Article 5 of 13 in What to Know Before Filing a Car Insurance Claim
If you have had an automobile accident, you will likely want to file an auto accident insurance claim under your policy or the other driver's. Once you make a claim, an auto insurance adjuster working for the insurance company will contact you. He or she will gather all the facts, obtain all of the information from you about your accident, see if there is coverage under your car insurance policy, and use their investigation to determine who was at fault before setting the value of your auto accident insurance claim. The process isn't complicated, but if you've never gone through it before, there are some important things you need to know.
TIP:Always remember that the insurance claims adjuster works for the insurance company, and not for you! The secret behind auto insurance adjusters is that they will try to settle claims as quickly and inexpensively as possible, before a stiff neck turns out to be disabling whiplash, or the bruise leaves a permanent scar, or you decide to consult an attorney, and your claim grows in value. Knowing what not to say to an auto claims adjuster is extremely important to the success of your claim!
What the Auto Claims Adjuster Will Need
The auto claims adjuster will want to know the names of all the people and vehicles involved, what was damaged, and if anyone was injured. They'll want photos taken of your vehicle, an estimate for the damages, copy of the police report if there is one and contact information for any witnesses. When working with an auto insurance adjuster, be prepared to answer questions about the details of the accident including who was driving, what happened just before the accident, what witnesses are available, and what police officers responded to the scene. The insurance claims adjuster will seek every detail of the accident, so be prepared to answer all questions as best you are able.
How to Talk to Your Auto Claims Adjuster
The first rule when working with insurance claims adjusters is to be very careful about anything you say. Even a friendly response such as, "I'm fine Mrs. Jones, how are you?" can appear in her written report as "Victim says she is feeling fine." This can affect the settlement value of your accident claim or your chances to recover in court when the insurance company tries to show you were fine after the accident and you are possibly exaggerating the injuries.
The adjuster may ask if they can record the conversation, so they can go over it later in case they missed anything. Generally you should say a polite "no" to that request, and take time to consult with an attorney. You can simply tell the adjuster, "I'll be happy to go over anything with you informally, but if you're going to be recording anything, that sounds sort of formal, so maybe I better speak to a lawyer first and ask....."
TIPS:Once the call is being recorded, the auto claims adjuster has an extra incentive to try to get you to say something - which will be captured on tape - that may undermine your potential claim, show your recollection is faulty, be construed as misleading, or suggest you are exaggerating.
Most people seriously minimize their injuries so as to not appear to be a cry baby - men especially learn to appear tough and grin and bear it. Any statement you make that downplays your injuries will be used against you when the insurance company evaluates your claim and offers you a settlement. It is better to politely tell the claims adjuster that you want to speak with an attorney before you say anything than to devalue your injuries.
Getting Your Car Fixed
When it comes to getting insurance money to repair your car, the claims adjuster might say, "Take your car to our approved and certified body shop and we'll get it fixed for you and arrange for a loaner from National until the work is done." Of course, this sounds reasonable, but don't just accept the offer. Check out the reputation of the insurance company's body shop, ask if they will use original manufacturer or after market parts. Make sure the insurance company's body shop will reduce the diminished value of your car. Ask if you can take it to your body shop. Go over all the variables to make sure your car gets the best repair possible, and then decide. If you are unsure of any of this, or if their offer seems unreasonable, click here to contact a reputable attorney in your area that will guide you through this process.
Your Auto Insurance Adjuster and Injury Claims
If your car insurance policy will pay for your injuries under your Med Pay or PIP coverage, then your medical bills will be paid under your policy up to your medical policy limits. They do not, however, pay for your lost wages or your pain and suffering unless you live in a no fault state.
If the other driver is at fault then their insurance company may be responsible for paying not just for your medical bills and the damage to your vehicle, but your lost wages, other expenses you incurred or will incur in the future, and general damages which include your pain and suffering. Since they could be on the hook for a lot more money than your own insurance, you'll find the insurance adjuster's questions to be more in depth when being questioned. You can expect questions such as:
You have to be careful about what you say! If you tell them that 10 years ago you injured your back at work, they may try to say this was just an aggravation of the old injury and assign it less value even if it's been fine for the last 9 years. The insurance adjuster will try to minimize your personal injury claim and quickly get you to sign a settlement agreement to close the matter.
Regardless of which insurance company you work with, BE VERY CAUTIOUS about signing a settlement agreement and a claim release. If the adjuster says, "I am going to get the company to pay you $1,000 for the minor injury you suffered, plus fully cover the medical bills. Is that's okay with you? If so, we can wrap up the whole accident and move on and you'll be $1,000 richer - tax free," just say "no." If they fix the car and you are asked to sign anything - at the body shop or elsewhere, make sure it does not release any potential claim for personal injury damages.
TIP:If you were injured, you may want to speak to an attorney before talking to the other driver's insurer so you avoid saying or signing the wrong thing which could hurt your chances of making a personal injury claim or getting paid what you deserve down the road.
Working with an insurance claims adjuster to manage a serious auto accident claim on your own can be taxing and sometimes confusing. If it is a serious accident involving serious injury or death, the advice of a reputable attorney could be invaluable. Don't chance saying the wrong thing that downplays your injuries or makes it seem like you contributed to the cause of the accident. Doing so could mean the difference in how much you recover from the accident. For more advice from an attorney in your area, click here, and remember that many attorneys offer free consultations and only charge a fee if they are successful in your case.
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