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Notification to your insurance company following an accident

Many people wonder what type of obligations they are under to inform or notify their insurance company following a car accident.  In Iowa, car insurance is required by law, however, whether you make a claim against your insurance company for benefits provided under that policy is up to the individual policy holder.  There is no law in Iowa requiring that an insurance company be notified following an accident.  If the insured does not want to notify their insurance company they simply do not have to.  However, by failing to notify your insurance company about an accident, the policy holder risks being denied coverage for any injuries or damages sustained by them or possibly by any other individuals involved in the accident.

Generally, the notification requirements will be contained in the insurance policy itself and most policies require “prompt” notification.  The failure to “promptly” notify your insurance company following an accident may provide grounds for denial of coverage.  It is very important to be familiar with your insurance policy notification requirements and comply with those requirements following an accident. 

However, in Iowa even if a person completely fails to notify their insurance company in violation of the notification requirements of their policy it appears that the insurance carrier would not be able to legally deny coverage.  See Iowa Code Section 321A.21(6)(a);  See also Dave Ostrem Imports v. Globe American Caualty, 586 N.W. 2d 366 (Iowa 1998) (holding that once a accident occurs, liability by the insurance carrier cannot be denied because of policy violations.)

It is best to contact your insurance company in the event of an accident, however it is not necessary to do so until you have all of the information necessary in order to provide it to the insurance company such as: location of the accident; date and time; weather conditions; policy number(s); damage to vehicle(s); VIN and license plate numbers; other parties’ contact and insurance information; how the accident was caused; and most importantly any physical injuries. 

It is important to remember that insurance companies will record all claims made and can use any statements made by any individuals reporting the claim.  Therefore, it is usually best to speak with a qualified attorney before reporting an accident in order to avoid mistakenly saying something that the insurance company may use to deny benefits. This would most likely occur in the area of physical injuries when claims are reported too quickly before people are able to be thoroughly examined for injuries.  Whenever a claim is reported and the reporting party is asked whether any injuries have been sustained, the only two possible answers should be “yes” and “I’m not sure”.  One should never deny sustaining any injuries when reporting an accident especially when those injuries may not be apparent for several days or weeks following the accident.

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