Leased Cars and Accidents: What To Do

For many of us, leasing a car is an option that makes good financial sense, and leasing has emerged as a popular alternative to buying a new car. However, there will be some complications if you’re involved in a traffic accident while driving a leased car, and you’ll have to take some important steps. If anyone is injured in a collision involving a leased vehicle, the legal questions can quickly become even more complicated.

After any traffic accident, your top priority must be your safety and health and the safety and health of the others involved. If you are not seriously injured, check on the condition of all the other drivers and passengers involved and summon medical help if necessary. You’ll also need the police to document what they find and to interview those involved and any other witnesses. You may also need the testimony of the officers if you file a personal injury claim. Make certain that you will be able to obtain of copy of the accident report.

After any accident, you also need to exchange some information with the other drivers or drivers, including all contact information and insurance details. Be sure to obtain accurate driver’s license numbers, license plate numbers, and telephone numbers. You will need this information later, particularly if you file a claim for damages or for personal injury. If the other driver is too intoxicated or too seriously injured to cooperate with you, ask the police to help you obtain this information.

If you can, you should also take as many photos as possible of the general accident scene, the vehicle damage, and the visible injuries. Photos are undeniable evidence of an accident and injuries. Memories fade over time, and photographs can also deter witnesses from lying or exaggerating. While people don’t always tell the truth, photos do. Take plenty, because the right photographs can often make all the difference in a personal injury case.

WHY IS SEEKING MEDICAL ATTENTION IMPERATIVE AFTER AN ACCIDENT?

You also must seek medical treatment immediately or as soon as possible after an accident, even if you don’t think or feel like you are injured. Failing to seek medical care at once after an accident could damage your credibility if you subsequently choose to pursue compensation. If you didn’t bother to seek medical treatment immediately, the insurance company can charge that your injuries were “obviously” not very serious. If you wait, or if you don’t seek any medical treatment whatsoever, you’ll be unprepared to file a personal injury claim if you need to.

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Seeking immediate medical attention is also imperative because it’s common to feel no pain at all right after a traffic crash. Swelling and bruises often appear hours later. When an accident occurs, adrenaline runs through your system and masks some of the pain. In other cases, you might experience aching or soreness after an accident. It might fade away – or it might develop into a serious medical condition.

IF YOU LEASE A VEHICLE, HOW DO YOU REPORT AN ACCIDENT?

Almost every vehicle lease requires the party leasing the vehicle to carry insurance on the vehicle. Most vehicle lease agreements require you to contact the automobile dealership or the leasing agency after you’ve been involved in an accident. Every auto insurance policy also requires you to notify your insurance company immediately following any collision in a leased vehicle.

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Contact your insurance company promptly after an accident, even if you believe the other driver is at fault, because there may be benefits available to you through your own auto insurance policy. If the other driver may not have car insurance, notifying your insurance company is even more important. When you contact your insurance company, be ready to give them the following information:

  • the name, address, and telephone numbers of the other drivers and vehicle occupants
  • the insurance policy information for the other driver or drivers
  • the name of the law enforcement agency that responded
  • the date, time, and location of the collision

The insurance company will arrange for a claims adjuster to evaluate the damages to the vehicle. An adjuster may be sent to your location, or the insurance company may send you to a local field office or body shop. The company will then tell you the steps you must take to have the vehicle repaired. The leasing company may have precise requirements for any repairs, so they also must be notified at once. For example, some dealerships will not allow you to repair a leased vehicle with after-market parts rather than original manufacturer parts. Make sure you understand all of the terms of your lease, or you could be looking at financial penalties when it expires.

HOW DO YOU PURSUE A CLAIM FOR DAMAGES?

Pursuing a claim for vehicle damage to a leased vehicle is the same process as if you owned the vehicle outright. You will need to contact the other driver’s insurance company, which will either accept your claim or dispute it. If the insurance company accepts the claim, it will have you gather estimates for the repairs and will eventually authorize the repairs. If the company denies your claim, then different options are available to you, such as suing the other driver for the property damage.

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However, if you’ve sustained a personal injury, don’t even speak with the insurance company. In the state of Colorado, when you sustain a serious injury in a traffic accident, it’s best to obtain the advice and services of an experienced Denver personal injury attorney before you sign any insurance forms or make any statements regarding your accident or injury. Unless your attorney advises you to do so, don’t settle with an insurance company. Quite often, insurance adjusters try to cajole a personal injury victim into settling for an amount that’s far less than the personal injury claim is actually worth.

The right personal injury attorney can determine if you have grounds to file a claim, and if you do, that attorney will know what it will take for you to prevail. In the state of Colorado, if an insurance company will not compensate you fully and fairly for personal injuries after a traffic accident, an experienced Denver personal injury attorney can negotiate with the insurance company on your behalf or take your claim to a jury and ask that jury for the compensation you need and the justice you deserve.

By: Dallas Norton

Dallas Norton, the founding partner of Norton & Bowers, has practiced law with a focus on personal injury since 1992. Mr. Norton has extensive Colorado roots including grade school in Arvada and high school in Denver. He earned his J.D. from Brigham Young University Law School in 1991. When working on behalf of clients, Mr. Norton draws upon his extensive background in psychology and human resources.