In the case of sudden damage to your vehicle, whether it's weather-related, a fallen tree branch, or a collision between two vehicles, you'll first need to stay calm and assess the situation. You may be wondering just what to do after a car accident. Whether the damage is minor or more serious, you'll want to know these do's and don'ts before bringing a claim to your insurance company.
Call your agent right away. Don't wait until a day, two days, or even a week later. Make sure you're on the phone with your insurance agent as soon as is physically possible. If you have been injured and are unable to make the call, have a spouse, friend, or family member do so. The sooner your agent knows about the situation, the faster they will be able to act.
Speak honestly with your agent. If the collision or damage was caused by a specific action of yours, it can be embarrassing to admit to it. Anything that can be pointed to as less-than-honest communication could lead to problems with your claim later on. Did you hit a curb? Fall asleep at the wheel? Did you cause a fender-bender due to texting while driving? This is all information your insurance agent deserves to know.
Make a plan to look over your coverage before an accident occurs. Many people don't really know exactly what's in their insurance coverage. Schedule an appointment to sit down with your agent and go through your policy piece by piece. Your agent should have no trouble explaining your coverage to you in layman's terms, and you'll be better prepared if you know your policy inside and out.
Take photos as soon as you can. Without photos, either the other party involved in the collision or your claims agent may make the claim that some damage existed prior to collision or is unrelated. Take photographs of any and all damage before you leave the scene, as soon after the collision itself as possible.
Read up on the difference between replacement coverage and depreciated or cash value. Often, you will find yourself offered a 'settlement' amount that may or may not reflect the actual amount you are owed under your coverage. With "replacement cost" coverage, you may be required to cover the cost of some replacements before your policy kicks in.
Don't give a recorded or written statement to your insurer right away. Unless you fully understand your coverage, it is advisable to let your agent know you are not comfortable being recorded (if they ask) or writing anything down. If you feel your insurance agent is attempting to strong-arm you into being recorded or giving a written statement before you are ready, you should consider talking with an attorney.
Don't accept an estimate without a second opinion. The person handling your claim will often quote you a "value estimate" that may be significantly lower than the actual amount you should be owed based on the pre-collision value of your vehicle. Make sure you get a second (or third, or fourth) opinion on this number by researching the value of cars whose makes, models, years, and general mileage align closely with your own. Ask your claims agent how many examples of similar value they want you to provide, as different agencies will have different rules.
Don't sign any releases or waivers until you've spoken to a legal representative. It is not uncommon to find people who are in a difficult situation feeling pressured to sign for settlements that are lower than they deserve or to sign waivers or releases they don't quite understand. Please speak with an attorney or legal professional before signing any legal documents.
Don't accept any check labeled "final payment" unless you are truly ready. Accepting that check may mean your further legal options are limited if you become aware of other costs or issues that would affect the amount of your settlement. Unless you are content with the final amount, don't cash that check.
Don't ignore a time limit in your policy. Just about every insurance policy has some kind of time limit when it comes to reporting a claim. Make sure you know the time limit for each and every insurance policy you have (car insurance, homeowner's or renter's insurance, health insurance). It's important to know the deadlines for all your policies because the allotted time may be different for each one. Keep this information somewhere that is readily visible and easy-to-find if you should need to know on-the-fly.
One More: DO Speak With an Attorney
No matter where you live or your unique situation,if you are injured in an automobile collision, it is essential to speak with someone who is able to help you as you decide on your next course of action. Don't fall prey to insurance bad faith due to a lack of counsel. The insurance company knows its rights. Shouldn't you know yours? At BNTD Law in Columbia, South Carolina, we are here to help. Whether the collision involved automobiles, a tractor trailer, a motorcycle, or some other situation involving personal injury, we would be happy to speak with you. Just click the banner below or give us a call at (803) 779-7599 to schedule your FREE consultation today.