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10 Things to Know When You’re Dealing with Insurance Companies After an Accident

Colburn Law

How to handle the insurance company after an accident

After a car accident, you will need to meet with an insurance representative to collect compensation for your damages. Meeting with these representatives can be risky; it is not in the company’s best interest to pay you the maximum settlement, and you want to ensure that you receive enough funds to cover your damages. Before entering into discussions with an insurance company, keep the following facts in mind.

#1: Know the Difference Between First and Third-Party Claims

Since Washington is a fault-based state, you have a choice between filing a third-party insurance claim or a first-party claim. You file a third-party claim against the at-fault driver’s insurance company, while a first-party claim is with your own company. While most car accidents result in third-party claims, you may file a first party claim if you have appropriate coverage or you are in an accident with an uninsured or unidentified driver.

#2: Insurance Companies Do Not Have to Pay Your Full Settlement

Since the money you receive is coming from the company, it is the insurance adjuster’s job to save company funds. That means that the adjuster may use tactics to minimize your settlement, which can be difficult to fight without a lawyer’s knowledge.

#3: Your Statements Can Be Evidence Against You

Early on in your car accident claim, an insurance representative may ask for a statement. Do not give any statements before speaking with your lawyer — any statements you make now will be evidence the insurance company can use against you in the future, even if the facts of your case change.

#4: Be Wary of the First Settlement

The first settlement offer you receive from the insurance company may be lower than you actually need. The company may offer a settlement before you know the extent of your injuries, and accepting a lower offer may lead to further medical debt later on.

#5: You Can Choose a Different Auto Shop

Oftentimes, an insurance company will tell you to take your car to a specific repair shop. If you have a trusted mechanic and do not want to visit the shop they recommend, you have the right to choose a different shop.

#6: You Can Appeal a Denied Claim

The insurance company can deny your claim for a number of reasons, and it may seem like you do not have any options past this point. However, you can appeal the denial according to the procedures of the company. You may want to consult with an attorney before pursuing an appeal.

#7: Calculating Your Settlement Before Negotiations Is Important

Calculating the estimated value of your settlement is a necessary step in the insurance claims process. Different insurance companies use unique formulas to calculate your settlement, and a third-party evaluation can help you see if you are receiving a fair offer. Before entering into negotiations, make sure you have an estimate in mind.

#8: Insurance Companies May Refuse to Pay Your Medical Expenses

Medical expenses often comprise the bulk of insurance settlements. If the insurance company finds reasons to believe your injuries are not as serious as your medical records show, they may lower or deny your payment. To avoid this, seek medical attention immediately and keep copies of all medical records.

#9: You Can Appeal a Totaled Vehicle Offer

Sometimes, an insurance company may decide that your vehicle is totaled and that it would be cheaper to pay for the cost of the vehicle rather than repairs. If the company does not issue you a check for the vehicle’s fair market value, you can appeal the offer for a higher amount.

#10: You Can Hire a Lawyer to Represent You

Insurance companies may suggest that you do not need a lawyer to file a claim, but having an attorney on your side can protect your best interests during the process. Your personal injury lawyer can represent you in these conversations, as well as calculate the estimated value of your settlements and prepare you for negotiations beforehand.

Do not enter insurance negotiations alone. If you have to meet with an insurance representative after a car accident, speak to a Seattle car accident lawyer first.