After getting into an automobile accident, how insurance companies process claims is probably the last thing on your mind. But as a driver (and therefore potential crash victim) it's important to understand this process. Being informed and up to date on insurance claims procedures can put you in a position to protect your own interests and may make all the difference when resolving your own crash claim.
If you've been injured in an accident, you'll likely file a claim with the responsible party's insurance company if the car accident wasn't your fault. This claim will be handled by an insurance adjuster whose real goal is to pay as little as possible to the injured party. You may ultimately choose to file a lawsuit against the responsible party. If this happens, the case will be transferred from the adjuster to the insurance company's legal team. Of course, the insurance company will still make most of the settlement decisions.
The insurance company for the responsible party will take the necessary steps to defend the other driver, and will ultimately look for ways to deny your claim, usually by arguing the crash was your fault. Traditionally, an interview is conducted either in person or via telephone. This recorded statement can ultimately be used against you when you file your claim and even hurt you should you end up filing a lawsuit. Remember, you have a right to remain silent. Talk to an experienced Portland car accident lawyer before providing a statement to an insurance adjuster.
Some insurance companies will discourage you from seeking legal counsel. If they know you're not being represented by an attorney, they may quickly offer you a settlement - typically for a much lower amount than what's fair. Other times, insurance companies will offer you a settlement before your medical treatments have ended. This is obviously never a good idea, given the unpredictability associated with some treatments. It's not uncommon for crash victims to take a quick settlement offer and then find out they need more medical treatment than the settlement covers. Make sure all your medical treatment is completed before you consider any settlement offer from the other driver's insurance company.
If a car accident is serious, an insurance company will often send a representative to the scene to get as much information as possible in an attempt to contain the value of the claim. Oftentimes this involves requesting an opportunity to inspect and photograph your vehicle. Before a lawsuit is filed, you are not under an obligation to provide evidence to the adverse party, like pictures of the vehicle, of your injuries or documents regarding wage loss, etc. Consult a lawyer as soon as possible before providing the opposing insurance investigator with evidence about the crash to ensure that you're interests being completely taken care of.
Additionally, some insurance companies will bombard you with lengthy medical release waivers urging you to sign and return. These waivers allow the insurance company to check into your medical history, and to find out whether you have pre-existing medical issues or not. Rather than just signing at the bottom, have an attorney read over the waiver carefully. It may be too broad and you may be providing access to private information that is entirely irrelevant to the crash claim.
Do you know your own insurance limits? Regardless of fault or severity of injury, your insurance will only cover medical and repair bills to a certain point. It all depends on the insurance policies of both you and the adverse driver. Look into your current policy and make sure you're comfortable with your current coverage.
No one can ever be 100% prepared for an automobile accident, but by understanding the insurance claims process, you're ahead of the pack. Remember to consult a car accident attorney if you're involved in a car accident, particularly if the accident involves injury.Personal Injury litigation firm Angel Law, P.C. represents clients involved in car accidents, SUV accidents, motorcycle and big-rig truck accidents all over the state of Oregon. Call us for a free consultation.