Tips for Dealing With Car Insurance Companies After an Accident
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After a car accident, you'll have to submit a claim to an insurance adjuster to get your claim processed. But how can you complete the settlement process swiftly and easily? In this article, you'll learn several tips on how to deal with an insurance company after a car accident to get what you need to move forward.
Expect a Call from Your Insurance Adjuster
Following an accident, you should file a claim with your auto insurance company if you the damages will cost more than your deductible. After the carrier processes your paperwork, you can expect a phone call from an insurance claims adjuster.
Insurance adjusters are representatives who determine whether auto insurance claims are valid. They sometimes work on behalf of the insurer, or the person who files an insurance claim.
Car accidents are a leading reason why claimants contact insurance adjusters. Their determinations can significantly impact how much compensation you receive for an auto accident.
There are three types of insurance adjusters: staff, independent and public. Here are the responsibilities of each adjuster.
Staff Adjuster – These are direct employees of an insurance company.
Independent Adjuster – These are contract employees that work with an insurance carrier.
Public Adjuster – This professional works on behalf of a driver filing an insurance claim.
Once the insurance adjuster contacts you, they'll schedule a meeting with you. During the meeting, they'll ask you about facts related to the accident. The adjuster will also ask to look at any vehicle damage to estimate how much it will cost to repair the car.
Research the Market Value of your Vehicle
After you schedule a time to meet with your insurance adjuster, it's time to do a little research. Your first step is to research the market value of your vehicle and its repairs.
You should never meet with a claims adjuster before finishing your research. For instance, learn the actual cash value of your car before you speak with your carrier about the settlement. This estimate will arm you with enough information to determine whether the insurance company has offered you a suitable settlement that will cover your repair or replacement costs.
Claims adjusters usually work on behalf of the insurance company's interests. They are the final arbiters who determine the settlement that a car insurance carrier will pay. For instance, they determine whether your claim is a first-party one (where you receive the benefits after an accident), or a third-party one (where they pay other people for damages you've caused).
These professionals want to keep the repair and settlement costs low for the insurance company. When they estimate how much money repairs will cost, they may not be enough to pay for your total costs, and you may have out-of-pocket costs. Claims adjusters also determine how much the insurer will pay if your car is a total loss.
Bring your vehicle to several body shop mechanics and ask for an estimate. You'll use the highest and lowest estimates as benchmarks to determine whether the settlement an insurer offers is reasonable. Additionally, keep track of your medical bills. Speak with a medical provider or healthcare advocate to learn how much care you'll need and the estimated costs of your treatment.
Document All Accident-Related Losses
When you provide evidence of your losses, an insurer is less likely to offer a settlement that's too low. Insurers approve or deny a persons' claims based on the evidence presented. Document all losses to quantify your costs. Keep records of the following expenses and losses:
- Medical Records
- Doctor Recommendations
- Vehicle Repair Estimates
- Police Reports
- Email Correspondences
- Copies of Submitted Forms and Insurance Paperwork
- Additional Documents Related to Your Accident
- Photographs of Injuries and Vehicle Damage
Additionally, ask your healthcare provider for written proof that you could not complete your job due to your injuries.
Keep all of this paperwork in one place so you can refer to it when necessary. For instance, you can keep it inside a single folder, binder or file cabinet and bring this information out as you need it.
Be Polite When Meeting with the Insurance Adjuster
During your meeting with the insurance adjuster, you must stay calm and professional. Car accidents are traumatic events that can stir up many emotions within survivors. If an insurance adjuster tells a person information they may not agree with, they can become upset or angry.
It isn't a good idea to take your anger out on an insurance adjuster. This professional is less likely to work with you to get a fair settlement. If you are nice, the insurance agent may quickly handle your claim. They may be more likely to listen to you and believe your side of the story about the accident.
Request Contact Information from all Insurance Company Representatives
Don't discuss your car accident without getting the correct contact information from the insurance company representative. It will allow you to track which person has given you information about your accident. You can also call them back with questions about your coverage and potential payout.
Ask for the following information:
- Insurance Company/Office Branch
- Phone number
- Email address
- any other contact information.
Be Cautious when Signing Documents or Providing Statements Related to Your Car Accident
Your insurance company will ask you to sign documents or record statements following your accident.
Don't agree to do this without carefully reviewing all paperwork. In some cases, this documentation can restrict your legal rights and prevent you from pursuing the full value of your claim. If necessary, have a personal injury lawyer review all documents to advise you of your rights before you sign them.
