After you’ve been involved in a car accident that involved injury to yourself or property damage to your vehicle, seeking—and getting—recovery from your insurance company can be a daunting task. Many of us will remember the process of simply shopping for car insurance as a confusing and complex process. But when it’s time for that insurance policy to kick in and give you some benefits, an entirely new set of questions starts to emerge: What are you rights as an insured person? What do all those terms in your policy actually mean? And, what is the actual process of getting paid?
One important—and relatively early—step in the insurance claim process after you’ve experienced an accident is dealing with the insurance company’s claims adjuster. Knowing what a claims adjuster does and how you should deal with them will help you to make sure you insurance company pays you the amount of money it should.
In the days immediately following your accident, and after you have reported it to your insurance company, it is the insurance adjuster, or claims adjuster, who will contact you. From the perspective of the insurance company, the role of this insurance adjuster is to assess the damage that was caused by the accident—whether that is damage to your vehicle or injury to yourself—and essentially put a price tag on the total amount of damage that was caused. The amount that the adjuster lands on will be very important when it comes time for the insurance company to actually pay your claim.
While it can at times be difficult to work with an adjuster and make sure that they are giving you a fair and reasoned estimate, there are some things that you can do to influence the outcome and make sure that you are satisfied with the final settlement:
Be an informed consumer. Knowing your rights as an insurance consumer makes you a stronger negotiator with the company. Starting with the purchase of your insurance policy, until you have reached a settlement, make sure you know and understand what is going on. This means reading and understanding your policy and contacting your agent or insurance company or even the State Department of Insurance to clarify any doubts or questions that you have. Ask for documentation of anything that the insurance company quotes to support its position.
Document everything. If a dispute with your insurance company arises, having a strong paper trail to support your position is extremely beneficial. Documentation starts at the time of the accident: collect as much information as you can at the scene of the accident, even including photographs if possible. Keep all documents that relate to the accident: things such as doctor and hospital visits and bills, car repair estimates, rental car expenses, and other similar events. In addition, document all conversations that you have with the insurance company to keep a trail of statements or promises they have made to you.
Stand your ground. Don’t let the insurance company or adjuster talk you into settling too fast for too little. The settlement process can be long and intimidating and you probably just want to get it over with and move on, sometimes making any amount of money seem acceptable.
Get help. Knowing when you’re in over your head and need outside help can save you a lot of frustration. If your settlement is simply too complex for you to understand, you feel like the insurance adjuster isn’t treating you fairly, or you have been unsuccessful in your negotiations, hiring an attorney can really pay off.