Monday, January 28, 2008

Car Totaling & Claims FAQs

1.Car Totaling

If you have had an automobile accident, you will likely want to file an auto accident insurance claim with your own car insurance company, the other driver’s insurance company, or both. Once you make a claim, a Claims Adjuster, Insurance Adjuster, or Claims Representative will contact you. These are all different names for the same thing; this is the person who will get all of the information from you about your accident, determine if there is coverage under your policy, gather the facts, do the investigation to determine who was at fault, decide on the value of your auto accident insurance claim, and, if everything goes as planned, pay you. The process isn’t complicated, but if you’ve never gone through it before, there are some important things you need to know.

Whether it is your insurance company’s adjuster or the other driver’s, many of the questions asked and documents requested will be the same. They will want to know what happened, the people and vehicles involved, what was damaged, and if anyone was injured. They’ll want photos taken of your vehicle and an estimate for the damages, a copy of the police report if there is one, and contact information for any witnesses.

Some of the questions both insurance company adjusters will ask are:
• What happened in the accident?
• Where did it occur?
• Who was driving?
• Any passengers in the vehicle? Names/contact information/ages?
• Was a policeman called to the scene? Did the officer prepare a report?
• What vehicles were involved? Makes, models, years, colors, registered owners?
• Were the vehicles damaged? What parts? Were the cars drivable?
• Was anyone injured? Did anyone leave by ambulance?
• Any witnesses? Contact information?
• Does the other party have insurance? Insurance company name and contact information?

Beyond these questions, there are some differences between not just what the insurance company will ask, but the attitude they take depending on whether it is your own insurance company or the other driver’s. Of course your own insurance adjuster will want to know if you were injured and will ask for details of your injury and treatment, but they are only responsible under your policy for paying your medical bills up to your policy limits. They do not, however, pay for your lost wages or your pain and suffering unless you live in a no-fault state.

If, however, you are talking to the other driver’s insurance company, their job is to keep your car accident insurance claim as small as possible. Why? If their insured was at fault for the accident, they may be responsible for paying not just for your medical bills and the damage to your vehicle, but your lost wages, other expenses you incurred or will incur in the future, and general damages which include your pain and suffering. Since they could be on the hook for a lot more money than your own insurance, you’ll find some skepticism when being questioned and you have to be careful about what you say. They will try to get you to state that you have no injury, or try to minimize your personal injury claim, and get you to sign a Release and Waiver before you know what’s going on. If you were injured, you may want to speak to an attorney before talking to the other driver’s insurer so you avoid saying or signing the wrong thing which could hurt your chances of making a personal injury claim or getting paid what you deserve down the road.

What the other driver’s insurer may ask:
• What part of your body was injured?
• Have you had any injuries or treatment to that body part ever before?
• When was the last time you were treated for an injury to that body part?
• What was your doctor’s diagnosis at that time?

This line of questioning is meant to set you up. Suppose your lower back was injured in the accident. Most people have had some back problems at some point in their lives. If you tell them that 10 years ago you injured your back at work, they may try to say this was just an aggravation of the old injury and assign it less value even if it’s been fine for the last 9 years. This is why talking to a car accident attorney first may be your best bet to protect your rights, and be certain you will get a fair settlement.

2.Claims FAQs

The company is not paying fairly total loss. How to establish a vehicle's value?
Consider such sources as book value and dealer quotes. If you or the insurer disputes the vehicle value basing on those sources, the accurate determination can be made comparing with similar vehicles available in the market. The condition of the vehicle, mileage and options matters in determining your vehicle's value.

The other insurance company won't pay for a rental car on my liability claim. Don't they have to?
Not in all situations. The insurer should cover the cost of a rental as part of your damages from the accident, if you have no other vehicle available. At least until they determine the loss on your car. This issue isn't determined in any insurance statutes.

Can an insurance company write an estimate using parts not made by the original manufacturer or salvage parts?
Yes, they are required to put new parts on a used vehicle. An insurance company has to return the vehicle to its condition before the damage.

The insurance company revised the estimate and paid based on the revised estimate. Can they do this?
Yes, if the estimate guarantee properly repairs your vehicle. Ask your body shop to review the revised estimate. If they can't properly repair your vehicle basing on the revised estimate, they should contact your adjuster.

Can the insurance company say where to repair a vehicle?
Yes, if the insurance company guarantee the work. However you may to go to the repair shop of your choice, but you should be ready to take responsibility for the additional costs. Your insurance company may only be obligated to pay for the lowest estimate.

What is comparative fault?
Pure comparative fault allows your damages to be reduced by the percentage you are at fault in a loss. Insurers may investigate an accident and make a decision as to the percentage of fault of all parties involved. They will make voluntary offers based on this opinion. If you disagree with their evaluation, you should consult an attorney or turn over the matter to your own insurance company to handle under your collision coverage.