Being involved in a collision—even one in which no serious injuries are sustained—can be a stressful, frustrating, and upsetting experience. These negative feelings can be exacerbated even further if the accident occurred through no fault of your own.
Regardless if injuries are sustained, you will likely need to file a property damage claim with the insurance company to pay for your vehicle’s repairs. Unfortunately for claimants, obtaining the compensation you deserve from the insurance company is not always as easy as it should be.
Here’s what you need to know before dealing with the insurance company:
#1 – DON’T PROVIDE A STATEMENT TO THE INSURANCE COMPANY UNTIL YOU’VE CONSULTED YOUR ATTORNEY.
It’s in your best interest to consult your attorney before speaking with the insurance company. Insurance carriers and adjusters bank on the assumption that you don’t understand the claims process so they can take advantage of you. One way they do this is by attempting to collect information from you that they are not legally entitled to.
Insurance company representatives are often friendly and appear to be helpful when you speak with them, but keep in mind that they are trained professionals who may not truly have your best interests at heart. They may seem like your friends, but they are definitely NOT your friends.
You’ll want to make sure you have your attorney with you when you provide your accident statement to the insurance company. Doing so can help you prevent making serious mistakes with your claim that could cost you down the line.
Insurance companies may try to ask questions in a leading manner so that you unsuspectingly say things to harm your claim. This scheme is common in the insurance industry in order to guide information out of you in ways that give them the advantage.
#2 – YOU HAVE MORE THAN ONE OPTION FOR PROVIDING YOUR STATEMENT.
If the insurance company calls and requests your accident statement before you’re ready, you don’t have to provide it right then and there. While you must provide a statement within a reasonable amount of time, you are in no way required to do so at the convenience of the insurance company.
In addition, you are not required to provide your accident statement over the phone. You have the following three options for providing your statement:
- Over the phone (the insurance company will record your statement)
- In writing
- Your attorney may provide it for you
#3 – YOU DON’T HAVE TO ACCEPT THE INSURANCE COMPANY’S FIRST SETTLEMENT OFFER.
It is common for insurance companies to offer the lowest possible settlement amount right off the bat to see if it gets you to go away. They know that many people cannot afford to spend time battling the insurance company for a fair settlement, so they may try to pull a fast one on you.
If you feel the initial settlement offer is inadequate, you have every right to reject it. In fact, it’s a good idea to tell the insurance company that you mean business and will not accept any amount that is less than what you truly deserve.
#4 – YOU CAN USE WHICHEVER BODY SHOP YOU’D LIKE.
The insurance company might make it seem like you must use the auto body shop that they’d like you to use. Keep in mind that you DO NOT have to use the shop they suggest. You have the right to hire any body shop you’d like to conduct the repairs on your vehicle.
#5 – BE TIGHT WITH YOUR SIGNATURE.
Don’t sign anything—especially from another party’s insurance company—without consulting your attorney first. You may be asked for your signature on documents you don’t have to sign.
This is done so insurance companies can gain access to your personal information, even though they aren’t legally entitled to it. You may be asked for your social security number or for your signature on releases for your medical or employment history.
The other party’s insurance company does NOT need this information in order to process your claim. Ironically, signing documents to release such information can actually be very detrimental to your claim. They’ll use whatever information they can against you, so be tight with what you provide.
In order to access your coverages from your own insurance company, you’ll need to comply with their requests. Consult your attorney regarding any documents you’re asked to sign so that he or she can help you determine what you should sign to be in compliance with your own insurance company.
Even if you think you have a solid understanding of the documents you’re asked to sign, you may not completely understand the claims process and all the implications that signing such documents can mean for your claim.
If you’ve been injured in a car accident through no fault of your own, you may be entitled to compensation. We’ve helped many other people in similar situations and we may be able to help you, too.