When Marcy, an older driver who prides herself in obeying all the rules of the road, was in an accident, she was shocked. On her way home from shopping, she made a right turn from the center lane and suddenly collided with another vehicle. Since she had traveled it many times before, Marcy knew this particular street like the back of her hand, and was dumbfounded that someone would go straight in a turn-only lane.
Thankfully, Marcy wasn’t hurt, and only her car was damaged. The other driver escaped injury as well and only had minor vehicle damage. A police officer was in the area and told them that since both cars were operational they could do the police report at the police station, instead of in the busy intersection. Marcy and the other driver went to police station to file a report. The administrative assistant at the station told Marcy that whatever driver’s name is listed first on the report is generally the person at fault. Marcy had no doubt it would be the other driver. However, taking no chances she asked the officer writing the report to make sure she was not listed first.
After an hour or so, Marcy’s left hip began to bother her, so at the advice of her husband, who met her at the police station, she decided to go straight to the emergency room of the nearest hospital. As it turned out, she had a visible bruise, but thankfully no broken bones or fractures. The emergency room physician recommended that Marcy stay home a few days and follow-up with her private doctor.
While she was in the emergency room, Marcy’s husband called their insurance company and contacted the claims department. They were very accommodating and asked to talk to Marcy, so she could tell them exactly what happened. Since Marcy had her copy of the police report with her, she had all the information the insurance company needed about the other driver and his insurance carrier. In addition, Marcy had the foresight to take pictures of both cars after the accident, which she later sent to her insurer. Marcy explained her injury and the car damage, and her husband received a claim number and was told to expect a call the next day. Contacting the insurance company right away helped expedite Marcy’s claim.
After the Accident: What Do You Need to Know?
When dealing with an insurance company after an accident, the victim of the accident is always at a disadvantage. Insurance companies train their employees in techniques designed to get a victim to admit fault, take a low-ball settlement, or otherwise devalue a personal injury claim. The insurance company is always trying to pay as little as possible when settling a claim. When you’re dealing with an insurer, it helps to know what information you should expect and what you’re required to provide. Ultimately, though, enlisting a personal injury attorney is your best option in getting a fair settlement from an insurer after an accident.
You Should Notify Relevant Insurers Right Away
You should notify both insurers after an accident — the at-fault party’s insurer, as well as your own. If you wait too long to notify the at-fault insurer, or if you don’t notify your own insurer, the other party’s insurance company may argue that the damage wasn’t severe, or may disagree with your account of the accident. Failure to report an accident promptly can lead to your claim being rejected, or can compromise your settlement.
Be Prepared to Give Accident Details
The insurer will probably ask you to relate the accident details, such as where, when and how it happened. They may ask for additional information, such as what you were doing when the accident occurred, or ask about your state of mind when the accident occurred. Were you thinking about work or your family? Were you distracted? These techniques give the insurer the grounds to argue fault, comparative negligence, or otherwise devalue your claim. Stick to the facts pertaining to the accident, and don’t provide unnecessary detail about thoughts or feelings at the time of the accident. And finally, never admit fault.
The Insurer May Ask for a Statement
Once you notify the insurer of the accident, the company may ask for a written or recorded statement. In most cases, you’re not legally obligated to provide a statement unless the insurer pursues a court order, which is rare. The insurer will typically try to use the statement to show that you contributed to the accident and devalue your claim, so you should definitely consult with a good Personal Injury Attorney before you provide any sort of statement.
You Should Expect Written Correspondence from the Insurer
After you’ve notified the insurer of the accident, you can expect written correspondence to follow the initial phone call. You’ll get a letter from the insurer acknowledging your claim, and it should include important information such as your claim number and contact information for your adjuster.
The written correspondence may contain details about where to bring your vehicle for repair, or where to go for a follow-up medical exam. Alternately, the insurer may ask for more information about your claim. Pay close attention to any written correspondence from the insurer – a failure to comply with the insurer’s instructions or to reply in a timely manner can jeopardize your claim.
After an Adjuster has Reviewed Your Claim, You Should Find Out How Much They Will Pay in Damages
Once an adjuster has reviewed your claim and looked at your vehicle, you should get an estimate of how much the insurer will pay for the damages. It’s common for insurers to say they’ll only reimburse you for part of the damage. Sometimes they will argue over some of the damages, claiming it couldn’t have been caused by the accident, or that it’s merely cosmetic, and refuse to pay for the full repair. Insurers are more likely to argue over the damages if the vehicle is old or if it appears to be poorly maintained. If the insurer won’t pay the full dollar amount of your damages, you should consult an attorney before you have the work done.
The Insurer May Ask for Bills and Proof to Validate Your Claim
It’s likely that the insurer will ask for all of your bills and expenses to validate your claim. The insurer wants very specific financial information. In other words, a break-down of every medical expense and bill will likely be necessary for potential reimbursement for your injuries/damage. Make sure to hold on to every bill and piece of data you receive, and document as much as you can throughout the process. Insurance companies don’t take people’s word for it — they want proof and details to support all claims. This is where it’s particularly helpful to work with a good Personal Injury Attorney who can prepare your documentation and make sure everything is in order to back-up your claim.
Consult a Personal Injury Attorney Before You Settle for Too Little
Before you accept any insurance company settlement, you should consult a good Personal Injury Attorney. As mentioned above, insurers train their employees in a variety of techniques to avoid paying out in personal injury claims. It’s critical to enlist the aid of an experienced Personal Injury Lawyer who knows when these techniques are being used to falsely diminish the value of your claim. If you accept a settlement without talking with an attorney first, you could find yourself missing out on thousands of dollars – or potentially tens of thousands of dollars – in potentially entitled damages.