Feb 22, 2021
If you are involved in a car accident, understanding the claims process can help you recover the money necessary to get back on track. The information provided below related to car accident insurance claims can help you make wise decisions after an accident, follow the right path, and avoid critical mistakes that accident victims often make.
In most cases, you should work with a car accident lawyer. The insurance company might not pay your claim fully, could deny your claim outright, or may value your car improperly. The insurance company does not consider the best interests of victims or claimants. Carriers want to close these claims as quickly as possible while paying as little as possible.
After an accident, arm yourself with information that helps you play by the rules, negotiate with adjusters, and avoid financial hardships.
In the aftermath of an accident, check to ensure everyone is safe, accept medical attention from first responders, and contact the insurance company to report the accident. Taking pictures or videos of the accident scene, everyone’s injuries, and the damage to all vehicles can help substantiate a claim.
Request contact information for everyone involved, their insurance information, and their license plate numbers. If witnesses come forward, request their contact information.
Insurance claims require a police report and proof of injuries or damage, including receipts or medical records. Police reports are especially important because they create a timeline for the accident, often include a sketch of the accident scene, and describe the location. The insurance company may claim the accident never occurred if a police report or supporting evidence does not exist.
If a police officer does not arrive on the scene, California law states that you must report an accident involving an injury or fatality to the California Highway Patrol or local police department within 24 hours. A personal report of the accident should include all the relevant details of the incident. Record specific times, dates, circumstances, vehicles involved, and road or weather conditions.
In the event of a severe accident or questions involving fault, the report goes to an investigative agency. This is why it is important to call 911 after an accident no matter how benign it may appear initially. Failure to report the accident can result in heavy fines or even jail time.
Some claimants may choose not to file an insurance claim, hoping to keep their premiums as low as possible. While this is an understandable position given the high cost of carrying state-mandated insurance coverage, it is unwise. When victims refuse to file insurance claims, they may forfeit significant compensation that they are eligible to receive.
The insurance claims process asks victims to weigh first party claims versus third party claims. A first party claim is between the victim and their insurance company. Drivers involved in car accidents file a claim against their own insurance to recover compensation from their policy. Customers pay premiums every month for the right to claim repair expenses, rental car reimbursement, and possible medical expenses. An applicable accident scenario would be if you backed into a barrier in the grocery store parking lot.
Third party insurance claims allow victims to file against the at-fault party’s insurance policy. Common third party claims include:
No matter the scope of the accident, the insurance company wants to file the claim on your behalf, ask a few questions, record statements, and deny the claim or approve a tiny settlement. When accident victims put their claims in the hands of the insurance company, they could lose quite a lot of money and leverage.
Always submit an insurance claim personally, including all relevant information. The insurance company may or may not have this information, and you must document everything in the event of a denial. After submitting the claim, victims or claimants often wait for a response without sending any additional information to the insurance company.
In the interest of constructive negotiation, attach a demand letter explaining the facts of the case and why the carrier should pay the claim. It should be noted that crafting a document such as this is easier with the aid of a qualified personal injury lawyer with experience handling car accident cases.
The demand letter should relate all relevant evidence, explain the sequence of events, and detail the victim’s injuries. If necessary, a doctor might include information about the victim’s care and required treatment. Include an accounting of any money lost due to missed work resulting from injuries, and review any property damage incurred at the time of the accident.
The letter should close with a monetary demand, even if that demand is higher than what the victim expects to recover. This process takes extra time to complete, and it is important that victims or claimants move quickly to avoid any delays or outright denials.
Again, given the complexities involved in negotiating and writing/filing a demand letter, it is in the best interest of the injury victim to seek representation from an experienced car accident lawyer.
If you were injured in a car accident, the deadline to file an insurance claim can vary from carrier-to-carrier. Check with your specific carrier to confirm the deadline for filing a claim relative to your accident. Victims may wish to pursue litigation so that they can recover additional compensation. Generally, the statute of limitations for filing a car accident claim is two-years from the date of the accident in California. This rule does have some exceptions, such as a three-year statute of limitations on property damage and typically a six-month deadline for government claims. However, the general two-year statute applies to most accidents. Consult with an experienced personal injury lawyer to ensure you do not miss the deadline to file a claim.
The State of California dictates that insurance companies also abide by time limits established under the law. The insurance company has 15 days to acknowledge it received the claim and provide the claimant with all necessary documentation. Claimants can send requests to the carrier at any time, and the carrier has 15 days to respond. Insurance companies must report the status of a claim within 40 days, whether an approval or denial. If all parties reach a settlement, the insurance company has 30 days to pay the settlement amount in full.
Unfortunately, insurance companies may choose to delay claims for 30 days with written notice. If you feel the insurance company is intentionally delaying a valid claim, a lawyer can communicate with the insurance carrier on your behalf, or file suit if necessary.
Throughout the insurance claim process, the carrier calculates the value of your losses. The company must determine the actual cash value of the vehicle in order to pay the claim.
The actual cash value of the vehicle determines if it can be repaired for a fair price or not. If not, insurance companies simply total out the car and write a check for the ACV. This is the only time a vehicle owner needs the ACV. A claims adjuster will investigate the accident, review the damage to the vehicle, and send a settlement offer. Victims are well within their rights to reject a car accident insurance claim settlement offer. At this point, the claimant may begin negotiating with the claims adjuster.
The negotiation will continue until both the adjuster and claimant reach a mutually agreeable figure. The negotiation may not prove to be successful, however, and a lawsuit may be the only way for the claimant to recover the appropriate compensation.
Responding to a denial of claims in California requires an appeal letter – a document which officially begins the appeals process (calling to complain does not constitute an appeal). The letter allows victims to restate any specific facts, explain why their claim was wrongly denied, and request the appropriate coverage. In many cases, the insurance company will not reverse its decision. In such cases, litigation may be the next best option.
Retaining a personal injury lawyer allows claimants a review of their insurance policy. As these documents contain legalese, it may be difficult for consumers to understand the language used. Lawyers can find loopholes in the policy or come to understand how the insurance company is denying coverage.
Lawyers prepare documents, review insurance forms, and write letters to the insurance company or other involved parties. In turn, the insurance company sends letters, calls repeatedly, and requests meetings with the attorney rather than the claimant. Leaving the legal battle to your attorney allows you to focus on your recovery.
Hiring a car accident attorney can expedite and simplify the claims process. Insurance companies and their adjusters frequently use subtle tricks to deny coverage or reduce their liability, and an experienced DLG car accident attorney understands how to combat these entities. Moreover, insurance companies hire armies of lawyers to protect their interests, and you deserve comparable representation. Handling everything from preparing a claim to producing evidence is difficult without a legal background.
Working with a lawyer helps victims or claimants review matters of liability or fault. Insurance companies or police reports may lay the blame on the victim, and the victim’s lawyer must build a compelling case proving they deserve compensation.
Fighting the insurance company in court gives an attorney the opportunity to share all relevant evidence and explain bad faith efforts made by the insurance carrier. Keep in mind that the statute of limitations in California is two years from the date of the accident. Speak to a lawyer as soon as possible to avoid delays in the case and a possible denial by the court. Litigation forces the insurance carrier to consider a settlement because judges often recommend settling out of court, allowing claimants to recover compensation without going to trial.
Following the steps of the car insurance claims process can turn a difficult situation into a victory for you and your family. Reach out the Dordulian Law Group at 818-322-4056 for a free consultation.
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