A car accident can be a very stressful experience. Among the many things a person should do immediately after the accident, there's also the process of dealing with your insurance company. Just filing an insurance claim and dealing with claim adjusters can be stressful and challenging. This article presents a number of do’s and don’ts in filing an insurance claim and dealing with your insurance company.
Call your insurance company’s 1-800 number preferably at the scene of the accident. The accident details are fresh in your mind, you're on the scene, and the police can speak to the insurance company if necessary and provide the most accurate assessment of the situation.
If you can’t call from the scene, call them as soon as possible afterward. Again, provide them the factual information about the accident. You do not have to describe every detail and should not until you have consulted with an experienced car accident and personal injury lawyer.
No two insurance policies are identical. Car insurance policies differ in terms of personal medical coverage, deductible for car repairs and replacement, third party medical coverage, eligibility for a rental car while your car is being repaired, replacement versus depreciated value and so on. You should pay particular attention to limitations of the policy associated with any legal charges filed against you such as a DUI or DWI. It is important you sit down and read through your policy and then go through it again with your insurance company. Understanding your coverage is critical to understanding what you need to do to best deal with this crisis. If you retain a lawyer, they will be able to assist you in understanding the extent of your coverage.
At the time of the accident you must collect as many details as you can about the other drivers involved, as well as the contact information of any witnesses. This must include the name, address, contact numbers, drivers' licenses and insurance information; even note a physical description of the other drivers involved. Take pictures or video of the scene and the other motorists and witnesses. Take down license plate numbers and VIN numbers of each vehicle. Take note of the name, badge number and contact information of the police involved. Get the police accident report number and request a copy of the report as soon as possible. When speaking with your insurance company they will need all of this information to begin the insurance claim process.
It is highly recommended you keep a diary of all conversations with your insurance company and their representatives. This information is critical in the unfortunate event you find yourself in court fighting against your own insurance company.
No matter how small an amount, keep all bills and receipts for expenses related to the accident. This even includes such things as cab fares, meals, medical deductibles, medicines and replacement of lost or broken personal items. The insurance companies have expense forms and limitations on expenses for some items, so it is important you communicate with the insurance company and understand the expense process, forms and limits. If you have retained a lawyer, quite often their office will submit and manage the expense process with the insurance company.
It is recommended you consult an experienced accident and personal injury lawyer even if the accident was minor. Most attorneys who specialize in automobile accidents will not charge for an initial consultation and will help you determine whether you need an attorney’s help or not. Legal representation in an injury claim is normally on a contingency fee basis and will not cost you out of pocket. Car accidents and insurance claims are complex and can become even more intricate if other motorists involved in the accident claim it was your fault or they have personal injuries. Unfortunately while an accident is a very traumatic event, it can become a prolonged personal crisis if there are sustained injuries by anyone involved or you're required to defend yourself in court.
When speaking with the police and insurance agent, keep to the facts. Do not admit liability. Beyond the police and your agent, do not talk to anyone about the accident unless you want them called against you in the court hearing. Car accidents are often the result of several circumstances. So do not assume that it is a result of something you did or did not do. Leave that to the police and the insurance investigators to determine.
When speaking on the phone with your insurance agent, assume they are recording the conversation. Tell the agent that you do not want to be recorded or if asked specifically to be recorded, politely decline.
The insurance company may recommend or even require an independent medical examination. If this happens, it is recommended you consult with an experienced accident and personal injury attorney before the examination. Note that this medical professional likely works for the insurance company. Be sure to have your own chosen exam and inquiry report to ensure a fair assessment.
Insurance companies will often hire investigators to watch and follow you to determine if your injuries are real. So be truthful about your injuries or your entire claim could be denied or weakened. You could even be taken to court.
Always remember that insurance companies are a business and as such they will always try to pay out the minimum amount of money to victims of an accident. So never accept the first settlement offer from the insurance company. A qualified and experienced car accident and personal injury attorney will be able to help you through the legal, insurance and medical maze and best represent your interests to ensure you are treated fairly as you deal with this personal crisis.
More expert advice about Accident and Personal Injury Law
Photo Credits: Insurance by Flickr: alanclaver_2000; Check Man, Cross Man and Jump Man © ioannis kounadeas - Fotolia.com