When disaster strikes and you find yourself the victim of a car accident, the aftermath can be as challenging as the incident. One of the most daunting tasks is dealing with the insurance company. These companies are not in the habit of willingly parting with their money, even when it's due.
The insurance company may make it difficult for you to get the financial support you need after a car accident, even if you follow every step correctly. A San Diego car accident lawyer, however, can navigate insurance claims and maximize the compensation you recover for your damages.
Understanding Car Insurance
Car insurance is a contract between you and your insurance company, where you pay a premium, and, in return, the insurance company agrees to pay for specific car-related financial losses during the term of the policy.
Auto insurance safeguards you against financial loss due to an accident or theft. The insurance company covers these losses, so you don't have to.
While it's a legal requirement in most states, it's also a wise financial decision. Without coverage, you risk paying out-of-pocket costs for damage to your car, someone else's property, or medical bills, depending on the accident's severity.
Different Types of Car Insurance
Key types of car insurance coverage you should be aware of include:
- Liability coverage: This protects you from claims resulting from injuries or property damage if you cause a car accident. Most states mandate liability insurance. This coverage does not compensate for your own injuries or damaged property.
- Collision insurance: This coverage helps pay to repair or replace your car if it suffers damage in a collision with another vehicle or object. Collision insurance generally kicks in when your negligent actions or circumstances beyond your control cause an accident. While this insurance is optional, drivers should carry adequate collision coverage for all vehicle repairs.
- Comprehensive coverage: This type of insurance covers damages to your vehicle from causes other than a collision, such as theft, vandalism, or severe weather. Comprehensive coverage helps you repair or replace your car after non-collision events due to circumstances outside your control, including weather-related emergencies, falling tree limbs, or malicious intent from another individual.
- Uninsured/underinsured motorist coverage: This offers protection if you are in an accident with a driver with insufficient or no insurance coverage. Around 12 percent of drivers do not carry auto insurance. Many more carry only the state-mandated minimum liability coverage. This minimum amount of insurance often provides inadequate protection against accident-associated damages, particularly if you drive an expensive vehicle.
- Medical payments coverage (MedPay) or personal injury protection (PIP): These auto coverages pay for medical costs for you and your passengers after an accident regardless of who is at fault. Some states mandate MedPay and PIP coverage.
The types of coverage that may be necessary or beneficial will depend on your circumstances. Understanding the various coverages, however, allows you to navigate the insurance landscape effectively after an accident.
A lawyer can review your policy, clarify your insurance types, and determine the coverage you can expect following an accident. If you are in an accident with another driver whose insurance will potentially cover the damages, your attorney can also review their policies and the coverage you may expect.
Challenges When Dealing With Insurance Companies
Dealing with insurance companies can make a car accident more complex.
To understand the typical challenges that arise when dealing with insurance companies, you must recognize that insurance providers are businesses.
While they do provide assistance in times of need and have a legal obligation to act fairly and in good faith, they want to save money by minimizing payouts. This can sometimes result in practices that harm policyholders. This is another reason to hire a skilled car accident lawyer.
Low Initial Settlement Offers
Insurance companies may make low initial settlement offers. Exploiting the fact that many people don’t know how much their claim is worth and might feel desperate for immediate financial assistance, insurers may propose a settlement that is significantly less than what the victim deserves.
A low settlement offer will often arrive soon after the accident, before you have the chance to establish the full extent of your injuries and their consequences, including your recovery and long-term expenses.
If you suffer a brain injury, for example, you might not know what the long-term limitations will be or how much you can expect to pay out in medical costs. Even if you suffer broken bones in an accident, you may suffer setbacks and complications in your recovery that increase your damages. Insurance companies may pressure you to accept these low settlement offers.
Talk to your lawyer before accepting a settlement. An experienced car accident attorney can assess the offer and determine whether it reflects your actual losses.
Another common tactic insurance companies use is deliberately delaying claims. Insurers might prolong the process, hoping you will become impatient and accept a lower settlement. This is particularly common in cases involving large claims. Delay tactics may include making it difficult for you to get a response or dragging out claim approval.
An experienced lawyer can ensure your claim progresses more smoothly. They can hold insurance companies to any legal or policy-related deadlines regarding when they must pay compensation. Your attorney can handle each step of your claim, including filling out and submitting the necessary paperwork to the insurer, facilitating the process.
Insurance companies may deny valid claims. This usually happens due to an alleged violation of the policy terms and conditions. In many instances, however, they just use this unduly harsh tactic to avoid paying out benefits.
If the insurer denies your claim, you can still pursue compensation for your injuries. In many cases, a lawyer can appeal your claim and seek the compensation you deserve.
Unfair Interpretation of Policy Language
Insurance policies are legal contracts comprising complex terminology and jargon. Insurance companies can use these intricacies to interpret the policy in the most beneficial way, leading to a reduced payout or denied claim.
A skilled lawyer can carefully review those terms and ensure that your settlement offer fairly reflects the compensation the policy stipulates.
These challenges may seem intimidating, but remember that you have rights as a policyholder. An experienced car accident lawyer can significantly increase your chances of receiving the compensation you deserve.
Navigating the Claims Process
Having an experienced car accident lawyer who knows how to navigate the insurance claims process is crucial to receiving fair compensation after a car accident. This generally begins when your lawyer notifies your insurance company of the accident.
After reporting the accident to your insurer, the insurance company will assign an insurance adjuster to your claim. The adjuster's job is to investigate the accident, assess the damage, and evaluate the worth of your claim based on the details of your insurance policy and the injuries and losses you suffered.
The typical steps in this process are:
- The adjuster investigates the accident and your injuries.
- The adjuster reviews your insurance coverage and calculates the settlement value.
- The insurance company offers you a settlement.
- You agree to the settlement or negotiate for a higher amount.
If you reach an agreement, you receive payment. If not, you may need to take legal action.
The process can get confusing and stressful, especially when high-cost repairs, serious injuries, or disagreements about the accident arise.
Tips for Dealing With Insurance Adjusters
Remember that insurance adjusters work for the insurance company, not you. Their primary task is to save the company money, which might mean minimizing your claim.
The following tips can ensure you receive fair treatment:
- Talk to a lawyer: An attorney can protect your rights and handle all interactions with the insurer on your behalf.
- Stay calm and professional: If you have any interactions with the adjuster, keep them professional and direct them to your lawyer.
- Stick to the facts: Only discuss the facts of the accident. Avoid giving opinions or speculating.
- Never admit fault: Even if you think you might have been partly at fault, never say so to the adjuster. This can jeopardize your claim.
- Don't accept the first offer: The adjuster's first settlement offer is typically lower than you are eligible for.
A lawyer can make dealing with an insurance company far easier.
Contact a Lawyer to Learn Your Rights
Contact a lawyer as soon as possible to get the advice and support you need to reduce your stress and navigate your claim successfully.