What Do I Do When the Accident Was Caused by My Spouse?
If you were injured because of someone else’s negligence, you have a right to collect damages to compensate you for your medical bills, lost wages, and your pain and suffering. But what happens when the person who caused the injury was your spouse? What happens when the accident occurs while you are riding with your spouse, in a vehicle you both own, insured under a policy you both paid for? One thing an insurer will never tell you is that your claim is every bit as valid as if you were injured by some other driver.
Our Appleton car accident lawyers are frequently asked, “whose policy of insurance applies to the loss?” You and your spouse’s auto policy applies. Although you are insured under the policy, you still qualify as a claimant. An automobile policy covers an insured person for all claims, even those brought by spouses and other relatives or friends who were in the vehicle when the accident happened. The only requirement is that the driver was in-fact negligent in the operation of the vehicle. In addition to the liability coverage, there are also medical payments to help with medical bills. That coverage is available to all occupants, including the at-fault driver if necessary.
The claim is made like any other claim. The insurer is notified of the injuries and the facts of the accident. Although the insurance company involved is your insurer, they take on a new and adversarial role as it is turned over to their claims-handling staff. In other words, your spouse becomes the insured they are trying to protect while they work to attack the value of your claim.
Just because you paid the premium, you should not expect the insurer to treat you fairly. They will defend the claim vigorously and will use every bit of information they can gather against you and your claim.
At some point, it may become necessary to file a lawsuit. Technically your claim would be against your spouse. Wisconsin, however, has enacted what is called a “direct action” statute which allows the lawsuit to be filed against the insurer directly. In other words, there is no need to bring a lawsuit against your spouse. This is a great law to help avoid awkward dinner conversations, and maybe keep date night intact! Your spouse may still be a necessary witness, but as long as they tell the truth, all should go smoothly, and your claim should be paid in full.
We are frequently asked whether making claims against your own insurance policy will impact your premiums. It is difficult to know the factors that go into insurer’s underwriting decisions. Generally speaking, when someone makes a claim, the insurer feels compelled to raise premiums. In this case, however, it is certainly short-sighted to forego your right to be fully compensated for the tens of thousands of dollars in expenses and loss merely to avoid a short-term premium increase.
In short, a claim against a spouse is every bit as valid as a claim against any other driver. If you suffered an injury because your spouse was negligent, your auto claim must be taken just seriously. Given the circumstances, there are many pitfalls, nuisances, and emotional dimensions the insurer will seek to exploit. Do not face the insurance company alone. You need to ensure your claim is handled correctly. Call the Green Bay auto accident attorneys at Brian Hodgkiss Injury Lawyers to handle every aspect of your accident claim.