If you’re a good driver or just lucky, you may never have to deal with an insurance claims adjuster. But should your luck run out, here’s some important info to know before the insurance adjuster calls. It could help you get the best settlement and avoid car insurance premium increases.
When you’re in a car accident, your insurance company will typically send a claims adjuster to evaluate the damage and decide how much is needed to fix your car. You’ll either be offered an amount to get the
car repaired or, if Mr. A. decides it will cost more to fix your car than it’s worth, you’ll be offered the replacement cost of your car based on its book value. You can either accept the settlement or contest it.
All neat and tidy, so far. But what happens if you were injured in the accident? You can expect to hear from your insurance company and, if another driver was involved, you can also anticipate a call from that driver’s insurance company. If you’re talking to your insurance company, review your policy to learn exactly what information you’re required to provide and provide it promptly. If it’s the other driver’s insurance adjuster, you need only provide your name, address, phone number and the most basic information about the accident like where and when it happened and how many vehicles were involved. In either case, what you don’t want to do is volunteer anything that might adversely affect your claim.
Resolve to be calm and polite because abusive ranting will not get your claim settled any faster. Also get in the habit of taking notes. Before you say anything, write down the caller’s name, address and phone number, along with the name of the insurance company and, if applicable, client he or she represents. Also note the date and time of this and all subsequent conversations. Keep it in a file. You may need it if your claim goes to arbitration or to court.
Do not volunteer any more information than absolutely necessary. If pressed for more information, politely explain that you’ve been advised not to discuss the details at this time. Even if you live in a no-fault state, do not confess that you were to blame for the accident; percent of fault can come into play if you end up in court. Under no circumstances should you discuss the extent of your injuries or your prognosis for treatment and recovery. Until you have a complete medical description of you injuries in writing, provide only broad information like “I hurt my head,” or “My arm is broken.” Let the adjuster know you’ll continue to see your doctors. No, you don’t need to reveal who those doctors are.
When injuries are involved, the insurance adjuster’s goal is to get you to settle quickly. Don’t agree to any settlement verbally. Be extremely diligent and read any and everything you’re asked to sign. What you don’t want to do is inadvertently agree to a settlement. As tempting as a fast settlement may be, you could be selling yourself short if your injuries turn out to be more serious than they seem at first.
Conversely, don’t let the settlement process drag out. Review your state laws: most states have a statute of limitations on claim settlements and lawsuits against an at-fault driver. Understand what those time limits are so you don’t end up backed into taking a less-than-desirable settlement just because time is running out.