How to Survive a Car Insurance Claim Under Investigation
If you’ve been in an accident and your vehicle has been damaged, you're likely hoping to receive enough money from an insurance claim, minus your deductible, to cover the related expenses. It's not always that easy, though, because the insurance company also is trying to save as much money as possible and not pay you any more than they absolutely have to. Expect your insurer to do everything it can to make sure it is paying no more money than necessary, and that might include finding cause to deny your claim in full or in part.
After You File
Once you’ve completed the process of filing a claim with your insurance company, a claims adjuster is usually assigned to your case. This person is an employee of the insurance company and is going to do as much work as is needed to pay you in a reasonable amount of time if your claim is legitimate and not pay you anything if it isn’t. This claims adjuster may contact you or your attorney for details and to confirm the information contained in your original insurance claim. If there was a serious accident, the adjuster may request a copy of the police report, contact witnesses listed, or even visit the scene of the accident.
He also is likely to ask you for photos of your car and might inspect it for damages. This is why it’s always a good idea to take photos of your car and/or the other car(s) involved in a collision as soon as you can after it happens.
Hiring a Lawyer
Whether or not you will need professional legal assistance depends on your individual case and circumstances. In a simple claim, you might not need to consult an attorney. However, if you were seriously injured or your insurance company is delaying the processing of the claim, you might want to consider getting legal help.
Many attorneys do not charge for an initial consultation to help you decide whether or not you want to hire them. That phone call alone can better prepare you for when the insurance adjustor likely asks about the very same issues.
If you were seriously injured and have racked up large medical bills, it is very likely that the insurance company will try to avoid paying for the cost of your treatment, whether or not they are obligated to, and it might make even more sense to take on an attorney in such a situation. An insurance company also is likely to request access to your medical history in an attempt to prove that you already were injured before the accident and the subsequent filing of your claim.
If your insurance company keeps making up excuses for why it still hasn't paid you after you’ve made a claim, that's another reason obtaining a lawyer may help.
Finally, once the insurance adjuster has processed your case, he likely will propose a settlement value. In cases of personal injury, if you don’t have an attorney, they may ask you to name the amount you’re willing to settle for. It’s usually better to see how much the company is willing to offer first and negotiate from there. This negotiation is not generally easy, however, and it may be helpful to work with a qualified personal injury lawyer.
Get your story straight
It’s hard to remember every detail of an accident, but it’s important that you do everything in your power to protect your memory and keep your facts straight. Though it’s inadvisable to give a claims adjuster a recording of what happened at the scene of an accident, it may be helpful to make such a recording for your own records. It’s also important to keep track of any documents and important information that go along with the accident, such as its date, location, description and copy of the police report and any medical documentation.
As previously mentioned, it’s a good idea to take photos of your vehicle and any other vehicle involved as soon after the accident if you can. If you yourself were injured, it’s a good idea to get photos of this if applicable as well.
The process of paying you for damages and losses is known as indemnification. Once fault and coverage is determined, the insurance company will either bargain with the other insurance company to determine the percentage they must pay, pay you the cost of your damages minus your deductible, or seek payment from the other driver’s insurer (called subrogation). For repairs, you likely will be asked to go to an auto shop approved by your insurance company. If you’re unhappy with the amount of the settlement you’re offered, it’s advisable to contact an attorney to discuss your options.
While the processing of an insurance claim might make you feel like you are on trial instead of like you are being a responsible adult, just remember that armed with the facts, you will get the money you deserve and that your policy covers. Always be on the offensive and arm yourself with proper documentation and a lawyer if necessary. A positive attitude never hurts, either.