Dealing with insurance companies after a car accident can be a deeply frustrating experience. You may have medical bills, car repairs, and other losses to deal with, but the insurance company has its own priorities and often-bewildering procedures.
Fortunately, this isn’t an experience you have to go through alone. If the accident involves injuries, significant property damage, disputes over who’s at fault, or other serious issues, you should consider turning for help to a knowledgeable attorney — one who focuses on accidents and personal injury cases.
Look at it this way: Many drivers don’t like to stop and ask for directions, even if they’re lost. But sometimes the aid of an experienced guide, someone who knows the language and local customs and the best route to your destination, can be invaluable. A car accident lawyer can help you navigate the insurance process and get the compensation you deserve.
What is the insurance process after a car accident?
The first step is up to you, and it’s a step you should take as soon as feasible after the crash: You need to report the accident to your insurance company. They’ll want to know the time and place of the incident, the other party’s contact info and insurance, and many other details; as we’ve noted in other posts, it’s important to keep good records after an accident, including filing a police report and documenting the crash damage with photos if you can.
That initial report should lead to the company contacting you in turn to explain how to file a claim.
Depending on the company and the kind of accident involved, filing a claim can be a fairly effortless online procedure or a challenging encounter with a lot of paperwork. Once the claim is filed, the case will be assigned to an adjuster, who’ll look into the circumstances of the accident, the damage involved, and the question of who’s at fault, a topic that could lead to negotiations with other insurance companies that have issued policies to other parties in the crash.
When the investigation is concluded, the company will come back to you with its assessment of what your claim is worth — a figure you may or may not agree with.
How do you negotiate an insurance settlement?
The answer to this question can vary a great deal, depending on the seriousness of the accident and whether you are using the services of an accident lawyer or not.
If the accident was minor and you’re inclined to handle the settlement discussions yourself, keep in mind that any negotiation requires leverage. You should have a firm idea of what your claim is worth, based on your own research into the losses you’ve incurred, and a way of proving it.
Keep track of all receipts for expenses associated with the accident, from medical bills to Uber trips, and be prepared to settle in for some back-and-forth as you make your case for a higher settlement. Read your policy thoroughly and study up on the actual value of your vehicle or other property damage.
If the adjuster isn’t budging, don’t hesitate to ask to speak to his or her supervisor — or contact state regulatory agencies if necessary.
But if the accident was a serious one, the benefits of having an attorney handle the negotiations can’t be emphasized strongly enough.
An experienced personal injury lawyer is likely to have a good idea of what your case is worth, based on what similar cases have settled for and what juries have awarded in court. If the case involves serious injuries, the prospect of long-term medical expenses and care, disputes over who was at fault in the accident and other complexities, an attorney can draw on extensive resources, including medical and accident reconstruction experts, to help navigate a way to a more equitable settlement.
Obtaining the services of an attorney also signals to the insurance company that you’re serious about your claim, that you’re willing to go to court if it becomes necessary.
At the same time, bringing in attorneys can actually shorten the settlement process because of their familiarity with how insurance companies work. Their presence lets the insurance company know that you know what constitutes a reasonable settlement and that you’re determined not to settle for less.
When to provide a statement to an insurance company?
It’s important to provide your insurance company with accurate, basic information about the accident, such as the names of witnesses and parties involved, as soon as possible after the crash.
However, you should be wary of providing a more detailed “statement” to insurance adjusters, especially if another party’s insurance company is seeking a recorded statement from you. Someone may be seeking to deflect blame by asking you loaded or confusing questions, or urging you to comment on your own injuries — which may not even have been thoroughly assessed yet.
The safest route is to stick to basics and avoid speculation or blaming yourself or others. Decline high-pressure invitations to provide a recorded statement unless your lawyer is present.
When does car insurance go down after an accident?
Insurance companies don’t provide policies with the expectation of losing money. If you’ve filed a claim after an at-fault car accident, chances are you’ve cost the company more money than your premium, so the company will seek to recover at least part of that cost by raising your rate. And, since those who’ve been involved in one accident are more likely to be involved in another, you’re now assessed as a “high risk” customer. (Some companies offer “accident forgiveness” for one at-fault accident, but don’t expect that to apply the second time around.)
According to the insurance industry website The Zebra, most insurance companies will drop rates three to five years after an at-fault accident involving $2000 or more in damages. In cases involving a DUI, reckless driving, or other serious offenses, the delay could be even longer.
Is it cheaper to switch insurance after an accident?
You may be able to find cheaper insurance by shopping around and being careful about filing claims involving only minor property damage; in some cases, it’s less expensive to pay the cost of a minor scrape out of your own pocket than to file a claim and see your rates go up for years.
Contact a Car Accident Lawyer at Franklin D. Azar & Associates
For more than thirty years the attorneys at Franklin D. Azar & Associates have helped thousands of injured people obtain complete and timely compensation for their losses. Our proven track record and expertise have allowed us to grow into the largest personal-injury law firm in Colorado, with offices in Denver, Greenwood Village, Colorado Springs, and Pueblo. If you’ve been injured in a bus, car, truck, or motorcycle accident, you may be entitled to compensation.