Statistically, it’s inevitable: On average, a person of a normal lifespan will likely be involved in at least three accidents. Even the most careful drivers can’t predict the texting teenager running a stop sign or someone’s brakes failing and slamming into someone’s rear bumper. These situations are never fun to deal with because it is an abrupt disruption in what started out to be an ordinary day.
Know how to deal with these life disruptions and it will get you quickly back on track and with the least amount of inconvenience as possible.
First, Deal With the Accident
- As soon as you are involved in an accident, call 9-1-1.
- Take long slow deep breaths to minimize the adrenaline rush so you can think clearly.
- Don’t move your car unless you absolutely have to (such as a minor fender bender on a busy highway during commuting hours).
- Do not engage the other driver in conversation.
- While you are waiting for to police arrive, write down everything from just before the accident up to the point you leave the scene. Don’t leave any detail out.
- If you have a smart phone that can take pictures and video, do that immediately. Make sure every angle and every side of each vehicle is recorded if possible.
- Go to the doctor or to the hospital and request to be thoroughly checked out with x-rays and MRI; obtain referrals for a neurologist and/or orthopedic specialist.
When You Get Home, Call Your Own Insurance Company
The claims process will begin once you have contacted the insurance company to notify them of an accident. You might be tempted to contact the other person’s insurance company if you are sure that they are at fault, but it is better to contact your own and let them handle the investigation and follow up. Let them seek out the accident report and work out who is at fault. It reduces the stress in navigating a claims system with someone else’s company.
The first thing to remember is that it is the claim adjuster’s job to close a claim with as low of a figure as possible. They aren’t in business to help you get rich. Your first offer from an adjuster will likely be a low-ball settlement. If you were not injured and they provide the amount needed to completely repair your car with OEM (original factory) parts, then you are good to go, but for any other scenario, do not sign or agree to any settlements until after you are sure there will be no more medical bills or expenses stemming from the accident.
Do not agree to any taped statements, sign for anything, or agree to anything until you are completely satisfied with the final payment arrangements and all repairs have been completed and medical bills paid. Don’t be bullied, either. Depending on the scope of your claim, adjusters might try to threaten that you won’t get any settlement or you have to take a settlement offer in a certain time period.
What If the Claims Adjuster Is Not Willing to Negotiate a Fair Settlement?
There are steps in place to appeal any offers provided to you buy a claims adjuster. New adjusters are rarely given more than $10,000 to settle a claim; it will need to go to a senior adjuster. If your claim reaches a senior claim adjuster and you are still unsatisfied with the offer, you can still appeal it.
Some states offer public claim adjusters who are impartial specialists that can provide their own settlement amount based on the case. Another option once you have gone through the chain of command of the insurance agency adjusters is to hire a personal injury lawyer. Don’t just go with one that you see on television ads; ask around and get a personal referral or two.
Not only are you entitled to have your car repaired, medical expenses paid, and lost wages reimbursed, but you can also receive “pain and suffering” which can vary based on the extend of your injuries. Just keep in mind that a PI lawyer will get a portion of your settlement so be sure to inquire on the payment before choosing representation.
If you have a traumatic accident and you do not seem to be receiving the proper treatment or reasonable settlement amounts from claims adjusters, stand firm and hold out for a fair settlement or retain legal advice.