If you suffer serious injuries in a car accident, consider having a personal injury attorney represent you. They can advise you whether the insurance company is offering you a fair settlement. Many attorneys will review the merits of a lawsuit during a free consultation.
Additionally, you shouldn't voluntarily give the insurance company information. There are several things you shouldn't do when speaking with an insurance adjuster. Here are several tips you should keep in mind when giving a statement to an insurance company:
Don't admit fault - The insurance company can use your statement against you and lower your settlement.
Do not make accusations against the other party - Simply report what happened to the insurance company. Both parties share some blame for an accident.
Be careful with recorded statements - Be cautious when the insurance company records your statements. These statements can be used against you in the future. Many auto insurance companies listen to these recordings to find inconsistencies in your story. If they believe your story doesn't align with the facts of your case, it could affect the coverage or settlement amount you receive.
Don't give out any unnecessary details - If the insurance adjuster doesn't ask you a question about your accident, don't volunteer any unnecessary details, unless they ask you for them. They can use any information against you.
Don't allow them to record your statement - This recording can be used against you. The insurance company can analyze your recording to learn if there are inconsistencies in your story, or use an innocuous remark against you.
Don't exaggerate or underrepresent your medical conditions - These are red flags to an insurance company that you may be lying about your health conditions so you can get a bigger settlement. Additionally, don't say you're fine if you're not 100 percent sure you're well. Some health conditions make appear later after an accident. Make sure every health claim you make can be backed up by a physician.
Don't immediately accept the first settlement given by your insurance company - Take time to review it before coming to a decision.
If necessary, hire an attorney to speak on your behalf before you speak with the insurance company.
You Don't Have to Sign the Insurer's Medical Release Forms
Some insurance companies ask for the claimant to sign a medical release. This document allows an insurance company to get access to your medical records. Some carriers ask for access to your healthcare records for an extended time to find out if you have pre-existing conditions. They can use these conditions as a justification to deny your claim.
Consider the Reservation of Rights Form
You may receive a letter called the reservation of rights document. It says that the insurance company will discuss the claim, but they won't admit liability. Ask an attorney or counsel whether you should sign this form.
Negotiating with the Insurance Company
The first offer that most insurance companies make is rarely fair, and it may not be enough to pay your bills. You may have to enter into negotiations with your insurance carrier before starting a court case. Most insurance companies don't want to end up in a courtroom, so they may be willing to negotiate with you to increase your settlement offer, instead of litigating the case.
Most people will need to make vehicle repairs following a car accident. They'll also have outstanding medical bills they must pay. Some insurers will take advantage of accident victims when they are most vulnerable by visiting them in a hospital and offering them a lower settlement amount.
If the insurance company's settlement offer doesn't match the repair estimates you received, you should consider negotiating with the insurance company to avoid litigation, which will require hiring a lawyer. You can decline the insurance company's offer and seek a higher amount without bringing the matter to court.
Before you start negotiations with the insurance company, have a settlement amount in mind and a minimum amount that you would accept. You should base the highest and lowest values on the estimates you've received from several mechanics and online resources. If necessary,
This step minimizes the amount that the insurer will have to pay for your repairs, medical costs and lost wages, but it could leave you with expensive bills to pay.
If the offer seems fair, stay calm and avoid showing any emotion when speaking with the insurance adjuster. If it doesn't sound fair, continue your negotiations.
Have you reached an impasse with the insurance company and still don't consider their offer fair? Consider asking a personal injury attorney to represent you.
Betterment: Repairs that Increase Your Vehicle's Value
Do you need new parts for your vehicle due to damages after a car wreck? An adjuster may argue that having new parts placed in your vehicle which would increase it more than its original value before the accident. Insurers call this situation "betterment" of a vehicle. Most insurers will charge the excess value or reduce their payment in proportion to the increase.
You'll have to get testimony from an expert witness, like a mechanic, to counter the insurance company's argument about betterment.
Your State Laws Could Diminish Your Claim
Another issue that can affect your payout is your state laws. Some areas limit third-party claims (including property damage and bodily injury liability) depending on who is at fault for the accident and where you live.
For instance, some states require pure contributory negligence. It means a person has to be blameless in a car crash before they can collect money. These areas include Alabama, Maryland, North Carolina, Virginia and Washington, D.C. In pure comparative states, the driver's payout is based on a percentage of fault. Remember to have as much information as possible when dealing with the insurance company.
Understand that Your Insurance Settlement is Permanent
After you finish negotiations, get your settlement in writing. Remember this payout is final. Make sure to get all finalized details of the contract written and sent to you.
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