Chances are, if you were in an accident, you filed a claim. If you’re at partial or full fault, there’s significant damage or another driver is responsible—it’s a good idea to do so. Of course, it’s also common to assume that filing a claim is the easy part after dealing with the chaos of a collision. Unfortunately, that’s not always the case.
Car accidents are stressful enough. You shouldn’t have to deal with additional troubles just to settle your claim. Let us help make the process easier with these tips.
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How Does the Claims Process Work?
To start, let’s consider how the claims process works. When you file a claim, an adjuster will be assigned to your case. Typically, they’ll review your policy to see what you are covered for and then they may contact you for additional information in order to reach a settlement. Be sure to review your own copy of your car insurance policy so that you are prepared.
The claims adjuster will likely wish to review the police report, talk to witnesses, inspect your car, see photographs, view the accident scene and speak with medical providers. From there, they will cover your vehicle repairs until it’s determined who is at fault, in which case they may speak with the other driver’s insurance company. The car insurance adjuster will then come back with a settlement offer for you. At that point, you can negotiate if you disagree with the offered amount. Remember that both you and the insurance adjuster are allowed to suggest offers. While an adjuster is there to determine a fair settlement, they do still work for your insurance company, so you should feel free to argue your case.
Here are some tips for dealing with claims adjusters and information about what you need to know to make the process easier.
Car Insurance Claim Tips:
- File an Accident Report
Always file an accident report with the police after a collision occurs. A report can act as evidence for your insurer and also provide an additional perspective.
- Contact Your Insurer
Contact your insurer right away if the accident caused injuries or damages, regardless of fault. In rare cases, it may be in your best interest to pay for the car’s damage up front rather than deal with a premium increase, but most of the time, your best option is to speak with your insurer. After all, you do pay a premium for insurance so you should use it when you need to.
- Speak with Witnesses
At the accident scene, see if you can speak with any witnesses. The police, and your provider, will likely want to talk to any witnesses, and obtaining their contact information for a witness statement can be valuable for the claims process as they offer another testimonial.
- Always Take Pictures
Take photographs of the accident scene and account for vehicle damage. You should always take photos of your own car’s damage as well as any other cars involved. These pictures can act as evidence in case you need to debate a false claim or negotiate a settlement amount later on.
Adjuster Negotiation Tips:
- Have a Settlement in Mind
Preparation is necessary. Have a minimum settlement in mind, along with reasons and evidence for it. If you have a discussion without any idea of what you want, than you may automatically accept the first offer you get. Consider how much your car will cost to repair as well as medical expenses and injuries.
- Keep Important Records
Be sure to hold onto important records after an accident. Keep your medical records and bills, as well as any repair slips in a safe place. Your insurance company will want to see these as well as a copy of the police report. Stay organized and prepared. It may even be worth it to gather pre-accident maintenance receipts if you’ve recently purchased new car parts or upgraded features. Those may help prove your car’s condition, especially if your vehicle is older.
- Request Explanations
If your adjuster comes back with a low offer, you can always request an explanation. Adjusters may start with a low offer to see if you’ll accept the settlement. Don’t be afraid to negotiate and identify reasons for why you believe the amount should be larger. Do your research and find out multiple repair estimates so that you can have an accurate number in mind.
- Determine Your Car’s Worth
If your vehicle was totaled, determine your car’s worth. In some states, you have the right to an independent appraiser so that can be helpful if you disagree with your insurer’s estimate. Car carriers typically determine your vehicle’s value by using comparables in your area to see their worth. You can ask to see this list and even ask them to use only the top two or three to find an average. You always have the right to dispute just how similar these cars are to your own as long as you have reasons and evidence to back up your argument. Try researching your car’s current (Blue Book) value online or talk to dealerships.
- Write a Demand Letter
In certain situations, it’s a good idea to write out the facts and circumstances of the accident and give it to your adjuster. Set up your strongest case to the insurance company and provide notes about your injuries, daily limitations, and any other pertinent evidence.
- Consider Other Repair Shops
Don’t necessarily go to your insurer’s preferred repair shop. If your car isn’t that old, you may be better off suggesting the manufacturer’s repair center for the highest quality or using your usual mechanic. Repair shops often work out deals with auto insurers to become a recommended option. The insurer’s preferred repair center could be excellent, just remember that you do have the option to look around.
- Don’t Settle...But Know When to Stop
Compromise is necessary for negotiation. Go ahead and highball an offer, but prepared to bring your number down. Having a minimum settlement in mind can help decide on a fair amount. Unfortunately, the older your car is, the less you’ll get, as its value has decreased. This can be frustrating, as your car may hold a more significant monetary and sentimental value to you—especially considering how much of a hassle car shopping can be. Have the evidence ready to back up your car’s worth so you, and your adjuster, can settle on a fair amount.
Still Can’t Agree? Here Are Your Options:
If you still can’t reach a settlement with your claims adjuster, you do have other options.
- Small Claims Court
- Hire an Attorney
- Take the Claim to an Alternate Adjuster
Weigh out the costs and benefits of taking these extra steps. Hiring an attorney or going to a small claims court can be costly. Remember that your claims adjuster wants to reach a settlement just as much as you do. However, if you do go forward with any of these actions, be sure to have an amount in mind and evidence to support your reasoning. You deserve what your car is worth.
Once you resolve a claim, you’re well on your way to driving your vehicle again. Get your car back into top shape and be on the roads in no time.
Photo credit: Usien