Things Insurance Companies Don’t Want You to Know
There are many reasons to try to avoid being in a car accident, and one of them is that car accidents can be expensive. From medical bills, property damage, to lost wages because of time off work, a car accident can mean both a drop in your income and an influx of new bills to pay.
Unfortunately, car accidents do and can happen to anybody. This fact and the fact that car accidents are expensive are why car owners are required by law to carry car insurance.
If you are in a car accident, however, it is not necessarily true that your car insurance company will be on your side and promptly compensate you for the full amount of your claim. And this is absolutely true with respect to the car insurance company of the party responsible for the accident. Car insurance companies, like any other companies, need to look out for their bottom lines. For your insurance company, unfortunately, this can mean that they will try to get you to accept a claim estimate or damages amount that is lower than you deserve. For the insurance company of the other party, their attempt to lower the amount that you receive may center around showing that you were actually partially or fully at fault for the accident. The following are some of the issues you need to be aware of and watch out for when dealing with car insurance companies following an accident.
Even if the other party in the accident said “It was my fault” at the scene of the accident, their insurance might try and claim that the accident was your fault so that they have to pay a lesser amount.
To make sure the other party’s insurance company does not successfully point the finger back at you, you should make sure to document everything about the car accident, if possible. Take pictures of the scene, the damage on your car, make sure you have copies of any police reports, get the name and contact information for the other driver, the driver’s insurance company, the police, and any witnesses at the scene. Further, do not make a recorded statement to the other party’s insurance company, as their adjusters may find ways to use your recording against you. It may help to consult with a lawyer to make sure that you have done all you can do to document the accident and immediate aftermath.
Further, even if you were partially at fault, depending on the state you live in, you may still be entitled to compensation depending on the degree to which you were at fault.
Claiming No Immediate Remedial Action
Either your insurance company (if they are on the hook) or the other party’s insurance company may claim that you fabricated your claim of property or physical damage. One of the ways that they can do this to deny that any physical injuries were caused by the accident, but they were the result of a pre-existing condition or other accident. Similarly, they could try to deny that property damage was the result of this accident.
As such, and as noted above, you should keep careful notes, pictures, and records of the immediate aftermath of the accident. This includes photographs of the damage to the vehicle and of your injuries, as well as witness and police reports. Further, once you understand your coverage (and, perhaps, only after you call your lawyer to help), you should call your insurance company and the other party’s insurance company and file a claim immediately. That way nobody can argue that the physical or property damage happened at some point between the accident and when you reported the accident. Similarly, you should go to the hospital or see a doctor immediately. That way there can be no question that your injuries were caused by the accident and your doctor should be able to include in their notes that your injuries arose out of the accident. Seeing a doctor immediately is especially important if you have any pre-existing conditions.
Quick and Cheap Settlement Offers
Do not be in a rush to accept the first offer that you receive. The first step after a car accident is that you (or your lawyer) should write a demand letter to the other party’s insurance company, which should include supporting documentation of the damages cost and a demand for payment of a certain amount. The other party’s insurance company will then assign a claim adjuster to your case, and their job will be to get you to accept a much lower amount than you ask for in your demand letter. Often, this initial low offer is just a negotiating tactic, and you should not immediately lower your expectations. Instead, you can ask them to justify their low offer to you. You can also get a lawyer involved, who will do some research and be able to advocate for you for a higher amount based on precedent. Often, getting to a satisfactory settlement amount requires a few rounds of negotiation, so remember that the first offer should not be the last.
Relatedly, do not sign a waiver or any release before you are happy with a settlement amount and/or have consulted with your lawyer. You may inadvertently give up your right to pursue additional claims if it turns out later that, e.g. your injuries require more follow up care, or your car requires more money to fix.