Being in a traffic accident is a lot to deal with. After the fact, you and your insurance provider will need to agree on a proper reimbursement for damage to you and your property. The insurance company usually has the advantage here because they process claims every day. If this is your first traffic accident or your first time going through an insurance claims negotiation, continue reading as we go step by step on how to deal with insurance after an accident.
After an Accident
Document the Damages
Immediately after an accident, as long as you aren’t injured and can safely do so, take several pictures of any damage to your car, the other vehicles involved, and any property involved. If possible, take photos of the injuries suffered by anyone during the accident.
You can’t have too many pictures when it comes to handling insurance claims. These insurance companies want to pay you the least amount possible. According to NBALawfirm, having the proper documents, witnesses, and evidence to support your claims will help maximize your payout.
Call the Police
Not only can you save lives by dialing 911 after an accident, but it also helps document the events. Police officers will help gain information on the other driver and offer testimony if there is an issue with your claim.
Stay at the Scene
It’s important that you never leave the scene after a crash. You should always wait for the police to arrive. Once the accident has been reported to the proper authorities, hold tight and never admit fault to another driver or police officer at the scene.
Gather the Proper Information
The at-fault driver is always responsible for reporting the incident to their own insurance provider. Although it isn’t your responsibility, it’s smart to contact the other driver’s insurance company because people at fault are often hesitant to report them.
Have Your Doctor Bill Your Insurance
Some people have private insurance that will pay their medical bills during a settlement. However, many doctors or medical professionals won’t send the bill to your insurance automatically. Oftentimes these professionals would rather wait until you’ve settled and receive payment from your settlement. This is because some clinics have contracts with insurance companies that include lower fees. If you agree to wait for a settlement, you will just be lining their pockets instead of yours.
Rent a Reasonable Vehicle
Insurance companies try their hardest to keep any money they can out of your settlement. It’s common for rental reimbursements to be excluded. Insure.com found that you are more likely to see a return if you keep your rental vehicle reasonable and stay away from luxury rentals.
Know the Laws
Understanding your local prompt-payment laws will help you along this journey. Every state has an unfair practices act that outlines how long an insurance provider can wait before reimbursing you for your injuries and property damages.
Get an Attorney
An attorney is a great asset, especially if there is a dispute on your claim. An attorney will position the case and convince the adjuster to place value where it’s needed. If you attempt to go through this process alone, you risk saying the wrong thing or being tricked by the claims adjuster, per HG.
Handling the Insurance Company
Be Careful When Giving a Recorded Statement
According to I-Lawsuit, Adjusters will often say that they need information and ask if they could record the call. The only reason for an adjuster to record a call is for evidence in reducing the value of your claim later on. This is unfair because adjusters are trained to take recorded statements and people often give up more information than was warranted.
Know the Cost of Repairs
After the crash, you’ll need to file a report with your insurance company. A claims adjuster will estimate the expected cost to repair your vehicle and then make an offer to settle per ValuePenguin.
It’s always smart to receive multiple estimates. Take your vehicle to a trusted auto shop or find a reputable mechanic online. After getting multiple offers, you’ll have a good idea of how much the repair will cost you and thus how much your settlement should be. Never settle for less than you deserve.
If the first offer isn’t sufficient, negotiate. Now that you know the proper price of repair or replacement, you can negotiate the price of your settlement. Ask the adjuster to justify their settlement offer and come back with a number of your own.
Understand the Betterment Argument
One argument adjusters will make is the “betterment argument.” A repair shop will most likely use new parts to repair an older vehicle. This, in turn, makes the car worth more than before the incident occurred.
Insurance companies will charge you for the increased value or reduce your payout accordingly. It’s recommended that you try to prove the repairs will not change the value of your vehicle for the better. A mechanic’s testimony can go a long way in refuting the betterment argument.
If Your Car Is Totaled
When your vehicle is damaged extensively in a traffic accident, you might be dealing with a total loss. This happens if your insurance company determines the cost to repair your vehicle would exceed its actual value.
The amount of damage needed to declare a vehicle a total loss differs from state to state. Some states use a total loss threshold or TLT. With TLT, if the cost of repair exceeds a specific percentage of the car’s value, it can be called a total loss. Most states use a total loss formula or TLF. TLF means the cost to repair, plus the salvage value of your car, must exceed the market value to be considered a total loss.
When You Agree to Settle
Once you have negotiated a proper settlement price, you’ll need to put it in writing. This document will have the negotiated payout amount and any stipulation on how the money can be spent.
Being in a fender bender shouldn’t be the end of the world. Use these easy steps to get back your peace of mind. If you were injured due to a traffic accident, consider speaking to an attorney for information on claims options.
Check this out if you need additional information, resources, or guidance on car insurance.
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