Car accidents are often stressful, frustrating, and painful experiences for everyone involved. The events that follow can also be very difficult to deal with. One of the reasons for this is that properly contending with insurance company representatives is a skill in its own right.
Here’s what you should know about dealing with auto insurance companies after a wreck:
#1 - Insurance company representatives are scrupulously trained to be professional manipulators.
Most insurance agents and carriers will use your recorded accident statement as an opportunity to collect information from you that they are not legally entitled to. Insurance companies exploit the fact that you are unaccustomed to the claims process, which is unfortunately to your detriment.
Insurance company representatives often make it seem like you can trust them, but don’t fall for their tricks. Just because they are friendly and appear to come off as helpful, this does not mean that they are on your side. This is a common manipulation tactic used throughout the industry in order to lure delicate information out of you that you might not otherwise give up.
Before speaking with the insurance company about the accident, it’s in your best interest to first consult a skilled car accident attorney. Your lawyer will guide you through the process of providing your statement in a manner that doesn’t negatively impact your claim.
#2 - You don’t have to provide your accident statement over the phone.
Most insurance company representatives won’t tell you that you have more than one option for providing your accident statement. Make no mistake, this is completely on purpose.
The reason they don’t tell you is that they have the best chances of getting what they want out of you if you provide your statement over the phone. If you don’t feel comfortable providing your statement over the phone, you have the following options for doing so:
- In writing
- Your attorney may do it for you
Also, keep in mind that you don’t have to provide your statement before you’re ready. It’s a good idea to give your statement as soon as possible after the accident, but don’t allow the insurance company to bully you into providing your statement before you’ve had a chance to collect your thoughts.
#3 - The first settlement offer will likely be inadequate.
It’s common in the insurance industry to offer claimants an initial settlement offer that falls very short of the true amount deserved. If you are offered an initial settlement that is far lower than the amount you expect to receive, don’t accept it. Let the insurance company know that you mean business and won’t take any settlement that’s less than the amount you truly deserve.
#4 - The insurance company can’t force you to use their partnered body shop.
Just because the insurance company suggests a particular body shop for you to take your vehicle for repairs, that doesn’t mean you are required to hire them. In fact, you are entitled to hire any body shop you’d like.
Whichever shop you decide to use, make sure they do not use aftermarket parts on your vehicle. These parts are not crafted with the same precision, care, and quality and stock parts are, which can cause more problems with your vehicle later on. Do yourself a favor and make sure that the body shop you hire only uses stock parts for the repairs.
#5 - You may be asked to sign documents you aren’t required to sign.
It’s never a good idea to sign documents from another party’s insurance company until after speaking with your attorney. It’s common in the insurance industry to request personal information that they’re not legally entitled to.
Remember, you DO NOT need to provide your social security number or sign any documents in order for the other party’s insurance company to begin processing your claim. In reality, doing so can significantly harm your claim.
The reason they ask for this personal information is that they want to use who you are as a person to value your claim. It’s wise to be stiff with the information you give them because they will use anything they can to devalue your claim.
However, if your own insurance company requests that you sign certain documents, you’ll need to follow their instructions in order to access your coverages. It’s a good idea to go over everything with your attorney so they can provide guidance about which documents you need to sign and which ones you don’t.
You may think you have a good grasp of the message behind the documents you’re asked to sign, but you may not have a comprehensive understanding of how the claims process works and what it means to sign certain documents.
Things to Remember
In summary, have the following in mind when dealing with the insurance company:
- Have as little contact with the insurance company as is feasible.
- Have your attorney present when providing your statement.
- Don’t give up any information that isn’t specifically asked of you.
- Don’t agree to a settlement offer that falls short of what you deserve.
- You can hire any body shop you want for the repairs to your vehicle.
If you or a loved one have been injured in an accident, our lawyers at Whiting Hagg Hagg Dorsey & Hagg, LLP may be able to help you receive the settlement you deserve. Give us a call at (605) 519-6136 or fill out an online contact form.