Motor vehicle accidents are common and can occur anywhere. Whether you travel to and from work each day, or simply use your car to take trips or run errands, any time you are behind the wheel you stand a chance of being involved in an accident with another motorist. Even the best drivers are not immune to car accidents and the damage they cause, and all California drivers are required by law to be financially responsible for any damages or injuries that may occur while they are driving. According to the California Department of Insurance, one of the first steps if you have been involved in a car accident is to report the accident to your insurance company, regardless of who you think was at fault. Understanding the insurance claims process in the event of an accident and knowing how to deal with insurance company claims adjusters can help ensure you get the maximum amount of money from any insurance settlements, while protecting your car accident claim from being undervalued or denied.
Reporting A Car Accident
Under the California Vehicle Code, all drivers are required to be financially responsible in the event of a car crash or collision. For the majority of drivers, this takes the form of insurance. According to the California Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV), drivers are required to carry a minimum of $30,000 in liability insurance in the event of injuries or death to other drivers or their passengers resulting from an accident, as well as $5,000 in liability insurance coverage for property damages. Proof of this insurance is required to register or renew a vehicle in the state, must be provided to law enforcement when requested, and must be exchanged with other drivers in the event of an accident, regardless of who was at fault. According to the DMV, evidence of financial responsibility is required in car accidents involving personal injuries or property damages over $750.
The CA Department of Insurance advises drivers to notify their car insurance company immediately after an accident. The insurance company will then assign a claims adjuster to your case, who will take statements on the circumstances from you, your passengers, and other drivers or passengers involved, as well as from any witnesses who may have been present when the accident occurred. It is always a good idea to consult first with an experienced San Francisco car accident attorney before making any statements about the accident.
Dealing With Insurance Claims Adjusters
When dealing with an insurance company claims advisor, it is important to remember that the adjuster is not your friend, but instead is performing a job on which they will be evaluated on. Insurance companies are businesses, and like any business they are concerned with making a profit. They can do this by either raising prices, or by denying or undervaluing claims. As part of their job, your insurance adjuster will naturally seek to pay out the lowest amount possible on your claim, and may use information you provide to deny your claim completely. According to a report from car pricing expert Edmunds Inc., it is important for consumers to be cautious when dealing with insurance claims adjusters, both in regards to what the consumer tells the adjuster about the accident, as well as what the adjuster offers in terms of settlement. Edmunds recommends consumers keep the following things in mind when dealing with insurance adjusters:
- Claims adjusters typically have large caseloads which do not always allow them the time to thoroughly review and investigate each case;
- The claims adjuster uses an evaluation report done by the insurance company to estimate the cost of replacing your vehicle. These reports often undervalue the cost of replacing your vehicle. Do your own research on what a comparable vehicle might cost, and be prepared to show evidence backing your claim;
- While the claims adjuster may offer a list of preferred mechanics to work on your damaged vehicle, you are entitled to have your car repaired by any mechanic you choose. Do not feel pressured to use theirs if you have your own trusted mechanic who normally works on your car; and
- Thoroughly review any settlement amounts your claims adjuster gives you, and always negotiate for more. Due to high workload and the desire to keep costs lows, Edmunds states it is common for your claim adjuster to have missed or undervalued some aspect of your claim.
While the California Department of Insurance regulates the insurance industry in our state and works to ensure fairness in the insurance industry through regulations on Fair Claims Settlement Practices, consumers can still be shortchanged when it comes to settling claims. When speaking with a claims adjuster, be careful about admitting any type of fault for the accident or giving potentially damaging details about the circumstances leading up to the accident which could be used to deny your claim, such as poor road conditions or decreased visibility. Avoid discussing prior medical conditions, and do not downplay your current injuries caused by the accident. Before signing any settlement agreement, speak with an experienced car accident attorney first. Once you have signed a claims settlement, there is often no going back. Take care not to shortchange yourself in terms of the expenses and damages resulting from your accident.