It’s probably happened to you or to someone you know. You file an auto insurance claim after a collision, but what the insurance company wants to pay you is far less than the cost of the auto repairs. How can this happen?
If an insurance company will not meet its responsibility to you, do you have legal recourse? Keep reading, and you’ll learn what every California driver needs to know about negotiating an auto insurance claim.
Because every accident is different, when auto insurance companies calculate settlement amounts, there’s no precise or reliable formula that can be routinely applied.
Instead, auto insurance companies must take a variety of factors into account including the determination of fault, the property damage in a collision, any personal injuries that are sustained, and the limits of the drivers’ insurance policies.
HOW ARE VEHICLE DAMAGES AND INJURIES TYPICALLY HANDLED?
If you aren’t injured in a collision, and if your claim is strictly for the damage to your vehicle, you’ll be seeking to repair or replace the damaged vehicle part(s) or the entire vehicle.
When the replacement or repair cost exceeds the value of the vehicle, the vehicle is deemed a total loss, and you should be fully compensated for that loss. Too often, however, the compensation amount that a claimant is offered is not sufficient to repair a vehicle or to buy a replacement.
But if you are injured in a California traffic collision, a personal injury claim is negotiated separately from the property damage claim. Your injury compensation from the insurance company is supposed to cover all of your medical expenses and lost wages.
The medical records documenting your injuries will be scrutinized and will have considerable influence on the final compensation amount that the insurance company offers you.
If you are not injured in an accident, and you’re up to the task, there’s no reason why you can’t negotiate directly and on your own with the auto insurance company.
But if you are injured in a traffic accident here in southern California, before you submit any claim, sign any insurance document, or make any statement to an auto insurance company, consult first with an experienced Pasadena personal injury attorney.
DO YOU UNDERSTAND YOUR AUTO INSURANCE POLICY?
It’s imperative for all California motorists to understand their auto insurance. After you file a claim, if you are not pleased with a company’s settlement offer – let’s say that your car was a total loss, and you believe that your vehicle was worth more than the amount being offered – you can accept the offer anyway, negotiate on your own or through an attorney for a better offer, or retain an attorney to argue your insurance claim in civil court.
If you are negotiating with a claims adjuster, and the offer you receive is insufficient, you must provide some kind of evidence to support your position.
That evidence might be photographs of the vehicle both before and after the crash, receipts for previous enhancements and repairs to the vehicle, and/or estimates from qualified appraisers.
Don’t simply accept a claims adjuster’s estimate of your damages and repair costs. When you file a damage claim after an accident, you have the right to obtain your own repair estimates and the right to have your vehicle examined and repaired by any mechanic who is certified in the state of California.
WHAT ARE A CLAIMS ADJUSTER’S RESPONSIBILITIES?
Remember – a claims adjuster answers to a company and a boss. According to Wikipedia, a claims adjuster “investigates insurance claims by interviewing the claimant and witnesses, consulting police and hospital records, and inspecting property damage to determine the extent of the company’s liability.”
Claims adjusters identify the damages that an insurance policy covers, and they negotiate settlements on the company’s behalf for property damages and personal injuries. Adjusters answer to senior adjusters and to supervisors who make the important liability, coverage, and negotiating determinations.
If an adjuster insists that a particular amount is all that the company can or will pay you, that’s probably not actually true. If your evidence proves that your vehicle was worth more than the settlement offer amount you are being offered, an adjuster can ask a company manager to approve a higher amount – provided, of course, that you’re dealing with honest insurance professionals.
WHEN SHOULD YOU SEEK AN ATTORNEY’S ADVICE?
Negotiating on your own can genuinely pay off when the auto insurance company operates ethically and legally, but if you are not treated fairly and forthrightly by a claims adjuster – or if you’re simply being ignored by the company – get an attorney’s help. In extreme cases, your attorney may recommend filing a bad faith lawsuit against an insurance firm that will not meet its obligation to you.
If you are injured by a negligent driver in southern California, you are obligated to notify your auto insurance company about the accident, but don’t make a statement or file a claim at that time.
Instead, take your case directly and immediately to a personal injury attorney who routinely represents the injured victims of negligent drivers.
HOW CAN INJURY VICTIMS OBTAIN THE COMPENSATION THEY DESERVE?
In California, if you are injured by another driver’s negligence, the law entitles you to complete compensation for all of your medical care and lost wages.
However, you’ll have to prove that you are entitled to the compensation, which means proving that you were injured and proving that the other driver’s negligence is the reason why. That will require an injury lawyer’s help.
Insurance companies, like all other companies, have to make a profit, but they must also meet their responsibilities. When a property damage claim or a personal injury claim is rejected, undervalued, or delayed for no good reason, those making legitimate claims can suffer financial hardships.
If you’ve suffered physical injuries, including a whiplash injury, in southern California because another motorist was negligent, consult first with an experienced Pasadena personal injury attorney.
If you agree to a quick settlement or sign insurance papers before you discuss your case with an injury attorney, you might be signing away legal rights that you’ll need if you are severely injured.
Instead, have an injury attorney negotiate your insurance claim. If an insurance company’s final settlement offer is insufficient, your attorney may recommend filing a personal injury lawsuit and seeking compensation in the courts. Adhere to your attorney’s advice, because after a serious accident, your health and your future are too important to risk.