In order to protect your rights and receive proper compensation for your property loss or injuries if you are involved in an automobile accident, it is important to understand how insurance companies investigate accident claims. If you do not follow the correct procedures or if you attempt to file fraudulent claims, you could have the amount of your compensation drastically reduced, or even worse, find yourself on the wrong side of the law. This is where the services of a Gainesville personal injury lawyer are helpful with explaining your rights, what to expect during the claim investigation process, how to deal with the insurance company, and negotiating a fair settlement on your behalf.
Steven A. Bagen Law Firm is a personal injury law firm with offices in Gainesville and Ocala, Florida.
The Claims Process
As soon as you are safe and physically able, you must file a claim with your insurance company to start the claims process. This is normally done over the phone and you will be given a claim number that will be used to reference your case. The claim number is very important because you will need to provide it to medical service providers so that they can direct their bills to the proper parties for payment.
This is also a good time to consult with a Gainesville personal injury lawyer who can prepare you for the claims process so that you avoid making mistakes that could jeopardize your future settlement. After notifying your insurance company of your accident, you will be contacted by an insurance or claims adjuster from either your insurance company or the other driver's insurance company who will begin investigating your claim.
The adjuster may ask you questions over the phone regarding the accident in order to clarify your initial account of the accident when you first reported your claim to the company. Included in their investigation, the claims adjuster is likely to:
- Ask you to mail or fax a copy of the accident report from the police.
- Make contact with any other drivers who were involved in the accident, in addition to any witnesses that may be listed on the accident report.
- Visit the scene of the accident to document road conditions or any other factors that may have played a part in causing your accident.
- Request to see your vehicle to view and document its damage with photos. You may be asked to take the vehicle to one of the insurer’s authorized body shops or one of your choosing for an estimate.
- Ask for your signature on a medical release form, which gives them permission to view your medical records.
- Contact the medical providers that have provided you with treatment for your injuries and request information regarding your medical expenses.
All of the information gathered by the claims adjuster will provide insight in determining how the accident occurred and who should be held at fault. Included in this process is a determination whether your insurance coverage will cover your claim and if your property damage and medical expenses have or are expected to exceed the limits of that coverage.
Special Considerations When Dealing with the Other Driver’s Insurance Company
If you are making an injury claim, you may be asked by the other driver’s insurance adjuster to provide a recorded statement regarding your claim. In this case, it is wise to seek advice from a Gainesville personal injury lawyer before agreeing to provide this statement. While you may be required to cooperate with your own insurance company and give this recorded statement detailing your account of the accident, there is no law that compels you to do so.
You may think that you are helping your case by cooperating and recording this statement for the other driver’s insurer; however, it is often possible that it will do more harm than good. Any information you give in this statement could be used against you, and insurance companies are notorious for their ability to twist the story to put claimants in a negative light and reject their claims. Therefore, you should avoid giving this statement unless the law requires it.
Settling Your Claim
After reviewing all of the gathered information, the claims adjuster will determine the value of your claim and attempt to settle the claim with you. If an attorney does not represent you, they will often ask you how much money you think your claim is worth. It is best not to give them an amount, but, instead, ask the adjuster how much in which they are willing to settle. Then the negotiation process may begin if you are not satisfied with the settlement amount. If you are unable to reach an agreement, you should seek the services of a Gainesville personal injury lawyer to protect your interests and receive the settlement you deserve for your personal injuries and losses stemming from your accident.