If you've never had to file a claim with your auto insurance company before, then you may not have an accurate idea of what filing a claim will be like. You've paid your bills on time and been a good customer, so you might understandably picture a simple process of filling out forms and receiving a check for damages in a timely manner. Unfortunately, for many drivers, it's not that simple. Your insurance company may use a number of stall tactics and other tricks to avoid paying you the settlement that you deserve. Here are a few tricks to watch for:
Insultingly Low First Offers
It is possible that the insurance company will get back to you with a quick offer, but it's likely to be an incredibly low offer. The logic is simple: they figure that with repairs to make and medical bills to pay, you'll be in need of fast cash and not be in a position to negotiate. They'll come up with the lowest amount of money that they're willing to pay in order to get your claim settled quickly.
Don't fall for this. If your repair costs end up exceeding the estimate or if you need ongoing medical treatment that costs more than you expect, you won't be able to go back to the insurance company and ask for more money. By accepting a low first offer, you're signing away your right to negotiate for a better settlement, and you're most likely selling yourself very short.
Don't be surprised if an insurance agent shows up out of the blue to take a recorded statement, inspect your vehicle, or get your signature on some paperwork. This may be framed as good customer service – a personal visit to help you get your affairs in order and save you a trip or a phone call. Don't take the bait.
What the insurance agency is actually trying to do is lock you into saying something or showing them something that they can use later to refute your claim. Make a misstatement about your injury or forget to mention some treatment the doctor prescribed? That can be used later to try to show that you're lying about the extent of your injuries or the treatment you're claiming to need. Show the insurance adjuster your car damage before your lawyer or mechanic looks at it? You may end up stuck with the insurance adjuster's version of how damaged your car really is. And never sign any "routine paperwork" in a hurry just to get it over with. At most, take it and agree to look over it. Then tell the adjuster that you're busy and close the door.
After being offered a settlement quickly or being surprised by a personal visit from an insurance adjuster, it can come as a shock when you're ready to negotiate, but can't seem to get anyone on the phone. Where did they go? You may call and get put on hold for long amounts of time, then transferred to someone who knows nothing about your case. Paperwork that you send in may get mysteriously lost or misplaced. Messages you leave will go unanswered.
If this is happening to you, it may very well be deliberate. At this point, your bills are mounting and it's been a while since your accident. The insurance company failed to get you to accept their low offer in your moment of vulnerability shortly after the accident, so they're trying to make the process so frustrating that you'll give up and take the next low offer.
Your insurance company may try to convince you that you don't have as much of a claim as you think you do. For example, during negotiations, they may try to insist that your car is not a total loss, even though you've been told that it is. Don't take their word for it – they're just trying to convince you to take less money than you deserve.
It helps if you know exactly what qualifies as a total loss. It varies by state, but there are a few guidelines you should keep in mind. In some states, a total loss is a car that's repair cost total more than 51% of the value of the car. In other states, the repair cost has to total more than 70% of the car's value. And in some cases, it's when the repair costs plus the salvage value is greater than the cash value of the car. Find out the requirements in your state so that you can stand your ground if you're wrongly told that the insurer won't consider your car a total loss.
The smartest thing to do is retain an experienced local auto accident lawyer as soon as you can after the accident. That way, you can refer a request for a recorded statement or a vehicle examination to your attorney, who will look at your car and go over your statement with you ahead of time. They'll make the phone calls so that you don't have to. And your attorney will negotiate with the insurer on your behalf, and won't be swayed by tough tactics. You'll get a better settlement and will avoid the stress of dealing with the insurer's tough tactics.Share
16 April 2015
Too many single people assume they don't need to plan their estate. My brother fell into this category, and his unexpected passing left our entire family struggling to deal with his home, belongings, and financial accounts. It took nearly three years for the courts to set up a deal because he left no paperwork detailing how he wanted his estate divided. The situation immediately convinced me to work on my own estate, even though I'm still in my early 30's and don't have children or a spouse to worry about. Since it's a little harder to pick beneficiaries and estate managers when you're single, I collected the resources I used for making my own decisions and decided to publish them here on my blog. Use these resources before talking to an estate planning attorney so you're prepared for making hard decisions.