Insurance companies may seem like they are out to help you, but they want to make a profit just like any other company. What that means for you is that, essentially, insurance companies try their hardest to pay out no more (if that) than the person paying on the policy paid in; for example, even if the policy pays up to $50,000 in personal injury damages, yet the person has only had the policy one year and paid in $1,000, they won’t easily part with the extra $49,000 because that means they are losing money as a company.
And, if so many customers receive payouts, their profits lessen. Car insurance is quite literally a billion dollar industry (b for billion) in the US with Cornell University reporting that in 2015 alone, the car insurance industry banked $220.4 billion in revenue with $22 billion of that as pure profit (and that’s even with paying out for expensive TV and digital ads - the Geico gecko, the Aflac duck, and the Flo from Progressive campaigns don’t design themselves!). With these bottom lines against you, here’s our lawyer advice: how to settle a claim with an auto insurance company.
If it’s safe to do so, gather evidence at the scene of the accident. If you have a smartphone take lots of photos and videos. The more evidence you gather the better. Evidence can be used to help in your settlement. Make sure you take photos of any tire marks, any damage, any injuries, any broken glass and so forth.
Take down the names, insurance details, and phone numbers of any people involved in the accident as well as any witnesses and emergency responders. If possible, record the accounts of witnesses as well - so you can understand immediately what they feel happened during the accident. That will cut down on changing statements down the line.
When you have time, write down a complete account of what happened from your point of view.
Get the police report.
Once you are safe, get a copy of the car accident police report that is filled out by the responding officer. This report is vital to file a complete auto insurance claim. If you don’t have the police report, the company may deny your claim or offer an even lower settlement.
You can obtain a report by contacting the officer at the police department, detailing the accident and who you are, and asking for the report. If the officer is unavailable, speak to the receptionist in the department. If that doesn’t work, you may speak to the courthouse to get a copy. As a last resort, you can contact your local DMV.
Seek medical treatment.
Never admit you are uninjured until you fully know. In the shock of an accident, it may be easy to think you’re fine because you survived, but there can be long-term injuries you’d be unaware of immediately.
Some brain injuries can take time to develop. Unless you’re critically injured, do the above steps, and then go and see your doctor or local hospital in order to get a complete check over. Have your doctor do blood work, get an MRI scan - if possible - and have a comprehensive health check. Have your doctor write a report afterwards of any findings.
Estimate your damages.
When putting in a claim with your insurance company, make sure to calculate your estimated damages. Lost earnings, medical bills, daycare, present value of your vehicle, pain and suffering, and more can all be considered damages.
Whatever figure you come up with, multiply that figure by 20-30% because insurance companies will always offer you much less than you ask for. If you do not want to be low-balled and you’re claiming for damages that are in the thousands, you’d be best contacting an attorney for guidance. You have a higher chance of getting your projected settlement with an attorney present.
Don’t reveal all.
You don’t not have to pretend the insurance company is an agony aunt. Only relay facts. Do not speculate. Do not speak with uncertainty. You do have to report the accident, but do not do so until you’re ready to speak and you know what to say.
Insurance companies will often try and bully you into making a statement, and getting you to reveals details that may hurt your case and be used against you, so make sure you’re prepared to speak with them. If you feel you may say the wrong thing or don’t know what to say, seek the advice of an attorney.
Send a demand letter.
The demand letter portion of the settlement is where the real back and forth begins. First, you’ll send a demand letter with the figure you want for your settlement. Then they will send a counter offer that is usually much lower than the one you asked for.
You should then call the insurance company and ask for a detailed explanation of why they rejected your initial offer, and then you will write a counter letter addressing the points in the letter clearly, detailing why you deserve a figure that’s between your original figure and the one they offered. If you’re at any point unsure, speak to an attorney.
Counter and accept your settlement.
Once you’ve sent the counter offer, it may go back and forth until the insurance company finally sends a figure that you are happy with (or mostly happy with). Once you decide that’s the figure you want - you have to be absolutely sure because you cannot change your mind afterwards - then you can accept the offer, and the process is over.
This process may take anywhere from weeks, to months, and - at the very worst - years. The process can be sped up significantly by hiring an attorney.
If you have been injured, hire a lawer.
If you have been seriously injured, then it’s best if you hire a specialised, personal injury attorney to help with your case.
Personal injury lawyers work on these cases each day and understand exactly how insurance companies work and will be able to get you the settlement you deserve. Don’t risk having unpaid medical bills or expenses you thought were covered by weren’t. Call us today for a free case consultation.
Disclaimer: This blog is intended as general information purposes only, and is not a substitute for legal advice. Anyone with a legal problem should consult a lawyer immediately.