What is the claim process and procedure?
Here is some helpful advice to help you set your expectations as you start the claim process.
Your auto accident insurance claim has two dominant parts: 1) The damage to your car, and 2) the damage to you. The claim surrounding the damage to your car can be resolved relatively soon after the accident. Your car’s injuries do not require weeks or months of therapy, just a repair or replacement. On the other hand, your physical injuries may take some time to heal. It is unwise to settle your bodily injury claim before you are healed. Once you and your doctors have determined that you are either better or as good as you will get through medical care (referred to as “medically stationary”), it is time to gather the materials necessary to evaluate your claim and to show the adjuster what you have been through. The basic documents used for this purpose are usually the police report, the property damage repair statement or replacement check, photos of the damaged car, medical records from all your accident related treatment, medical bills from the same, and proof of lost income from your employer and tax statements. Once you have gathered this material, you will want to look at it and understand it. Then, you will need to decide what you think the claim is worth. Write a letter to the insurance company explaining the accident, the damage to your car (to show how hard you were hit), your injuries and treatment, and lost income claim. Include a “demand” amount–the amount for which you would settle your claim. You may want to leave yourself some negotiating room on that figure. Then, send the letter and copies of all the materials you have gathered to the adjuster. Within a few days of sending these materials, call to make sure they were received, and ask how long the adjuster believes he or she will need to evaluate and get authority to make you an offer. Because the adjuster and their supervisors are processing many claims, this time-line is usually about four weeks. Sometimes the adjuster’s first response is to ask for additional materials. If the request seems reasonable, try to respond to the request. Eventually, the adjuster will make an opening offer. Although this offer will not usually be all that the adjuster plans to offer, it will be close. If you feel the offer meets your expectations, it is time to settle. If not, it is time to start a lawsuit. That process is covered in the section entitled “Litigation.