Do You Need Help Filing A Car Accident Insurance Claim?
WHOSE INSURANCE PAYS FOR THE DAMAGE TO MY VEHICLE?
There are potentially two options:
- Option – The insurance company for the party at-fault should pay for the repairs. However, sometimes they will want to investigate the accident before agreeing to pay for the damage to your car. If it appears that they may take too long to investigate and you need your car repaired sooner than consider Option 2.
- Option – If you have Collision Coverage, you can opt to have your own insurance repair your car, typically less a deductible. If you choose this option you will ultimately get your deductible back from the at fault party’s insurance.
RENTAL CAR COVERAGE
The at-fault driver’s insurance is required to provide a rental vehicle while your car is being repaired and will pay for the towing and storage as long as the amount is reasonable. If your car is deemed a total loss, the at-fault insurance will have to pay for your car only until they have made you an offer for your total loss. If you have rental coverage through your own insurance you may opt to go through your own policy, should it be more timely and efficient to do so.
WHERE SHOULD I TAKE MY CAR TO BE REPAIRED?
You are welcome to take your car to the body shop of your choice. The Advocates work closely with a few body shops where we are able to ensure great service and work. There will be two people working hard to get you in a rental car and get your car fixed quickly.
DO I HAVE TO HAVE MY VEHICLE REPAIRED?
You don’t have to have your vehicle repaired. You can opt to get an estimate of the damage and just have the insurance company pay you directly for the amount of the damage.
WHAT IF THE AT FAULT DRIVER HAS NO INSURANCE
If you were hit by a vehicle that doesn’t have insurance, then the other driver’s insurance company will not pay for your vehicle damage. Contact your insurance company to see if you have Uninsured Motorist Property Damage coverage. The coverage usually has low limits and there is a deductible to pay. If you do not have this coverage then your vehicle will not be fixed unless you pay for it out of your own pocket.
MY VEHICLE IS CONSIDERED A TOTAL LOSS – WHAT DO I DO?
DEALING WITH YOUR DAMAGED CAR
If your vehicle is considered totaled, you will ultimately get an offer from the at-fault party’s insurance. If you have Collision Coverage through your own insurance you should also have them provide you an offer. It may be a better offer. Keep in mind that the offer should be the fair market value for your car, not what may be the payoff on a loan on your car. You should do your own research to determine the private party fair market value through places like www.nadaguides.com, www.kbb.com, or www.edmunds.com. You can also check local listings (i.e. KSL.com) to see if your vehicle year and model has listings.
The following is a general guide to better ensure that you file your auto claim the right way.
THE ACCIDENT SCENE
- Make sure everyone involved is stabilized and safe: Administer first aid where needed and do not exit your vehicle unless it is safe to do so. Call 911.
- Make sure your vehicle is in a safe place: Although it’s preferable not to move your vehicle until law enforcement has arrived, you should make sure your vehicle is in a safe place. If you have to move your vehicle make sure you take photos of where the vehicles came to rest before moving it.
- Take as many photos as possible: Most of us have cell phones with a camera on them. This can be a useful tool for gathering evidence at the accident scene. You should take photos of where the vehicles came to rest, skid marks, damage to all vehicles involved, and any apparent injuries you may have.
- Get witness information: Many times witnesses will stop to offer assistance but then leave the scene before giving information to law enforcement. It is important that you take down witness information (name, phone #, license plate #). This can be especially helpful to avoid a “he said-she said” scenario in intersection accidents.Exchange driver information: It is important that you exchange contact and automobile insurance information with the driver(s) of the other vehicle(s) involved. A law enforcement officer will generally have an official form designated for this person. The most import thing to get is the at-fault driver’s name, phone number, address, the name of their automobile insurance carrier, and their policy number. Finally, taking a photo of the other driver’s automobile insurance card is a good idea.
- Contact Law Enforcement: Make sure that someone on the scene has contacted law enforcement, no matter how minor the accident may seem. Often times the at-fault driver will not want law enforcement called. However, the benefits of having law enforcement at the scene generally outweigh any potential detriment to the at fault driver.
- Medical Treatment: If you need medical treatment you should get it as soon as you can. Your own automobile insurance will have medical payment coverage usually called PIP (personal injury protection) or No-Fault Med-Pay that will pay the first portion of your medical bills. In other words, don’t forgo needed medical treatment even if you don’t have private health insurance.
