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Insurance claims for car accidents

Negotiating Your Car Accident Insurance Settlement

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Article 4 of 7 in Car Insurance Claim Settlement

If you have filed a car insurance claim to recover money for property damage to your vehicle, bodily injury or both, you will need to negotiate a car accident settlement to get the payout you deserve. Negotiating a car accident insurance settlement is not difficult if you are comfortable and prepared. When you negotiate your car accident settlement, you will need to work closely with an insurance claims adjuster who is responsible for investigating the accident and deciding what the company will pay.

TIP:Insurance claims adjusters have a car accident settlement range and will typically begin at the lowest figure. Their job is to settle the claim for the least possible amount of money. Do not be afraid to reject the first offer, and negotiate a better car insurance settlement deal.

The Insurance Settlement Negotiation Process

You can respond to the car insurance settlement offer, by politely declining and writing a claim letter with a counter offer reflecting the figure you believe your claim is worth. The adjuster will then respond with their own counter offer that should be closer to your acceptable range, and you two will begin negotiating the car accident settlement. You may venture into back-and-forth negotiations for a while, so be patient don't let any delays deter you to give in quickly and accept less than you deserve.

How to Dispute a Car Insurance Settlement

The first step in knowing how to dispute your car insurance settlement offer, is to prepare yourself by gathering as much information as you can about your policy and your claim. Before you respond to the initial car insurance settlement offer from your car insurance company, you should:

  • Know what your car insurance policy says! You can't make a claim unless the damages are covered, so read through your declarations page to know what you are entitled to recover.
  • Know what your car insurance claim is worth. Add up all of your bills, keep all of your receipts, and calculate all the costs that you have had to pay as a result of the car accident.
  • Know your acceptable settlement range. After figuring out how much your claim is worth, set an upper and lower amount that you would be willing to accept, and be prepared to end the negotiation if your needs are not met.
  • Know when to seek legal advice. You need to know what a car insurance attorney can do for you, and when you should consider getting legal help. Your car insurance company has experience negotiating claims, so you need to be prepared

How to Negotiate a Car Accident Settlement

Here are some options to bring your claim closer to settlement, even if you have reached an impasse:

  • Go up the chain of command and speak to the adjuster's supervisor or manager. Adjusters get their dollar authority to negotiate a car accident settlement from their higher-ups. You may be able to convince someone in charge of your accident claim's value.
  • Request alternative dispute resolution (mediation or arbitration).
  • Hire an attorney to continue the negotiations for you.
  • File a complaint with your state's Department of Insurance. Do this if you truly feel you are at an impasse, especially if you feel the low amount is in bad faith. Consider hiring an attorney who is well versed in insurance bad faith cases to file a suit against the insurance company for bad faith negotiations.

If your car accident attorney reaches an impasse and is convinced your case has greater value than the insurance company is assigning it, he or she might suggest filing a lawsuit against the insurance company or the negligent driver. Do not be afraid of this option if the car accident settlement process is not going to get you the money you need to pay for your damages.

How Long Does a Car Accident Settlement Take?

Settling a car accident claim may take days, or it may take months. The length of time depends on the amount in question and the facts of each case. As you work with your insurance company, you need to keep in mind that there are deadlines for you to file a lawsuit should negotiations fail. If your insurance settlement negotiations drag out for several months, you may need to take further action. While you can't force your insurer to settle your insurance claim by a certain date, there are things you can do to speed up the process, such as:

  • Contact your claims adjuster on a regular basis. Don't sit back and wait for your insurance settlement. Claims adjusters typically handle hundreds of claims. Letting your adjuster know that you are on top of things by contacting them on a regular basis makes it more likely that your file will end up on the top of their pile.
  • Demand better service. If you are having difficulty with the adjuster, ask to speak with their supervisor. Most insurance settlements must go through the insurance company's legal department, which can take some time, depending on the complexity of your settlement. Although a claims adjuster can't usually tell company attorneys to "hurry things up," he or she should be able to "manage" the process. If you feel that you're getting the run-a-round, talk to a supervisor.
  • Contact an Attorney. An attorney can help force the issue by speeding up negotiations. The attorney may be able to write a final settlement letter to encourage the company to work more diligently on your claim at the threat of legal action. Additionally, an attorney will know when to end negotiations and file a lawsuit.

Negotiating your car accident settlement can be tedious, difficult, and frustrating. You will need to be ready to work with your insurance company, but not be afraid of pursuing legal action if they refuse to make an acceptable offer considering the value of your claim. It is not easy to learn how to negotiate a car insurance settlement, and attorneys are trained professionals who can help. Attorney consultations are free, so do not be afraid to rely on legal assistance when negotiating with your car insurance company. Click here to find an attorney in your area.

