So you’ve recently been in a car accident, now what? If you’re like many people, you’ve probably already contacted your insurance company and reported the incident. They may have already sent somebody out to take a look at your vehicle, or you may still be waiting for them to arrive. Whatever the case, here are some tips on making sure that your accident is valued correctly and fairly:
- Know exactly what happened: If possible, have things like witness statements and police reports waiting for your insurance adjuster when he or she arrives. Insurance adjusters are used to people stretching the truth or lying outright when it comes to their claims, so having all the facts available to him or her will give you a much more credible appearance. While he or she won’t simply hand you money that isn’t yours, credibility will make it much more likely for your claim to be approved.
- Find out who is legally at fault: Some states do not allow you to collect any damages at all if the accident was even partly your fault. Others may award you only a small percentage of your damages, should you be legally liable for the accident. Find out which case is valid for your state and whether or not fault matters. If it does matter, you’ll want as much evidence as possible that the accident wasn’t your fault.
- Think about hiring an attorney: It’s in the insurance company’s best interests to pay you as little as possible for your accident. Unfortunately, this can mean that they may deny your claim or pay out too little money for the incident in question. Consulting with an attorney may be the only way to get all the money that you’re supposed to.
- Document injuries: Not all accidents result in an injury but make sure to start gathering documentation if yours did. If you were hospitalized, make a folder that contains your hospital bills and any relevant medical records. Your insurance adjuster may want to obtain these records directly from the hospital itself. If this is so, make sure to carefully read any forms before signing. Some forms allow only limited access to relevant records, while others allow the insurance company to ask for any and all records from the hospital in question, whether they pertain to the accident or not.
- Get proof of expenses: Besides direct medical expenses, make sure to document other expenditures. For example, were you forced to use a rental car while your vehicle was in the shop? Did you need to hire a babysitter while you took care of things or went to doctor appointments? Make sure to get proof of all of these things, even if you think the insurance company won’t reimburse you. Although they may turn you down, there’s also a good chance that they will pay for at least some of your claimed expenses.
- Negotiate as needed: Due to the nature of the insurance business, your adjuster is likely to come back with the lowest price that the insurance company believes you’ll accept. While this could very well be a fair offer, chances are good that you’ll feel that you’re owed more. If you think the offer is unfair, don’t sign anything that the insurance company gives you. Instead, start trying to negotiate. For example, you may tell your adjuster that you need at least 3/4 of your rental car expenses covered, while they may come back and tell you that they’ll only pay half.
The entire claims process can seem confusing to the average person, especially when trying to decide how much to ask for when it comes to being compensated for pain and suffering. If the process is making you confused or if you think that the insurance company is being unjust, be sure to consult with an attorney as soon as possible.