Automobile Accidents and Insurance Companies
After an automobile accident, it is very important to find out if you are eligible to file a claim with your car insurance company. If you are eligible, a claim goes through a process leading to a settlement. How your insurance company investigates an accident claim can vary depending upon various circumstances, such as: the type and severity of the accident, your policy, did the accident involve property damage, bodily injury, or both.
Filing a claim – It is very important to contact your insurance company as soon as possible after being involved in an automobile accident whether or not you are the at-fault driver or the injured driver. Once you contact your insurance company they will take the necessary steps to investigate the accident.
When you file a claim – A claims adjustor will be assigned to your case who will review your policy to make sure you are covered. You might be asked to provide more details about the accident. During the claims investigation, the adjustor may ask for the following information: a police report, the other driver’s contact information, talk to any witnesses if there were any available and willing to talk to your insurance company, visit the scene of the accident, inspect your car for damages, take photos of your car, ask you to sign a medical release form to be able to review your records, and contact any/all medical providers for information pertaining to your bodily injury expenses.
Medical care – Your insurance company may cover your injuries and repairs until fault is determined and then negotiate with the at-fault insurance company to determine which company will pay. The process for initial payment is called “Indemnification” which means coverage for damages and losses.
If the other driver is at-fault, your insurance company will pursue payment from the insurance company through a process called “subrogation”.
Car repairs – There are a couple of options when it involves getting your vehicle repaired. Typically, you must use an insurance-approved body shop at the request of your claims adjustor to receive an estimate of the repairs to your vehicle. The adjustor may require you to get more than one estimate for the repairs in order to make a comparison of the estimates.
You might be able to choose the body shop of your choice; however, you may have to pay the difference between your insurance company’s body shop’s estimate and the amount of what your insurance company will determine is a fair price.
Medical bills – If the claim you have filed with your insurance company includes medical expenses for an injury you received from the automobile accident, your adjustor will require evidence of any/all medical bills. You may have to sign a waiver granting permission for your insurance company to obtain your medical records. It may be wise to speak to an attorney before signing the waiver because once you have signed a waiver, information in your medical records may be used to lower your claim.
Accident information – Make sure you provide as much information about the automobile accident as possible to your insurance adjustor so you can obtain the best settlement. You may have to submit additional information, such as: your insurance policy number (usually stated on your insurance card), the date of the accident, your best description of how the accident occurred; the other parties’ information (name, insurance company, policy number, phone number, etc.), police department, and the most important piece, the police report.
Official records – During the investigation phase, your adjustor may review the amount of property damage, police report, and any DMV accident report.
Determining who is at fault – Your insurance adjustor will determine who is at-fault. A driver does not need to be 100% at fault in most states. Your adjustor may determine you may be partially at fault. For example, if your adjustor determines you are 70% responsible for the accident and the other driver is 30% responsible, your insurance company may pay 70% of the settlement and the other driver’s insurance company may pay the remaining 30%. Most cases, the settlement is paid by the insurance company of the driver who has the highest percentage of the fault in the automobile accident. It’s important to speak with your insurance adjustor to learn as much as you can about your liability.
Claims review – Your claims adjustor may review the following with you: medical records, bills, property damage evidence, and proof of wage loss.
Social media – Your adjustor may investigate your use of social media and look online at anything you may state about your car accident as a way of verifying any/all information you provide to the adjustor. Every insurance company has a Special Investigations Unit which is used to investigate suspected fraud.
It is important to protect your privacy and the best way to do this is to set-up approval for only those people you allow to look at the photos of your vehicle accident and any information related to the accident and do not change any of the facts.
Claim options – If you decide you do not like the settlement offer from your insurance company; you may be able to talk to your adjustor’s supervisor, ask for mediation, go to arbitration, or take your case to small claims court.
When in doubt about your insurance company, the adjustor, or a settlement offer, it may be in your best interest to hire a personal injury attorney to review your automobile accident case.
Remember: You can always hire an attorney to represent you for your case with your insurance company.