If you are involved in a car accident, it’s important you maintain appropriate communication with your insurance company. However, what you must be cautious of in the beginning of the process is to not disclose too much information. The best thing to do is to talk to an attorney before you disclose information to your insurance agent or company as to avoid an unjust settlement.
The possibility of having to submit an insurance claim when you’ve been injured or your property was damaged in an accident can be overwhelming. You may not know the first place to start, what your rights are, or even what to expect. Prepare yourself in advance by following a checklist such as the one outlined below. We’ve put together a list of itemized steps to follow any time you are involved in a car crash.
- DO notify your insurance agent or company as soon as an accident or injury takes place. As soon as you get home from the scene of the crash, call your agent. Failure to notify the insurance company in a timely manner could be grounds for denial of your claim.
- DO take pictures of damage to your vehicle, the accident scene, and your injuries. You may need these photos as evidence to support your claim later on.
- DO get contact information from others involved in the crash. Ideally, you will want to get the name, address, telephone number, email address, and insurance information from other drivers or people who contributed to the cause of the crash. If witnesses are present, getting a name, address, email, and telephone number could be beneficial.
- DO review and understand your coverage before talking to your insurance agent. Focus on the “Coverage” and “Exclusion” sections of your policy. It is important to know what your policy does and does not cover in the wake of an accident.
- DO take notes when you talk anyone involved in the claims process. Take and keep detailed notes of all conversations with insurance company representatives. Make sure to get names, phone numbers, and job titles of people you speak with, including their supervisor’s name. Taking notes will help you understand the process, and ensure that stories do not change later.
- DO keep copies of any documents related to the process. This includes medical bills, repair estimates, car rental receipts, insurance policies, and accident reports produced in connection with pursuing your claim or recovering from related injuries up until final settlement with your insurance company.
- DON’T admit fault. You may think you know what happened, but the investigation could uncover a different set of facts. If you admit fault early on, you may actually be wrong. You may think you know what happened, but the investigation could uncover a different set of facts. Admitting fault before gathering all parts of the story may cost your chance at a claim for compensation.
- DON’T try to negotiate directly with the person who caused the accident. An individual isn’t likely to be in a position to properly assign a value to your claim. Submit your claim to the person’s insurance company. If the person doesn’t have insurance, talk to your own insurance company. Above all, talk to a lawyer. You’ll get the best outcome when you let a lawyer handle negotiations for you.
- DON’T automatically accept the insurance company’s estimate of the value of your claim. The company’s job is to minimize the amount it pays out. Your claim may in fact be worth more. DO talk to a personal injury lawyer about the potential value of your claim. Insurance companies will often try to get you to accept their estimator or contractor’s repair or replacement estimates, which might be a bit low.
- DON’T ignore time limits set by your policy. Most policies require a signed proof of loss within a certain time limit after the incident. Be sure you keep to this deadline unless you obtain a written waiver from your insurance company. Many policies allow you only one year from the date of loss in which to bring a legal action if your claim has not been adjusted fairly.
- DON’T sign a blanket medical authorization. The insurance company isn’t necessarily entitled to all of your medical records — only the ones related to the accident. Talk to a personal injury attorney before signing any medical authorization to make sure your privacy is protected.
Even after taking the proper steps to effectively communicate with your insurance company, the process can still be tedious. The good news is that you don’t have to go through this alone. You can seek the help of an experienced personal injury lawyer, such as those on the Potter Burnett team. Chances are you have been through enough stress already in a case like this. Let us help with the process and take some of the pain out of pursuing your claim. Representation from a personal injury lawyer with experience handling insurance claims will give you the best chance of getting the compensation you deserve.