The odds are high that you will be involved in an car accident at some point in your life, if not already. According to the U.S. National Highway Safety Traffic Administration (NHSTA) there is a one in 366 chance you will be involved in an accident in your lifetime.
The chances are much higher if you live in a major metropolitan area. When you or someone else is injured in an accident, or you must deal with property damage, loss of work, or other complications, the settlement you receive from your insurance company largely depends on how you deal with them.
Know Your Coverage
Don’t wait for an accident to occur. Review your insurance policy now and be sure you are adequately covered. Understand what your policy covers and what it doesn’t. Keep a copy of your insurance card and the business card of your insurance agent in the car at all times.
Document Accident DamageIf you are involved in a collision, and if you are not seriously injured, take photos of the damage to the vehicles, injuries to anyone involved, the scene of the accident and the license plates of the vehicles involved. Of course, not everyone carries a camera, but most cell phones have internal cameras that can do the job. Get the name of the other driver and write down or get a photo of their driver’s license number and the insurance company covering the other vehicle.
Report An Accident Immediately
Always get a police officer to come to the scene of the accident. If any injuries are involved, call 911 to report an emergency. A police report is crucial documentation that will be invaluable in settling a claim.
Report the accident immediately to the claims department at your insurance company. It’s also a good idea to call your agent to let them know a claim is being submitted. Many insurance companies will deny a claim if an accident is not reported promptly. Have your policy number, driver’s license number and all pertinent information about the wreck handy including the names and insurance information for all parties involved.
Don’t Admit Any Fault
While admitting you’re wrong is admirable in most aspects of life, you’re best to hold your tongue when dealing with insurance claims.
Insurance companies are mainly concerned about their liability. You weaken your position any time you admit fault. In many cases, you may believe you are at fault when you aren’t. Do not record any statement without consulting an attorney first. When giving a police officer information about a crash, volunteer only the names of those in your vehicle that were involved, your version of what happened, and your personal information.
Keep Good Records
Build a folder containing any paperwork concerning the accident, including a copy of the police report, photographs, vehicle repair estimates, medical records and and any medical bills. Keep a log of the dates and times of telephone conversations with insurance company representatives and a brief summary of the topics discussed.
Working With Your Insurance Company
Cooperate with your insurance adjuster, but understand that the adjuster’s job is primarily to protect the interests of the insurance company. The adjuster will investigate your claim, talk to witnesses, review the police report, study the medical records, and inspect physical damage to the vehicles involved. This information is used to determine how much the insurance company is willing to pay. If the other driver is found to be at fault, your insurance company will help you recover your damages from the other driver’s insurance company.
Beware Of Settlement Offers
Do not readily accept any settlement proposed by any insurance company. In most cases, it is negotiable and the offer may be far less than what you are entitled to. You are not obligated to accept the lowest estimates to repair your vehicle, and often there are medical costs that go on for many days, weeks or months after an accident when sustained injuries cause other complications.
Call An Injury Attorney
The laws pertaining to personal injuries are complex and vary from state to state. Though a great many cases are settled without litigation, some of them must be adjudicated in court. Having a knowledgeable attorney on your team – a lawyer familiar with the statutes where the accident occurred can be invaluable. In a case where the other driver is uninsured, this assistance is particularly valuable.