What to Know before You File an Auto Accident Claim
Filing a car accident insurance claim can be a confusing and challenging process so it is very important that you take your time and know how to do file a claim correctly. Before you file a claim, make sure to educate yourself on the process to give yourself the best chance at getting the car insurance claim settlement that you deserve without being taken advantage of by the insurance company. The following guide will help you become an informed claimant before you file your car accident insurance claim.
If your claim is confusing, you were injured in the car accident, your car has incurred significant damage, there are questions about who is responsible for the accident, or you are uncomfortable with the car insurance claim process, contact the experienced car accident attorneys at the Chris John’s Legal Group for a free car accident claim review. For more information about our firm, read the following article:
If you have already filed a claim and have received a settlement offer from your insurance company, read the following article before you agree to financial terms.
Preparing Evidence for Your Car Insurance Claim
Before you start your car insurance claim, you will need to gather some important evidence of your car accident that are required to prove you deserve the full value of your claim. It is helpful to make a checklist of the following items which are relevant to your claim so you do not miss or forget a key piece of evidence when you contact your insurance company. If you are unsure about how to recover the importance evidence for your claim, contact the Chris Johns Law Group for a free claim consultation.
- Police Report: Locate and obtain a copy of the police report. The police report will help determine who was at fault during the accident, what injuries or damages were sustained, and how serious the accident was. The police report is critical, especially if the other driver was cited and ticketed for a moving violation or worse, a DUI. To obtain a police report in Jacksonville.
- Medical Expenses: If you have been injured in the car accident, diligently keep track of all your medical expenses. This includes direct expenses such as hospital bills, doctor visits, medicine costs, rehabilitation costs, etc. It also includes indirect expenses such as gas required to drive to and from medical related appointments, child care expenses paid while you were at a medical appointment, or expenses related. Keep all your medical related invoices and receipts and include them in your car insurance claim!
- Photo evidence of the Accident: Make sure you take plenty of pictures documenting your experience, including the following:
- Pictures of the accident aftermath – ideally you will have pictures taken immediately after the accident happens before anything is cleaned up which document the position the vehicles were in after the crash, any skid-marks or other evidence of how the accident occurred, and damage to the cars.
- Pictures of the scene after the accident is cleaned up – after the accident is cleaned up return to the scene to photograph everything that contributed to the crash. Include street signs, intersecting roads, trees or buildings which affect visibility, etc. Do this at the same time of day when the accident occurred.
- Pictures of your injuries – take photos of your injuries immediately after they occur, and at every step along the way of recovery. Include pictures of stitches, casts, medical devices you need to use to heal, and anything else related to your injury.
- Pictures of your vehicle’s damage – take pictures of your vehicle after the accident from all angles to show all damage.
- Car Repair Expenses: Keep track of all invoices and receipts from a mechanic or body shop regarding repairs to your car. If your car is totaled, have a documented letter from a professional explaining the car’s condition.
- Miscellaneous Expenses: Collect all receipts and invoices for any incidental expenses you had to pay, or any money you lost, as a result of your car accident injury. These expenses include paid help to assist you with household chores, lost wages, loss of a planned vacation, rental car fees, money paid for childcare, and any other costs or losses related to your accident and injury.
- Any other Available Evidence: Ask police for witness statements, check for newspaper coverage, see if local businesses had surveillance footage, and look for anything else that may bolster your account of the accident.
During the aftermath of a car accident there are a lot of key pieces of evidence which show the cause of the accident and its effects on you, your life, and your car. Take the time to find all the relevant evidence and keep detailed financial records. Keeping careful records and doing detective work before you file a car accident insurance claim will pay off in the end!
Valuing Your Car Insurance Claim
One of the most important parts of filing a car insurance claim is calculating the value of your losses. You may only get one chance to recover all the money you are owed after a car accident, and you will give yourself the best chance of getting what you deserve if you value your claim correctly. When you value a car accident insurance claim, there are typically two main categories of damage to consider:
- Property Damage: If your car has been damaged, you can determine the how much money you are owed by gathering repair estimates from mechanics, receipts for enhancements to the car, or by looking up the value on the internet. If other property inside your car was damaged, can get repair or loss of value quotes from experts, look up damage value on the internet, or use receipts for purchase of the property if it has been damaged beyond repair or use. When you file a claim for the value of your damaged property, document the amount you are claiming with invoices, repair quotes, receipts, and other assessment documentation.