- Admissions: You should avoid making any statements at the scene regarding fault or liability, even if you think you might have done something wrong that contributed to the accident. Anything you say at the scene is very likely admissible should you case ever need to be litigated.
- Speak with one of our attorneys as soon as possible: One of the many reasons that our attorneys are available 24-7 is so that you can contact us before speaking with the insurance companies involved. We can help you understand what is appropriate to tell insurance companies and what might be potentially damaging to your case.
- The representative from the insurance company: The representatives from the auto insurance companies involved will attempt to contact you as soon as possible after the accident. These initial intake representatives will seek all kinds of information from you, some that are necessary and some that are only designed to start building a case against you. We can help you understand what you should share with the insurance company and what you shouldn’t.
- Medical Treatment: If you need medical treatment you should get it. Don’t hesitate because you may not have private health insurance. Your own automobile insurance will pay for some of your medical bills through the PIP portion of your automobile policy. Once that is exhausted we can help ensure that you receive continued medical care without the need for out of pocket expense through a variety of means. One example is our ability to setup attorney liens so that your providers will hold off on payment until we settle your case.
- Your damages: The at-fault driver’s insurance will be responsible to compensate you for all of the damages caused by the accident. We can help you understand from the beginning how your medical treatment will be paid for, how your car repair will be dealt with, how you can get compensated for lost wages following the automobile accident, and what it means to get compensation for pain and suffering. It’s important that you understand fully how this works from the beginning so that you don’t make common mistakes that could cost you thousands of dollars. For example, a gap in treatment could be used to try and devalue your claim. Or, leaving your car at the tow yard could result in costly storage fees.
- Your private health insurance: For the most part, you should use your private health insurance to pay for as many of your medical bills as possible. This can be very complicated and the health insurance companies often require specific paperwork before they will begin processing claims. We can help both you and your health insurance company in this process. Also, you should understand that your health insurance will ultimately get reimbursed for payments they make on your behalf. After all, it wasn’t your fault the accident happened.
- Avoiding collections: One of the biggest benefits to having an advocate is that we are watching the bills that you are incurring to make sure they don’t end up in collections which would have an impact on your credit. There are tools that we can use to keep bills from collections. One example is setting up an attorney lien with the providers.
- Lost Wages: Your provable lost wages will ultimately be paid by the at-fault driver’s insurance. However, that settlement may be months or years in the future. However, your own automobile insurance will have a lost wage benefit through your PIP policy. Although a seemingly easy claim to navigate it often proves very time consuming and requires some very specific paperwork. At the advocates, we provide tenacity and persistence to ensure that your lost wages are paid as soon as possible.
- Household services: Your injuries may be such that you cannot perform your normal household duties. Your own automobile insurance will have a household services benefit through the PIP portion of your policy. Like the lost wage claim through your PIP, it can often be difficult and time consuming to get these claims paid. We at the Advocated can help you navigate through this process to ensure that you get reimbursed for household services as soon as possible.
- Loans: Although not always advisable, sometimes it may be necessary to obtain a loan in order to help you with a household income that may have been lost due to medical bills or lost wages following the automobile accident. When needed, we can help obtain a loan for you that does not require a credit check. These loans are essentially an advance on your future injury settlement.
- Rental Car: One of the most frustrating tactics used by insurance companies lately is that they will not offer a rental car until they have “established liability”. This can sometimes take weeks. At the Advocates, we offer a service by which we can get our clients in a rental car very quickly, often times the same day.
- Your settlement: When you have completed your treatment or are at maximum medical improvement, we will seek a settlement on your behalf from the at-fault parties insurance. Because we are compensated as a percentage of the settlement, you can rest easy knowing that we are working to get the highest settlement possible. Those who try and settle their cases without an advocate likely leave thousands of dollars on the table because people simply don’t know what the fair value of their case is. Letting the insurance company establish the value of the case is never a good idea.
- Litigation: Occasionally the at-fault driver’s insurance will not offer a reasonable settlement. We stick with and continue to advocate for clients even if we can settle the case at this point. In these circumstances, and with your permission, we will engage in litigation when we believe that we might be able to obtain a better settlement for you. If we proceed with litigation we will advance the costs of litigating and we do our best to navigate through the lawsuit process as quickly as possible.