Auto Accident Victims
Here's 10 Ways to Win Your Claim
Most auto accident victims are shaken up after a crash. Being injured, going into shock or having your adrenaline kick into high gear all affect your ability to think and act clearly.
But if you've been in an accident there are some important things you need to keep in mind. You'll want to know these so you can be compensated for your injuries or vehicle damage.
In the following, we'll walk you through 10 basic steps so you've got a blueprint on how to approach your claim. We'll also highlight some insurance company tricks to watch out for.
Let's get started….
10 Steps to Win Your Accident Claim
- Be Prepared Before it Happens - Insurance policies are incredibly boring to read but you should have a general sense of what yours covers. It also wouldn't hurt to know the basics of how your state's laws affect play out in auto accidents. Be sure your insurance information is neatly organized and easily accessible in your vehicle. For bonus points stock up a roadside emergency kit .
- Check Yourself and Others for Injury - Priority number one after an accident is checking yourself to see if you're injured. Also be sure to check on other members of your car and the other party. Avoid saying things like “I'm sorry, are you okay?” even if this is how you are feeling. Just focus on ensuring everyone is okay and navigating your vehicle to a safe stopping place. Listen to EMS responders. Sometimes you may not feel injured but shock can mask a lot of things and if a medical professional is telling you to get checked, listen to them.
- Call 911 - Even if an accident is relatively minor don't think you shouldn't call the police. Sometimes the other driver (especially if they're at fault) may suggest or threaten you not to do it. You have a duty to report an accident, and in terms of your claim, a police report will be imperative.
- Exchange Information With the Other Party - In the age of smartphones this is much easier than it used to be. Bust out your phone and get photocopies of the other party's driver's license and insurance card. They might have outstanding warrants, unpaid tickets, lack insurance or have another reason for you not wanting to know who they are. This is another reason why it's important to call the police.
- Document, Document, Document - With these steps completed, start gathering as much information as you can. Get photos of the scene, the vehicles, the roadway, a guardrail, sidewalk, traffic signal, trees, debris -- anything at all that might be relevant. The DMV  suggests that you also take notes on the following:
- Who was driving
- What happened
- What caused the crash
- What were the road conditions
- Speed of both vehicles
- Track Down any Witnesses you Can Find - Witnesses often are the difference makers in a disputed claim. A lot of times people will stop to check on other drivers or to let them know they saw what happened. Make sure (if you have the presence of mind) you get these people's contact information. Later on you, your insurance company or perhaps you attorney can speak with them.
- Notify Your Insurance Company - You want to do this as quickly as possible after an accident. A lot of people are leery about their rates going up even if they weren't at fault. It's true that filing a lot of claims can affect your rates but it is still in your interest to let your insurance company know what happened. Best case scenario you do this in 24 to 48 hours after the accident, at a minimum do it within a week.
- Take Your Own Statement - Memory can be a fickle thing especially at moment of stress. So record your own spoken version of events if you can. You'll likely be asked to give a recorded statement to your insurance company or the other party's, so it's good to have facts clear in your mind.
- Follow-up With Your Doctor - If you didn't go to the emergency room follow-up with your primary care physician for any injuries. Be sure to communicate the reason for your visit. Doctors may write their chart notes in a more clear and helpful way if they know you're dealing with an auto accident claim. Get copies of your medical records and bills and submit them to the insurance company.
- Consider Consulting With a Lawyer - Most claims don't require legal representation but if a claim is of high value, disputed or you feel you're being treated unfairly asking for a professional legal opinion probably makes sense. The nice thing about an attorney consult is that they will give you a good idea of your position and chances of winning a claim.
These ten steps can be considered a basic guide after an auto accident but there is more that you need to know. Here are three tricks commonly used by insurance companies to pay you less.
- Insisting on a recorded statement - An adjuster might give you 10 reasons why a statement is required. Don't be fooled, a big part of it is to get you on record and potentially limit your ability to be compensated down the road. You can refuse a recorded statement if you don't feel it's in your interest.
- Pretending to be on your side - In same cases, insurance companies will do a lot to keep their insureds happy but never forget insurance personal serve the company, not you. An adjuster may talk about how they're trying to get things resolved for you. They may be or they may be trying to close your claim as quickly as possible.
- Using social media against you - A new tactic used by some insurance carriers is to review a claimant's public social media information. Insurance companies want to see if you talk about your accident online, especially if you say anything related to liability or injuries.
The above tactics are questionably ethical, and certainly not all insurance companies will employ them. Many insurance adjusters are kind and honest people -- but be aware that there are plenty of tricks out there nonetheless.
If you were an auto accident victim, it's important to protect yourself. Being safe boils down to doing a few basics:
- Be as prepared as you can
- Check for injuries and call the police
- Exchange information and document as many details as you can
- Notify your insurance company and follow up with the doctor
- Consult with an attorney if needed
1 - Edmunds
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