How to Survive a Car Insurance Claim Under Investigation
If you’ve been in an accident and/or your vehicle has recently been severely damaged (or at least damaged in a way that will cost more than your deductible to repair), one of the first things you did in the days that followed was probably filing a claim with your car insurance company. While you should pat yourself on the back for being a responsible adult and getting through this tough situation, unfortunately, the process of what comes next can be somewhat of a hassle.
After you file an insurance claim, you’re hoping to receive enough money from the insurance you’ve paid for to cover the costs of the accident or damage — sounds simple enough, right? Well, the insurance company is also trying to save as much money as possible and not pay you any more than they absolutely have to.
What Happens 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 as such, they’re 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 will likely review your policy and contract to see exactly what is covered under the plan you paid for and compare it to your claim.
They may then contact you or your attorney for further 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. They will also likely ask you for photos of your car or in some cases inspect it for damages themselves. 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.
Do I Need a Lawyer?
It depends on your individual case and circumstances. In a simple claim with few delays, you might not need to consult an attorney. But if you were seriously injured or your insurance company is delaying the processing of the claim, you might want to consider taking legal council.
If you decide you might need an attorney, you should call a trusted law firm and speak with them about your case. This call is usually free, and a good firm will ask you questions about your case and let you know any serious problems they think will arise or prevent them from taking on your case. Just this phone call alone will make you more prepared 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 this situation. The insurance company will also likely request access to your medical history in an attempt to prove that you were already injured before the accident and subsequent filing of your claim.
If your insurance company keeps making up excuses for why they still haven’t paid you after you’ve made a claim, obtaining a lawyer may help.
Finally, once the insurance adjuster has processed your case, they will likely propose a settlement value — and 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.
The unfortunate fact of filing an insurance claim is the reality that you’re subjecting yourself to an investigation from the insurance company and their insurance adjuster. They have all the incentive to find negative or conflicting information that will make them less obligated to pay your money. They will check whether or not you’ve filed a claim before — and they will also use all of the modern tools at their disposal to make sure you’re not pulling a fast one on them.
If you file a $10,000 insurance claim asserting that you broke your femur in an accident in November but snap a selfie from the ski slopes in December, the insurance company will know something is up. In addition to insurance fraud being highly illegal, it’s not smart to get caught trying to defraud a company in such an obvious way — and it will likely have serious impacts on your life. Insurance fraud is generally easily caught — don’t even try it.
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 unadvisable 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.
When It’s Time to Pay Up
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 (this is called subrogation). For repairs, you will likely 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.