Regardless of whether you are at fault in a car accident, you need to call your insurance company and let them know what happened. If your accident results in damages or injuries, you likely will file a claim with the other driver’s insurance company or your own insurer.
Insurance companies prefer to minimize the amount they pay out in claims. So, when it comes to your insurance claim, be smart and document what you can. Here are some things to do and not do when it comes to your claim.
DO report your accident as soon as possible. If you have very serious injuries after your accident, it may be impossible to contact your insurance company immediately. However, you should do it as soon as you are able. If necessary, ask a family member to report it.
DO seek medical attention for any injuries. Some injuries fail to surface until a few hours or days after the accident. So, pay attention to how you are feeling and seek professional help if anything feels “off.”
DO gather as much information as you can about the accident. If you can, take pictures of the accident scene, vehicle damage and visible injuries. Exchange insurance information with the other party or parties to the accident. If anyone witnessed the crash, get their contact information.
DO respond promptly to any insurance company request for information. You do not need to give the insurance company a recorded or sworn statement. (We discuss this in more detail in our “don’ts” section.) Do not withhold information or delay providing it. You do not want to give the insurance company an easy reason to deny a claim.
DO keep track of your receipts for any repair expenses or medical care. If you want to make sure your accident expenses are covered to the maximum by your claim, keep your receipts and submit them to the insurance company.
DO keep a record of all communications with the insurance company. Hang on to any e-mails that you exchange with the insurance company. If you talk with an insurance company representative, make a note of the person’s name and position and the date and time of the conversation. Also, you should make copies of any written communication with the insurance company.
DO check your policy to see what is covered. If you have a good understanding of what your policy covers, you can push to make sure you receive the full amount of compensation that you are entitled to receive for your claim.
DO check if you have other ways to cover your accident expenses. Depending on the circumstances of your accident, you may be eligible to receive workers’ compensation benefits or disability benefits. You need to explore all options available to you.
DO talk to a lawyer. Personal injury lawyers deal with insurance companies all of the time. They can use their knowledge of insurance policies and the claims process to help you seek the maximum compensation for your damages following an accident.
DON’T speculate or volunteer extra information. Although you were involved in an accident, you may not know exactly why things happened the way they happened. So, don’t speculate. When police officers or insurance agents ask questions, answer them honestly but answer only with facts – not with your opinion.
DON’T admit fault. Even if you suspect that you were at fault for an accident, you may be wrong. Determining liability is complicated. It involves looking at many different factors. Allow the police and investigators to do their jobs and reach their own conclusions about fault. If you admit fault, you may not receive a fair settlement for your claim – even if you were not actually the cause of the accident.
DON’T negotiate directly with the other driver. The other driver is not in the position to determine fair value for your claim. If you negotiate outside of the insurance process, you may fail to get fairly compensated for your damages and injuries. If the other driver has insurance, you (or your lawyer) will deal directly with the driver’s insurance company. If the driver lacks insurance, you can talk with your own insurance company about available coverage.
DON’T give the insurance company anything in writing before reviewing your policy. Before you submit any information in writing to your insurance company, make sure you review your policy and understand fully what your coverage provides.
DON’T do anything to make your injuries worse. If you suffered injuries in the accident, make sure you seek medical attention and go to any follow-up appointments. Follow the instructions the doctor gives you in order to ensure that you reach maximum recovery (and receive maximum compensation for your injuries).
DON’T accept an insurance agent’s evaluation without question. When an insurance adjuster reaches a conclusion about the value of your claim, do not assume that the adjuster is correct. The insurance company has a vested interest in minimizing the amount that the company pays out in claims. You can try to get your own damage estimates or talk to a lawyer to help you do it.
DON’T sign a settlement without consulting a lawyer. If you sign a settlement and cash a check that says “full and final payment,” you will be unable to get any more compensation. The compensation that the company offers you may be unfair and fail to cover future medical expenses that result from your accident. A lawyer can help you to determine what a fair settlement would be and try to negotiate the best possible settlement for you with your insurance company.
DON’T sign a blanket medical authorization. The insurance company will want to see your medical records. However, the insurer is not entitled to any records beyond the medical records related to your accident. If the insurance company tries to access your records beyond that, it is a violation of your privacy. If you have any questions about the authorization, talk to a lawyer.
Being in an accident can be emotionally and physically taxing. You may just wish for the insurance company to handle your claim without any effort on your part. However, your vigilance and attention to certain details will help you to pursue full compensation.
If you talk to a lawyer about your accident, the lawyer can advocate for you and push for you to receive fair compensation for your damages.
At Salvi, Schostok & Pritchard P.C., our Chicago car accident lawyers know how difficult it is to deal with the aftermath of an accident. However, we also have extensive experience insurance companies and the ways they try to minimize claims. We will make sure your rights are protected. Put your mind at ease. Contact us today for a free consultation.