For more information about auto insurance claims, check out the following articles:

Get a FREE Case Evaluation From An Experienced Auto Accident Attorney.

Car Insurance Claim Process

What Is Your Car Insurance Claim Worth?

Negotiating Your Car Accident Insurance Settlement

Settling Your Car Insurance Claim & Demand Letters

How To Write A Demand Letter

How To Know When Your Car Insurance Settlement Offer Is Too Low

What To Do When Your Car Insurance Claim Is Denied

What To Know About Your Car Insurance Settlement Agreement

Should I Contact a Car Accident Attorney?

More Articles About Settling A Car Insurance Claim

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If you have had a car accident you will need to report the incident to your insurance company as soon as you can. Knowing what to do after an accident will help the claims process go as smoothly as possible — find out what happens if you need to make a car insurance claim

If you’re involved in a car accident, it’s vital that you tell your insurer about it as soon as you can so not to invalidate your cover.

Our guide explains what to do in the event you need to make a car insurance claim and how to prepare appropriately to ensure you get the most out of your insurance policy.

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When you take out car insurance, insurers set out time periods in which you must contact them after an accident. Check your car insurance policy for the details — time periods can vary from two days to two weeks after the incident.

Collecting details after a car accident

If you have been involved in an accident with another driver’s car and need to make a car insurance claim, take down the following details and be prepared to reciprocate:

  • The registration number of their car
  • Name and address of the other driver
  • Phone number of the other drivers
  • Car insurance details of the other driver

Regardless of the nature of the claim you need to be making, take some photos immediately after the incident.

After an motor vehicle accident, theft or fire and depending on the level of car insurance cover you have, it’s important to be prepared and know what to do so that you make the car insurance claim process as easy as possible.

This can help you remember the events a bit better if the insurance company needs to get back to you weeks later. More importantly, however, it can verify your statement and confirm the details of your claim.

If your car was stolen or the other driver involved in an accident with your car is not insured, you will want to contact the police to report the incident before you speak to your insurer about making a claim.

What to tell your insurer when making a claim

If the accident involved another car you’ll need to provide your insurer with the following details:

  • The vehicle registration number of the other car
  • Name and address of the other driver
  • Phone number of the other driver
  • Car insurance details of the other driver

If the other driver is uninsured, report the accident to the police as it’s required by law for all motorists to have insurance. You’ll also need to inform your insurer who should be able to help you with the next steps of making a claim.

You should also tell your insurer the time and date of the accident, the weather conditions at the time, and how the accident happened.

If you have a minor accident that’s below the cost of your excess, the insurance company will expect you to resolve it yourself

If you took photos, then these will also come in handy to give them a clearer idea of what happened.

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How to make a car insurance claim?

Follow our car insurance claim checklist to help you make a successful claim:

  • Unless you’re certain you were at fault, don’t admit liability at the scene of an accident
  • Make sure to exchange personal details with the other driver, including your name and address, phone number, car registration number, and make and model of the car
  • Note the time, date and location of the accident and make a drawing of the accident if possible and include any photos you may have taken at the scene
  • Complete all details on the claim form and provide extra details if required
  • Provide the contact details of any witnesses to the accident
  • Get a crime number from the police if the car insurance claim is as a result of a theft or vandalism, or you believe the accident was unlawful – such as suspected speeding or drunk driving or if the other driver is not insured

Once you’ve contacted your insurer you’ll usually be sent a form to complete — try to give your insurer as much information as possible and provide all relevant documents when making a car insurance claim.

Notify your insurer even if it’s only a minor accident — failure to do this could invalidate your car insurance.

Weather damage car insurance claims

In the event that your car has been damaged in severe weather conditions, be sure to take the appropriate steps depending on your circumstances.

Cars may face minor damage in stormy weather but if you think serious damage has been caused then contact your insurer as soon as possible — many providers will have their own 24-hour emergency helpline.

Most comprehensive car insurance policies will cover severe weather damage, including storms and floods, but it’s likely making a car insurance claim will impact any no claims discounts you have for the following year.

If there are any repairs that you need to arrange immediately then take photos first and keep the receipts so you can hand them to your insurance company later.

Car insurance claim process — what happens next?

If other people were involved in the accident, your insurer will contact the insurance companies of the other people to resolve the claims.

Some insurers only agree to pay for car repairs carried out by their own approved mechanics — wait for your insurer to contact you with the garage details before rushing to have your car fixed as you could end up paying for the repairs yourself.

You may not have to pay any excess if it can be proved that the accident was not your fault and your insurance company can recover the money from the other driver’s insurance.

