Dealing with insurance companies after an accident

The moments after a car accident can be jarring. You may be wondering what just happened, whether you are going to be okay and how you are going to get back home. In the midst of your concerns, you may not be sure if your insurance company will be there to help pick up the pieces as you recover from injuries or repair your vehicle. After all, while insurance companies are in business to make money, and they may not always have your best interests at heart.

Because of this, there are several tips to consider in dealing with insurers if you are involved in an accident.

Take pictures - Take as many pictures of the vehicle, the accident scene, and your injuries. This is particularly important because you want to provide as much verifiable evidence as possible to support your claim.

Contact your agent as soon as possible - Calling your agent (or the insurance company) soon after the accident occurs is a good idea. In most cases this will get the claims process going quickly. If you are not able to call your insurer while on the scene, do so as soon as you get home, or even before you go to the doctor.

Be truthful - When talking to your insurer, you must be honest and forthcoming with your account of the accident, even if you think you may have been at fault. After all, people make mistakes, and that is why you have insurance. Misleading your insurer may cause it to invalidate your policy or deny your coverage.

Take notes and gather information - It is important to keep detailed notes of all conversations with insurance company representatives who contact you, including their names, phone numbers and job titles. This will help you understand who has authority to help you and enable you to keep them accountable when they make promises.

Make sure to understand your coverage - Understanding what your insurer will (and will not) pay for is critical, especially when it wants you to sign any declarations or give written statements regarding your claims. Keep in mind that you are not required to provide such statements until you are sure you understand your coverage. If you have doubts or questions, consult an experienced personal injury attorney.

Verify appraisals - Getting a second opinion on how much your losses are worth is a good idea. You are not required to accept your insurer's estimate (especially without doing any research). The insurer may try to get you to accept their contractor's repair or replacement estimates. The less money the insurer has to pay out in claims, the more money it can potentially make from collecting premiums

Seek advice before signing releases - Do not sign any releases or waivers of any kind until you obtain legal advice. This is so that you fully understand the legal (and financial) consequences of accepting settlement offer. Many people are in precarious financial situations after an accident, and what may seem to be a great settlement may not be after considering ongoing medical treatments, cost of repairing (or replacing ) a vehicle, or limitations on working. Remember, the insurer's settlement offer may be one that is only designed to save the company money. As such, consult an attorney before signing any release or waiver.

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