How to deal with insurance companies after a car wreck

The time after a car accident can be hectic and filled with filled with stress. This is doubly so if you or someone you love has been seriously injured. You need to worry about doctor visits, medical treatment and the time you're losing away from your job to recover, as well as getting your vehicle repaired and replacing any lost belongings. There's so much to do that you might not even know where to start.

One thing you absolutely must do following any car crash - whether it was caused by a drunk driver, someone foolishly updating their social media accounts or by someone driving much too fast for wet, slippery conditions - is notify your car insurance company. That being said, though, it is important to be careful in your interactions with them. Something you should always keep in mind: the insurance company is looking out for their best interests, not necessarily yours.

Do this.

  1. Notify your insurance company as soon as possible. You'll need to get a claim started quickly to get the proverbial ball rolling on getting medical expenses and property damage covered.
  2. If possible, take time to review your coverage/policy information before contacting the insurer. It can help if you understand what sort of things may or may not be covered before a discussion with a company representative.
  3. Document the scene of the accident, the damage to your vehicle and your injuries as thoroughly as possible. Pictures are always helpful, but if that isn't an option, then take detailed notes, get witness information if you can, and keep copies of any police reports, medical information (particularly diagnoses and treatment protocol recommendations) and repair estimates.
  4. Take detailed notes of any interaction with your insurer. Make sure you get the first and last name of anyone you talk to at the company, and mark the time and date of your interaction. Try to get a supervisor or manager's name as well.
  5. Keep receipts for any out-of-pocket expenses you incur while waiting for the claim to be processed. This could include rental cars (some policies require you to rent the car with your own funds and be reimbursed), consultations with medical specialists, prescription drug costs and more.

Don't do this.

Just as there are certain things you should definitely do following an accident, there are also some things you shouldn't.

  1. Don't make a recorded statement to your insurer or sign any sort of settlement information until you have consulted an attorney. Remember: you do not have to give permission to have your calls recorded by the company just because you call in. Tell them explicitly that you do not want your call recorded.
  2. Try not to be overly verbose, emotional or effusive when talking to the insurance company. Of course, you should be polite to them, and you should always be honest, but even if you aren't at fault for the accident, you could inadvertently make an offhand comment that could be taken out of context and used against you later if you talk too much.
  3. Resist the temptation to accept the first appraisal or estimate offered for repairs or medical coverage offered by the insurance company. Ask for second opinions if you feel that something isn't right.
  4. Never sign any proposed settlement documentation or anything marked "final payment" or "payment in full for loss" until you have consulted an attorney, regardless of whether it comes from your own insurance company or that of the at-fault driver.
  5. Don't try to go it alone on a complicated claim. When serious injuries are involved, things are much more complex and stressful than they would be for your average fender-bender where property damage is the only casualty. You need someone standing up for your best interests against the insurance company and the other parties involved, so contact an experienced personal injury attorney quickly following a car accident.

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