When you need to make an auto insurance claim, you should proceed with care.
Your actions may have a significant influence on the amount of compensation you receive. An insurance company is legally obligated to follow through on the terms of its contract with its insured. You have the right to make sure that happens, and a lawyer can offer you the support, guidance and advocacy you need.
- Consult an attorney for legal advice.
- Review your insurance policies to find out what is covered and what is excluded.
- Notify your insurance company right away after you are in a car accident, your car is stolen or damaged or another such covered event takes place.
- Take pictures if you can: of your vehicle, the accident site and your injuries.
- Take notes when you speak with your insurance company. Make a record of the names, job titles and phone numbers of the representatives with whom you communicate. If you can, get the names of their supervisors, too. Note what you discussed and what you or the representative promised to do.
- Tell your insurance company the truth. Not only does this save everyone a lot of time and effort, but questions of legal liability can be complex. If you fail to be forthcoming with your insurance company, this could invalidate or reduce your coverage.
- Investigate whether there is additional insurance coverage. Depending on the circumstances, supplemental coverage may come from another auto insurance policy, a homeowner’s policy or umbrella coverage.
- Keep the receipts for money you’ve spent on car rental, medical bills and purchases made in connection with the motor vehicle accident.
- Make sure you’re aware of the difference between the replacement value of your car and what you actually owe on the car. If the car is totaled, most car insurance will cover only the cash value of your car at the time of the accident. You may owe more than that, however, on the loan or the lease of the car. Gap coverage makes up for this difference. Additional coverage is usually necessary for things like a special sound system in your car.
- Accept the insurance company’s estimate of your losses and damages until you have a chance to fully explore the matter yourself. An attorney’s help can be valuable in determining whether the insurance company’s estimate is fair.
- Give the insurance company a recorded or written statement until you have determined how you wish to proceed and you have spoken with an attourney. It is important to be aware of the extent of your insurance coverage and your rights.
- Sign a release or waiver until you have gotten reliable legal advice. You may feel pressure to sign from the insurance company, but it is your right to explore your options. Just make sure that you take appropriate action within the time limit stated in your insurance policy and the applicable state statue of limitations.
- Accept a check from the insurance company — especially one that says “final payment” — unless you have obtained legal advice and carefully weighed your options.