Handling your own car accident claim with an insurance company is a difficult feat, which is why many claimants seek the assistance of an attorney. If you cannot afford representation, however, or the amount of your claim is not worth the costs, you may consider settling your car accident insurance claim yourself. While consulting an attorney for insurance claims is the best way to go, particularly when you have suffered extensive damages, it is certainly possible to settle a car accident insurance claim without one, especially if you have no intention of heading to court.
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Contact the insurance company to report the accident, if you haven't already. Summarise your version of the events, and detail any damage to your vehicle, injuries you sustained, and emergency medical treatment you received. Do not place a monetary value on the damages in your report, even if the insurance company asks you to; simply state you are unsure of the values at this time, and you will provide them with the information as it becomes available to you. You will almost surely be recorded during your phone call, so do not offer any information beyond the bare necessities.
Have your vehicle reviewed by at least two mechanics. If you have a mechanic you have used exclusively since you purchased your vehicle, you can use him solely, instead. Either way, obtain summarised estimates of the repair costs. If you can afford to, you can also have the vehicle repaired immediately and submit the paid bill to the insurance company later for reimbursement as part of your claim. If the vehicle is declared totalled, however, you will only be reimbursed for the fair market value of the vehicle prior to the accident. If this is the case, get your own appraisal of your vehicle separate from the insurance company's, and be prepared to fight if they attempt to offer you less than what you have determined is the fair value.
Obtain copies of all of your medical records and bills pertaining to treatment of injuries you sustained from the accident. If you have medical insurance, you will only need the bills for your deductibles. You will need to provide copies of both the records and the bills to the insurance company to settle your car accident insurance claim, but be sure to keep the originals for your own records.
Calculate the total of all expenses you incurred as a result of the accident. Damages, medical treatment, and lost wages are examples of what you can seek reimbursement for. Review copies of your bills to determine your expenses. If you have significant injuries that will require extended or lifelong treatment, consult an attorney to help you, as you risk settling for far less than your actual costs if you attempt to settle the car accident claim without one.
Respond to any requests for documents from the insurance company. If you are claiming any injuries, you will be asked for prior medical records, and you do need to provide these or a signed HIPAA authorisation allowing the insurance company to obtain them from your physician(s). Be completely honest in every response you provide, as even one small lie or concealment can result in your claim being denied.
Draft a letter to the insurance company detailing the damages you are asking for, and attach copies of all of your bills to substantiate the claim. Don't be surprised if the insurance company offers you far less than what you believe you deserve; many claimants combat this from the start by asking for slightly more than their actual damages. If the insurance company still offers less than your damages, hold your ground and continue sending letters demanding the same amount of money, and clearly state that you reject each offer you don't approve of. Send every letter via Certified Mail with signature confirmation to ensure your letters are received.
Be prepared to spend an average of 12 months trying to settle your car accident insurance claim. Most insurance companies will try to lowball their settlements to save money, and will fight equally as hard as you to pay as little as possible. Claimants who forgo the help of an attorney are far more likely to give up and accept a lower amount to end the matter, which is why retaining an attorney is so important when trying to settle car accident insurance claims.
Tips and warnings
- Never cash a check the insurance company sends you unless you agree with the amount for your entire claim. Once you cash any check they send you, you accept the offer and relinquish any right to continue asking for more.
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