The prospect of having to submit an insurance claim when your property was damaged or you were injured in an auto accident can be overwhelming. You may not know where to start, or what your rights are, or what to expect. Insurance companies often are large corporations with large bureaucracies, and dealing with them might make you feel lost. The good news is that you don’t have to go it alone. You can seek the help of an experienced personal injury lawyer to help with the process and take some of the pain out of pursuing your claim.
If you haven’t yet talked to a lawyer, we’d like to offer some tips in the form of some insurance claim do’s and don’ts to keep in mind until you have representation.
Most people think that insurance companies are there to help you after an accident. In fact, that’s what they’re supposed to do, but the problem is that insurance companies are running a business. They’re there to make a profit. That’s what everybody has to remember in an accident, that insurance companies are in the business of taking in premiums, and what they try to do is pay out as little in claims as they can.
A claim is somebody, perhaps like you, who’s been injured and needs money from the negligent party, the person that caused you an injury. So insurance companies often try to sweet talk you, or butter you up after an accident in the hopes that you won’t get a lawyer, or in the hopes that you’ll just immediately settle with them.
Before you’ve talked to me, or any other lawyer, is to not disclose too much to the insurance company. If they happen to call you, obviously, you can give them some general information, but the best thing to do is to talk to an attorney before you give too much information to an insurance company.
Insurance Claims Do’s and Dont’s
After a car accident, our team can offer you advice on insurance claim do’s and don’ts. We have years of experience working with insurance companies after serious accidents.
Insurance Claim Do’s
- DO notify your insurance company as soon as is possible after an accident. Failure to notify the insurance company in a timely manner could be grounds for denial of your claim. Preserve your claim by telling your insurance company what happened.
- DO get contact information for other people involved in the accident. Generally, you want the name, address, telephone number, email address, and insurance information from other drivers or people who may have contributed to the cause of the accident. For witnesses, getting a name, address, email, and telephone number is good.
- DO take pictures of your damaged vehicle, the accident scene, and your injuries. You may need these photos as evidence to support your claim.
- DO read your insurance policy. It’s important to know what your policy does — and does not — cover in the wake of an accident.
- DO take notes when you talk to the insurance company or its adjuster, or anyone else involved in the claims process. Taking notes will help you understand the process, and make sure that stories don’t change later.
- DO get a copy of your accident report. Read through it to make sure it’s accurate. The accident report may be an important piece of evidence to support your claim. You need to know whether the police report supports your story of the crash, or if there are discrepancies you and your lawyer may need to investigate.
- DO keep copies of any documents related to your accident. This includes medical bills, repair estimates, car rental receipts, insurance policies, letters, and/or accident reports.
- DO follow your doctor’s advice for treatment of your injuries. If you fail to follow your doctor’s advice and your injury doesn’t heal properly or worsens, the value of your claim may be lessened or you may lose your chance at compensation.
- DO talk to a lawyer. Representation from a personal injury lawyer with experience handling insurance claims will give you the best chance at getting the compensation you deserve.
Insurance Claim Don’ts
- DON’T admit fault. In the immediate aftermath of an accident, you may be in shock or confused. You may think you know what happened, but the investigation could uncover a different set of facts. If you admit fault early on, you may actually be wrong — and you may have cost yourself the chance at a claim for compensation when it turns out your injuries were caused by someone else.
- DON’T try to negotiate directly with the person who caused the accident. An individual isn’t likely to be in a position to properly assign a value to your claim. His or her goal is going to be to get out of the situation as painlessly as possible. Submit your claim to the person’s insurance company. Illinois has laws governing the claims process that insurance companies have to follow. You’ll be in a much better position to get your claim paid if you go through insurance than trying to deal directly with the person who caused your accident. If the person doesn’t have insurance, talk to your own insurance company. You may be able to get your bills paid through your own insurance and then let your insurance company go after the person who caused the accident. Above all, talk to a lawyer. You’ll get the best outcome when you let a lawyer handle negotiations for you.
- DON’T automatically accept the insurance company’s estimate of the value of your claim. The company’s job is to minimize the amount it pays out. Your claim may in fact be worth more. DO talk to a personal injury lawyer about the potential value of your claim.
- DON’T miss doctor’s appointments or engage in activities that might make your injuries worse or delay your recovery. This could affect your ability to receive full compensation for your injuries.
- DON’T sign any settlement documents or cash insurance checks without consulting a lawyer first. If you sign a settlement or cash a check, that’s the end of your claim and you may still have ongoing or future medical expenses that will then come out of your own pocket. A lawyer can help determine whether the settlement offer is fair and whether you might have a claim for additional expenses.
- DON’T delay exploring whether you may have claim. If you wait too long, you may miss the legal deadline for filing a lawsuit. Once that deadline passes, you’re barred from recovering compensation. Talk to a lawyer as soon after the accident as is feasible.
- DON’T sign a blanket medical authorization. The insurance company isn’t necessarily entitled to all of your medical records — only the ones related to the accident. Your medical records contain deeply personal information. Talk to a personal injury attorney before signing any medical authorization to make sure your privacy is protected.