Auto claims aren’t any fun. If you’re dealing with one, it means you just figured in a vehicular accident and accidents are never fun. Nobody wants to be involved in car accidents but they do happen. And settling an auto claim is something you just have to do if you want to be recompensed somehow for the pain, loss or inconvenience brought about by the accident.
It is so easy to get confused when caught in a car crash, but you need not panic; you would know exactly what to do if you had prepared yourself for such an event. Of course, you will never know when you’d meet an accident, but you can still prepare yourself for such an event, at least when you first receive your policy.
Review your auto insurance policy and coverage. Understand what is covered and what is not covered by your insurance. Know your exclusions. If you happen to change insurance, review your new policy and familiarize yourself with its terms as they may be different from your old policy. Learn what you should do in case of accidents.
Check yourself and your passengers, as well as pedestrians in your immediate area for injuries. If anyone needs medical attention, call 911 immediately, giving your location and describing the injuries. Do not attempt to move anyone who’s badly injured but keep them comfortable. When the police arrives, cooperate and provide all the information asked for.
While waiting for the police, try to obtain and note down relevant information like:
It is best to take pictures of the scene and show the extent of damage to both vehicles. That is why it is a good idea to keep a digital camera with working batteries in your glove compartment. If your cell phone has a camera, it will do.
Contact your insurance agent immediately after the accident. However, you may want to reconsider filing a claim if the extent of damage is small and if the repair costs will be more or less equal your policy deductible, or if you have already filed a number of claims in recent years. You know very well how frequent claims can increase your premium rates. You may want to ask your agent for advice.
If you decide to file a claim, provide your agent or company representative with all the necessary information on the accident. The insurance company will then inform you about its claims procedures. Note down your claim number as this will serve as reference in all your subsequent communications regarding your claim. Remember to keep track of all your expenses relative to the accident. You may be able to get reimbursement under your policy.
The insurance company will assign a claims adjuster to investigate the accident, inspect the damage on your vehicle, and collect all pertinent documents including medical bills. It is important for you not to have the car repaired before the claims adjuster has evaluated the damage. The insurance company may either ask you to submit the repair estimates or to bring your car to one of their accredited shops. Keep in mind that it is always your choice where to have your vehicle repaired.
Another important thing to bear in mind is not to settle your medical bills unless you are absolutely sure that you have all your medical bills and other related services and that you will not suffer again from your injuries. State laws differ when it comes to the claim period, but you should have at least a year from the date of the accident in which you can settle your claim or even file a suit. Still, if you feel confused as to how best to go about in settling an auto claim, you may wish to consult an auto accident attorney.
When dealing with your insurance company or the insurance company of another driver involved in the auto accident, you may feel overwhelmed by trying to settle the claim on your own. Or you may not get the resolution you are hoping for in terms of a financial settlement. In these situations, you should consider hiring an attorney to assist you in settling your claim. This is even truer should you have incurred a bodily injury during the auto accident that you feel was caused by someone else. An attorney can help you evaluate how much your injury claim is worth and help you negotiate that amount with your insurance company or another driver’s insurance company. And if a settlement cannot be reached, a lawyer can file a lawsuit for you for your injury.
Keep in mind though that an auto accident lawyer will take a fee for helping you with your care. Personal Injury lawyers normally take a 33% fee based on your settlement. But these fees can be negotiated beforehand. The stronger your case and the worse your injury, the more your case is worth to the lawyer so they may be willing to take a smaller fee.