However, that does not mean the cost of car insurance will go down. The fact that you were involved in an accident is likely to negate your no claims discount and could give cause to your insurer to raise your premiums.

If you caused the accident then you will almost certainly have to pay the excess and, as a result, your car insurance premium is likely to increase in the future.

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Five Basic Steps of Filing a Claim

Once you contact the car insurance company, your case will go through the following steps.

  1. Case assignment to a professional at your car insurance company who will work on your claim.
  2. Meeting with your claims professional to discuss your coverages and the situation.
  3. Evaluation by your claims professional, which can include inspecting your car, examining evidence of any injury claims, and an initial payment.
  4. Resolution of the case, including payments as appropriate.
  5. Closing of the case.

Since you are responsible for protecting your own property, your car insurance company may require you to make temporary fixes to your car while you are waiting for car repairs. These can help prevent further damage. However, be sure not to make permanent repairs before you are approved, because these may not be reimbursed.

Make sure to keep receipts for expenses as you fix your car and seek medical treatment.

Hiring an Attorney

In some cases, you might consider bringing in the counsel of an attorney who specializes in accident claims. They may be able to expedite the process.

Coverage for Bodily Injury Claims

If you are not at fault for the accident, you'll typically be covered by the other driver's bodily injury liability coverage. However, if you live in a no-fault state, you may pay for your injuries through your own personal injury protection (PIP) coverage.

Other optional medical coverages that will help pay for your injuries include:

  • Medical payments coverage – Helps pay for funeral costs, injuries suffered by your passengers, injuries to you if a car hits you while you are walking or biking, and necessary dental care resulting from a car accident.
  • Uninsured/underinsured motorist coverage – Pays for injuries sustained in an accident with a driver who has no or too little insurance to cover your costs.

Before purchasing optional medical coverage or raising your minimum deductible, consider using your own health insurance to cover all or part of your injuries.

For more information, visit our Medical Coverages page.

Handling a Bodily Injury Claim

When you are hurt in a car accident, there are certain steps that can make the process of dealing with a personal injury claim easier. Remember to:

  • Take photos of the scene and your injuries.
  • File a police report and request a copy.
  • Visit a doctor immediately.
  • Write down everything related to your injury, including any work time or activities you may have missed due to the injury.
    • This is necessary if you're going to file a lost wages claim.
  • Hire an attorney, if necessary.

Finally, remember to never admit fault at the scene.

For more information on how to ensure you handle an injury-causing accident properly, visit our page on the first steps after a personal injury accident.

Property Damage Claims

Your ability to file a claim for vehicle repairs depends on the cause of the damage and the coverages that you have.

Liability property damage coverage, which is required in many states, does not cover your own car. It will only pay for the damages you cause to another driver's vehicle in an accident that you cause.

The two major coverage types that pay for damage to your vehicle include:

  • Collision coverage, which pays for damages to your vehicle after a collision.
  • Comprehensive coverage, which will cover damages to your car occurring from events that aren't related to accidents.
    • Examples include vandalism and severe weather.

Other coverages that will cover property damage include:

  • Uninsured and underinsured motorist property damage coverage to get you reimbursement if you are in an accident and the driver that hit you does not have insurance.
  • Gap insurance coverage to cover the difference if you have a car loan or are leasing your car, and it is declared a total loss.
  • Windshield or glass coverage to replace or repair a windshield, mirror, or window that is damaged in an incident other than a collision.

For more information, see our Vehicle Coverages page.

Handling a Property Damage Claim

When you file a physical damage claim, an insurance adjuster will inspect your vehicle and estimate how much it will cost to repair the damage. You will then receive a check from the insurance company that takes into account the auto deductible you have chosen for your policy.

If your vehicle has been damaged, follow these steps in order to have your car insurance claim processed effectively:

  • Report the damage to your vehicle to your insurance company immediately.
    • Depending upon your insurance company's policies, you can do this online, by calling your insurance agent during regular business hours, or by calling the company's claims division.
  • If another driver was involved, exchange insurance information.
  • Allow your insurance company to inspect the vehicle before repairs are made.
  • Protect the vehicle so no further damages are caused and losses are limited.
    • For example, if the accident causes the fender to rub against the vehicle tire, you should have this repair made immediately so the tire is not further damaged. If you don't make the repair, your car insurance company can refuse to pay for any additional damages.
  • Save all receipts and any other documentation you receive to give to your insurance company as part of your claim.
  • Provide any requested information the insurance company needs as part of its investigation. If you refuse to cooperate, your claim could be denied.

Making smart decisions about how to move forward with your claim, and making sure you document all damage, will go a long way toward a fast and smooth settlement of your claim.

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