel like it’s in their best interest to deny liability on a claim. This can become even more likely if the police report appears to be ambiguous about which driver was at fault.

Reasons an Insurance Company May Deny Liability

There are several reasons an insurance company may deny liability for an accident. It isn’t in the business of paying every claim that crosses its desk, and if any of these reasons exist, or are believed to exist, by the insurance company, they may deny liability for the accident in question.

  • The police report is vague or unclear
  • The accident was not reported in a timely manner
  • The insurance policy was invalid
  • There is a belief that the damages were pre-existing

Police Report Clarity

Because Illinois is a fault based state, the police report will need to clearly state the determination of fault, or an insurance company may feel entitled, or even obligated, to deny liability. Even if the fault rests on both drivers, it will need to be clearly stated in the accident report filed at the time of the accident. This is one of the reasons it’s important to report your accident immediately.

If fault is shared between the drivers, it might be necessary for an expert to determine what percentage of fault lies with the other driver. If the accident was more than 50% the fault of the other driver, you may be entitled to compensation, but you’ll likely have to work to prove his or her percentage of fault to the insurance company.

Accident Not Reported in a Timely Manner

Each policy identifies how quickly the insurance company must be notified after an accident. If the other driver’s insurance company wasn’t notified by its customer, or by you soon after the accident, it may deny liability for the claim.  

While the other driver is responsible for reporting the accident to his or her own insurance company, it’s in your best interest to move quickly after an accident because the lapse in time between the accident and the reporting can affect the insurance company’s approach to other decision-making processes regarding your claim.

For example, if the time elapsed is considered excessive by the insurance company, it may attempt to argue that the damage to your vehicle or the injuries sustained by you as a result of the accident occurred after the date of the accident, and that it is just being added to this claim in order to take advantage of the car accident claims process for the incident in question.

The Policy Is Invalid

If the other driver’s policy is invalid for any reason, like missing a monthly premium payment, his or her insurance company may deny liability for the accident. They may even have solid legal standing to do so. This is a situation where having your own experienced car accident attorney will pay great dividends. An experienced lawyer will know the best ways to navigate this process and help you ensure you get compensation for your damages and losses, if possible.

Belief That Your Damages or Injuries Were Pre-Existing

If the insurance company believes your damages or injuries happened prior to the accident taking place, they are likely to deny liability for the claim. It may come to this conclusion by many different ways, but accident scene photos, the police report, prior insurance claims, and even checking your social media accounts are all tools that will be used to decide its position on the issue.

It’s important to seek medical attention at the time an accident takes place, even if you don’t initially feel any pain from injuries. Some injuries don’t show symptoms immediately. If you wait until later to see a doctor, you could be causing undue stress on your health. Additionally, by waiting to seek treatment, you could be giving the insurance compan ammunition to claim that your injuries were pre-existing or that they occurred after the accident, and that you are simply filing a claim in an effort to defraud them.

The same can be said for the accident report and for collecting detailed photos of the accident site and vehicles involved. You’ll also need to get names and contact info for any witnesses to the accident. You, or your attorney, will need to get statements from any witnesses as soon as possible, while the memory of the accident is fresh in their minds.

What to Do if Insurance Denies Liability

If an insurance company denies liability for an accident, you may have a lot of work in your future to fight them on the issue. You’ll need detailed photos of the accident site, surrounding area, and each vehicle involved. You’ll also need to get a copy of the police report and hope that it clearly states the fault of the other driver involved in the accident.  

If the police report doesn’t clearly state that the fault belongs to the other driver, or if they’ve determined the fault is shared, you’re likely to need the services of a professional accident reconstructionist to show proof that the insurance company’s represented driver was, indeed, at fault.  

You’ll also need detailed statements from any witnesses to the accident, and you’ll need to get them as soon as possible so that their memories are fresh. The longer they’ve had between the accident, and the time of their statement, the more likely it becomes that the insurance company will try to refute the information your witnesses provide.

Finally, you’ll need to get access to any traffic camera, security camera, or other footage that may be available, both from government agencies, and private businesses or individuals. This is also time sensitive, because many people and companies do not retain footage for an extended period of time, since there is no need for their businesses or homes.

Because so much of this process needs to be done correctly to ensure compliance, an experienced car accident attorney is crucial to your success. The insurance company has already proven to be contentious if they’ve denied your claim, and they aren’t likely to take an unrepresented claimant seriously. 

How a Car Accident Attorney Can Help

Injured victims may worry that a car accident attorney is going to be too expensive and that they’ll end up in a worse position than if they’d completed the claims process themselves. In most cases, this couldn’t be further from the truth. You’ll need to discuss billing options with your attorney at the initial consult, but many attorneys will offer you a free consult in order to discuss your options without any financial obligation from you.

At the initial consult, in addition to educating you about common misconceptions about car accident claims, your attorney will gather specific facts pertaining to your case, the accident itself, and any injuries or damages that you’ve sustained. He or she will then be able to help you determine the most productive course of action for your specific circumstances.

If it is determined that you have a valid claim against the insurance company, your attorney will have the ability to quickly track down witnesses to the accident and get statements made on the record for use in the settlement negotiation or trial. He or she will also be able to gain access to any surveillance camera footage that may be used to help prove that the other driver was at fault in your accident in a timely manner before the footage is erased and lost to you as evidence.

Your attorney will be intimately aware of the statute of limitations as it applies to your case, and will be able to put together an effective case prior to the time limits set aside by the state. In Illinois, you generally have 2 years from the date of the incident to file a lawsuit against an insurance company, but the longer you wait to start, the harder it will be to succeed in receiving compensation for your injuries and losses.

Insurance companies will take your claim much more seriously if they see that you’ve retained representation. They will know that they can’t fool your car accident attorney with smoke and mirrors the way they might have been able to with you alone. They are much more likely to be willing and even eager to reach a negotiated settlement if they know you have an attorney that will take them to trial.

Attorney Terry Dodds has been protecting the rights of the people of Bloomington, Illinois for over 20 years. Whether you were injured in an accident, or you have been charged with a crime, Terry Dodds can tip the scales of justice in your favor.

Years of Experience: More than 20 years
Illinois Registration Status: Active
Bar Admissions:Illinois State Bar Association Missouri State Bar Association McLean County Bar Association