Maybe you just got into an accident. Whether it was an accidental fender bender or a serious collision, being the at-fault driver is never an easy role to play. Following the jarring experience of being in a car accident, you may have to deal with communicating and compromising with your insurance company. This process involves tactfulness, as saying the wrong thing could hurt your chances at a fair claim. Deciding on a fair insurance offer after an accident involves patience and assertiveness.

Inspection

Once you’ve contacted your insurance company to tell them about the damages, they will send an adjuster to inspect your vehicle. The purpose of this inspection is to determine how much it will cost to repair or replace any parts of the vehicle. It’s best to be with the adjuster at the time he or she comes to look at your car so no issues go accidentally overlooked. If you feel the inspection resulting in too low of an estimate, don’t hesitate to bring your vehicle to a few mechanic shops to make sure the adjuster’s estimation is correct.

Negotiation

If you don’t believe the estimate is adequate for the amount of damage your car faced, you are entitled to negotiate a better price. This negotiation process will go more smoothly if you have a higher estimate from a local mechanic.

Though you may believe the insurance company has the upper hand, your position as the paying customer has a significant amount of power in this process. As a customer of your insurance company, you should feel empowered enough to negotiate any costs as you see fit. If you believe you should be receiving a higher payout than what your insurance company is offering, don’t hesitate to challenge them; it’s your right. Stick to your guns but be reasonable. Realistically, if you’ve presented an estimate from a mechanic, your settlement will be somewhere between the two estimates.

Total Loss

If the accident was severe, your vehicle might be written off as a “total loss.” In this case, the cost of repairs on the vehicle exceed the car’s value. In this case, repairing it would not be worth it. If the adjuster declares your vehicle a Total Loss, you may offer a rebuttal; in particular, if you have added modifications to your vehicle, an adjuster may underestimate the car’s value. However, it might be better for you to simply purchase a new vehicle instead. When a vehicle is declared a Total Loss, the driver’s insurance company will offer a settlement that can be put toward a new car. Though this cost may be small, it might be worth it if your vehicle is old and prone to issues.

If you’ve caused an accident, you should expect your insurance premiums to increase. If you don’t have accident forgiveness insurance, these costs can be steep. If you get into an accident and feel that your insurer is not offering you a fair enough settlement, or simply is not handling the situation as well as you would have liked, you may want to shop  for auto insurance quotes and consider working with a different insurance company in the future. High premium increases in addition to the deductible you’ll have to pay after an accident can be difficult expenses to handle; working with a new company may lessen the burden.