A car accident happens in a matter of few minutes. But the repercussions of this incident may take months to heal/revert. This includes recovering from bodily injuries suffered by involved parties, damages suffered by the vehicle, or both. To wade through this frustrating journey, you need to have a little patience and good negotiation skills. This will undoubtedly help you in the car accident claim settlement process.
Prepare For The Negotiations
You should have all documents on hand when you submit a claim request. You should not forget to include the following:
- Photos and other details you have collected from the accident site
- Property damage expenses
- Medical expenses
- Medical consultation notes, details on limitations experienced due to injuries
- A copy of the FIR filed at the police station
How Car Insurance Companies Treat Claim Settlement
Car insurance companies look to offer low settlement amounts for claims. They would be looking to save on the amount paid out by quoting low offers. They may say you were at fault to get the negotiations going in their favour. You may also be told that the value you are quoting is not justified or your documentation does not suffice for the claim. So, engaging in a healthy negotiation is necessary to receive a fair settlement.
How To Negotiate A Car Accident Claim?
The first thing you have to do in the negotiation of a car accident claim is to write a letter to the insurance company, explaining the amount you will need as compensation for the damages. The insurance company will then assign your request to a claim adjuster. This person will be skilled in negotiations and will work on behalf of the insurance company to settle accident claims in the fastest possible manner. It may not be in his best interest to offer you the maximum amount you have claimed for.
The negotiation process is very similar to the bargaining that we are used to while shopping for knick-knacks. Each stakeholder will have a price in mind and talks will be around the minimum and maximum price that can be settled on. It is not necessary to be a fast talker to settle the deal, you just need to follow the steps below:
- Know what the auto insurance policy covers - Before starting the negotiations, it is crucial that you are aware of the coverage under the insurance plan. You should read through the terms and conditions in the policy document carefully for the same.
- Decide on a minimum amount you will settle for - Car accident damages entail medical expenses and losses due to property damage. Once you have got all the bills and receipts for losses suffered, you should decide on a minimum and maximum payment that will be acceptable to you. You should pay close attention to not share these numbers to the insurance company. It is best to aim high in this regard, as the negotiations will always pin the amount to a lower value than you started off with.
- Do not be deterred by the first offer - If the initial offer from the insurance company is reasonable, you can provide a counteroffer that is just below your original demand. This way, you will send the signal that you are willing to negotiate in good faith. In case the initial offer is very low, you should seek a justification for the offer. You can provide evidence in writing to support your claim. Remember, you should not decrease your demand immediately on being presented with a low offer from the insurer. This could be a negotiating tactic that the adjuster is employing.
- Patience and persistence matter - The negotiation process of a car accident claim settlement can extend over a period of several months. It can be frustrating when you have medical bills piling up or repairs to be made on the vehicle. However, it is crucial that you stay composed during the process and are very professional in your dealings. Even though the settlement process extends over a period of time, you should diligently keep record of the interactions you have with the insurance company. If you have not heard from the insurer for weeks, it is best to call them up and check the status of the process. Since insurers handle hundreds of claims, it is quite possible that your claim was misplaced or reassigned. So, keep track of your claim and get it moving if you see a decrease in momentum.
- Highlight emotional costs - It will be useful to stress on emotional points, such as loss of income and its repercussions, in your talks with the adjuster. This could give you an upper hand in the conversation.
Accept the offer only if you are completely satisfied - It is totally up to you to accept or reject a claim settlement offer. Some things to remember when accepting an offer are:
- What is the difference between the demand and the offer?
- Is it worthwhile to take the matter to court?
- How much more are you likely to get after a court resolution?
Once you have agreed on an offer from the adjuster, make sure that you note it down in a letter and send it to the insurer through mail. This is an important legal record that should not be missed. You will receive a release of liability letter within a few weeks from this. The payment will also be made subsequently. If you need clarifications on the terms listed out in the insurer’s letter, you should check with the insurer immediately.
- Contact a lawyer if needed - Since your negotiations with the claims adjuster will have a big role in the amount you receive as claim payout, you will benefit greatly if you approach a lawyer. You can do the same even if you are not confident in getting involved in such a crucial discussion all by yourself. An experience attorney who specialises in the insurance domain can be of assistance to you in this regard.
To summarise, if you want to get the best deal on your car insurance claim, you should be well prepared before the negotiations start. You should also be patient and persistent to see the conversation through to a reasonable payment figure.
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