Despite what their advertisements say, insurance companies are in the business of making money, not helping people. And often, even after all of the paperwork and red tape is hashed through, the amount they're willing to pay is less than reasonable--as if having the car accident alone weren't bad enough. Follow these steps if you decide you need to dispute an auto insurance claim.
- Skill level:
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Hire an independent appraiser to evaluate your vehicle. Your insurance policy probably demands this in the event of a dispute, but make sure this appraiser is completely independent of your insurance company. Have your appraiser send his evaluation to both you and the insurance company.
Avoid arbitration at first if you can. Try mediation initially if your insurance company is willing. Mediation is conducted like arbitration, but it's less official; that is, mediation isn't binding. A mediator reviews the appraiser's evaluation and makes suggestions on how to settle the dispute. Mediation is less expensive than arbitration and doesn't require an attorney.
Put your case to arbitration if mediation can't resolve it. Hire an attorney and present her with your case, including any witnesses' contact information and your appraiser's evaluation. The person overseeing arbitrations involving auto insurance is also an auto appraiser sometimes referred to as an "umpire." It's the "umpire's" job to review both appraisals and come to a decision about the claim. Arbitration is binding: whatever the "Umpire" rules goes.
Take the insurance company to court if they refuse to pay even after arbitration.
Tips and warnings
- Disputing an auto insurance claim can be expensive; there are court fees, attorney fees and appraiser's fees to pay. For this reason, many people decide not to dispute claims: the total of the proceeds they only hope to receive is often less than the expense of fighting the insurance company. How far you take the dispute then becomes a matter of principle-whether to allow the insurance company to push you around.