- Personal Injury: Calculating a monetary value for injuries you suffered in a car accident can be a little more difficult as it involves two primary types of damage:
- Special Damages: Costs that you incur as a result of your injury are called special damages, and these can be easy to calculate providing you include every expense related to your injury. Here is where you want to include all your invoices and receipts for medical costs listed in the above section: hospital and doctor bills, medicine costs, rehabilitation costs, etc. You also want to include all non-medical special damages such as travel expenses to and from medical treatment, childcare expenses, lost wages, loss of vacation time, home care expenses, etc. All of these costs that you’ve paid, or losses you’ve suffered, are special damages and should be included in the car insurance claim.
- Pain and Suffering Damages: Unlike actual damages, pain and suffering damages don’t come with a receipt or an invoice providing a precise dollar amount. Pain and suffering damages are any change to your life caused by the accident which result in you experiencing pain physically or, sometimes, emotionally. You can generate an approximate value of your pain and suffering by doing research on the internet to look up similar claims by people experiencing similar injuries. If your quality of life is seriously affected due to emotional or physical pain after a car accident and you feel like you are owed a lot of money for pain and suffering damages, contact the Chris Johns Law Group for a free consultation before filing a claim!
Before you finalize your damage request, NOTE: Most auto insurance claims are settled for a claim value of between 2 to 5 times the total of all special damages, plus any property damage. Depending on the facts and circumstances of your accident claim, your claim’s value could be in the low, medium, high, or premium settlement range:
- Low– Not a significant injury with one or two trips to the doctor, minimum time missed from work, low impact car accident with little or no damage. Multiply your special damages by 2 to obtain your accident claim’s value.
- Medium– The injury is a little more serious and requires doctor treatment for several weeks. You’ve had multiple medical bills, missed time from work, have been prescribed medicine, and experience lasting pain after the accident. Additionally, your car suffered medium to significant damage. Multiply your special damages by 3 to obtain your accident claim’s value.
- High– High settlements are possible when there was negligence on the part of the other driver, your injuries were severe, medical bills totaling over $20,000, and you lost significant time from work (a month or more). Additionally, you may need rehabilitation therapy and additional care before you are recovered, and you’ve experienced some scarring or broken bones. Your vehicle damage was severe, including maybe a totaled car. Multiply your special damages by 4 to obtain your accident claim’s value.
- Premium– Premium cases occur when there was negligence or gross negligence on the part of the other driver, death permanent disability occurred, you suffer permanent scarring (especially on visible parts of the body), you broke bones (particularly in the area of the neck, spine, pelvis, or head), you lost a limb, required surgery, rely on a medical device to accommodate your injuries, or have a permeant effect on your quality of life. Property damage was severe, resulting in a totaled or badly damaged vehicle. Multiply your special damages by 5 to obtain your accident claim’s value.
This range is an estimate of your damage calculation that provides a good way to determine the size of your claim. If you have suffered injury or damage to qualify you for serious medium, high, or premium damage multipliers it is a good idea to speak with an attorney to ensure you are getting the money you deserve. Call the Chris Johns Law Group for a FREE consultation with an experienced car accident lawyer today!
Although not in stone, the range above provides a good guide for determining the size of your claim. The more serious the injury, the higher the range, and the more you should multiply your special damages when setting the value of the claim.
Working with the Insurance Company
After you have gathered all your evidence and calculated the value of your claim, you are ready to begin working with the insurance company to file your car accident insurance claim. Although each claim is different, there are few key things to keep in mind as you go through the process:
- The Insurance Company Will Not Offer Full Value Right Away: Insurance companies will typically offer a lower value than you request in your claim. You do not have to accept their first offer! If you have prepared your claim thoroughly, and you feel like you are not getting fair value you can push back on a lowball offer.
- Answer their Questions Directly and Stick to the Point: Experienced insurance adjusters and attorneys will be able to use things you say against you if you are not careful. When you are asked a question, stick to the basic facts and don’t elaborate more than you need to in order to give your insurer the answer they need. Avoid rambling or telling stories like you would tell a family member or friend. Just give the answers directly.
- Be Careful about Accepting a Check for Future Medical Expenses: You do not know what your future medical expenses could be, and your insurance company will always estimate low. Before you take a check for future expenses make sure you have correctly valued the ongoing costs of your injury.
- Stay Calm and Professional: Yelling and carrying on with an insurance adjuster will not do you any favors. Stay calm and polite, even if you feel they are misrepresenting what you’re saying or undervaluing your claim.
- Don’t Hesitate to Contact an Attorney!
Preparing for, valuing, filing, and settling a car accident insurance claim can be a challenging and confusing process, especially if you have suffered an injury. If at any point you feel like you are not getting a fair deal, contact a car insurance claim attorney. The Chris Johns Law Group offers free consultations and can help you get the money you deserve from a car insurance settlement.