Help Me Understand the Claims Process
First, the driver who caused the accident is just as responsible as you are to notify their insurance company. But there are times the responsible driver is reluctant to do so.
So rule #1…make sure you contact their insurance company as well as your own! Give them ONLY THE FACTS! Remember…no discussion about your feelings, who you think is at fault, etc. You’re just reporting the accident to be sure they are aware. They will insure their client has contacted them and will follow up with the authorities to get a copy of the accident report to begin the process on their end.
Rule #2…look out for yourself! Even if their insurance company confirms the facts of the accident with law enforcement and agrees with their assessment, they may require you to get authorization before you move forward with any repairs to your vehicle or any medical treatment. So to protect yourself, keep these things in mind:
Make sure the insurance company accepts liability IN WRITING
Check to see what authorizations are necessary before proceeding with any repairs or doctors’ visits
Remember, the insurance company can’t mandate where you should take your car for repairs. Most states allow you, the injured party, to make that decision.
Chances are you will receive an initial offer fairly quickly. DO NOT FEEL PRESSURED TO ACCEPT THE FIRST OFFER YOU GET. In fact, too many people accept the initial offer and find out when it’s too late that the offer barely scratches the surface of their repair and medical costs. And once it’s been accepted and spent, you won’t be able to go back for more money.
You always have the option to try and negotiate a better settlement agreement. Insurance adjusters have the authority to settle your accident within a specified dollar range. It’s certainly possible to represent yourself against a big insurance company and do so with a satisfactory outcome.
But before you decide to go this route, consider these two questions:
How badly are you hurt? If you sustained some moderate to serious injuries, have received quite a bit of medical treatment and have been out of work as a result, it would be a good idea to at least discuss your case with an attorney. Most attorneys offer free consultations and will not require payment until you receive your fair settlement.
Is it clear who’s at fault for the accident? Based on the severity of the injury, you could expect the insurance company to put up a fight. So once again, it may benefit you to have someone on your side who can fight for you and your best interest. They have the experience and in these situations, it’s usually worth the cost of hiring a lawyer.
In future sections, we’ll discuss these topics:
What’s My Best Chance of Getting a Fair Settlement?
What’s a Lien and How Can I Protect Myself?
Let us know what’s on your mind and what topics you’d like for us to cover? We want to provide as much help to our community as we can and in the process, protect you and your rights if you are ever involved in an accident!