If you fall into the statistics of car accidents, you will probably be in at least three minor or major motor vehicle crashes within thirty years of regular driving. While it is not something any of us wish for, it’s definitely better to be prepared and know what to do in case it ever happens to us.
One of the most stressful parts of an accident after you have dealt with the potential injuries and the police reports, and your car has been removed from the scene to take care of the damages if necessary, is dealing with the insurance companies involved.
Whether the accident was your fault or not, or you were injured or not, contacting your insurance company is required. Even if you were not injured and your car was not damaged, you have to let them know about the collision and file a claim. This is just in case there are any medical or property damages that you didn’t notice right away, or the other party decides to file.
When it is time to call the insurance company, here is everything you need to know to handle your claim without falling for the many insurance adjuster traps that they set for unsuspecting policyholders.
Be Sure You Followed the Proper Accident Steps
The immediate scene of a car crash can be a stressful situation. If anyone was injured, the tension can skyrocket as medical personnel tend to their injuries, and if the property damage was significant, that stress level is also compounded.
But there are a few designated protocol steps that must be followed during the course of a motor vehicle accident scene. If you are injured and you can’t do these steps yourself, it is likely a passenger or person in the other vehicle, or even a law enforcement officer at the scene, will be doing them in your place.
These steps occur in almost every accident, regardless of the severity:
- To start with, you need to move your car out of further harm’s way if possible.
- Take a minute to ensure that you and everyone in your vehicle are safe, then get out carefully and check the occupants of the other vehicle involved in the crash for their safety.
- Call 911 if anyone shows any sign of injury. These minor signs may turn into major medical problems quickly or even gradually over the next few days.
- Call the local law enforcement to attend to the scene and file a police report. You will need this when you go to file your insurance claim, and it will be very beneficial in proving fault should you decide to file a lawsuit later.
- Exchange insurance policy information with the other driver.
- Obtain the names and contact information (phone number and address) for the other driver and the passengers, as well.
- Check for witnesses and obtain their contact information, too. This may or may not be on the police report later, so if you are clear-headed enough to gather this potential evidence, it could be very important.
- Take pictures of the scene and gather any documentation if you can do so physically. Pictures of the damage to the car, the other car’s damage, tread marks, and property damage are considered evidence if you take the other party to court to get your medical bills and property damage covered.
- Talk to the officials on the scene. They will ask you questions, and you may find yourself repeating what you have already said. Try to stay calm and remember that they are trying to help you and the other driver get to the facts.
- Finally, once you have left the scene and are in a safe, calm place, call your insurance company to report the accident. You technically can report it while you are dealing with the accident and police officers, but since it does not have to be done immediately and there are nuances to dealing with an insurance adjuster, you should wait until you are able to calmly and rationally speak to someone to report your claim.
What to Know When You Call Your Insurance Company to Report a Claim
First, you need to understand that fault does not matter when it comes to reporting your accident. You are required to report the collision to your insurance company regardless of whose fault it was.
In many states, there is a timely filing requirement, too, and if you miss that window, your insurance can legally deny coverage for your medical treatment and property damage, so don’t play around. Report the accident as soon as you are physically able to do so.
You will need the facts of the accident. These may not be available on a police report this soon, so do the best you can with what you know. Your insurance adjuster will ask you for the date and time of the accident, the location as closely as you can get it, and your statement of what happened to cause the accident to occur.
They will also ask you about property damage. This is where those pictures that you took at the scene really come in handy. You can also talk about the other car’s damage, since that helps paint the full picture of the accident.
Your adjuster may also ask for facts such as the other party’s full name and phone number, driver’s license and license plate number, make, model and vehicle of their car, their insurance coverage and policy number, and the names and contact information for any passengers in either vehicle. If you don’t have this information, simply say so and get a copy of the police report as soon as it is made available, then submit the information to your insurance adjuster.
One of the most important questions you will get asked by your adjuster is whether or not you were injured. Tread carefully with this question – your answer has the potential to come back and bite you later should you say you are fine and end up with injuries that show up over the next few days or weeks.
Know What You Are Getting into With Insurance Adjusters
No matter how nice your adjuster is, you must remember at all times that they are not working with your best interests involved. An adjuster works for the insurance company, whose bottom line is to limit your claim payments as much as possible.
With that in mind, here is a little bit of information about insurance adjusters. There are two types: Level 1 and Level 2. Level 1 adjusters are non-attorney represented and have minimal experience, usually under three years. Level 2 adjusters are attorney-represented and have over three years of experience.
You will likely start out with a Level 1 adjuster, but once you obtain legal representation, you will probably be assigned to a Level 2 adjuster.
Your adjuster will try to get a recorded statement from you to reduce their liability. Remember that whatever you say can be twisted and used against you, so it is important to retain an attorney that is looking out for your best interests, like those of us at Hershey Law, before you make an official recorded statement.
Once you retain an attorney, they can deal with those phone calls and eliminate that stress for you.
The Facts About Negotiating with Adjusters
Before you talk to an adjuster, consult with an attorney. These personal injury consultations are usually free, and the attorney can give you advice on how to proceed with your claim.
However, if you have not met with an attorney and are going to talk to the adjuster anyway, here is some friendly advice to help you with your situation:
- Do not admit that you were at fault, even if the police report says you were.
- Do not talk about your medical conditions.
- Do not give away private details.
- Never agree to a settlement without talking to an attorney first. This can limit your benefits should you end up with more injuries or debts.
- Never sign anything or accept anything offered until you talk to an attorney.
- Do not let them rush you into making a decision.
- Be polite and respectful, but remember that the adjuster, no matter how nice they are, is not looking out for your best interests.
Adjusters get paid to reduce your claims. They will ask you questions to try to trick you, back you into a corner, or reduce their responsibility for your benefits. Instead of dealing with them yourself, always talk to an attorney first.
When Your Rights are on the Line, Let Us Help
If you were in a car accident and were injured due to another party’s negligence, you are entitled to compensation for your injuries. The insurance adjusters will not tell you about all of the benefits that you can legally collect, so it is important to speak to someone who is looking out for your rights.
At Hershey Law, we believe that our clients are our bread and butter and we want what is best for you. Call us today for your free consultation to see how we can help you alleviate the stress of your accident and get the benefits that you are entitled to receive.