If you were recently the victim of a car accident, it's likely that you will want to hold the liable driver responsible. At the time of the accident, there is a lot going through your head and you may not know how or when to start the insurance claims process. Between getting the contact information of the at-fault driver and possibly filing a police report, this can be an overwhelming experience. In an effort to provide guidance during this time, we have created this blog with a detailed discussion regarding the process of insurance claims for car accidents under Illinois state laws.
How do I get an insurance company to pay for the damages to my car?
Regardless of whether you choose to communicate with your own own insurance company or the at-fault driver's insurance company, the auto insurance claims process and obtaining compensation for the damages to your car will typically proceed in the following manner:
- You must report the accident to the insurer. Regardless of whose auto insurer you decide to use to pay for your repair costs, the first thing that you will need to do is file a claim by reporting the accident to the respective insurer.
- The insurer will have your car inspected. After reporting the accident, the insurer will then usually have your car inspected. If the accident was just a fender bender and with minimal vehicle damage, you may be asked to bring it to the insurer's drive-through inspection station. On the contrary, if the car is not drivable, the insurer will usually have an inspector come to where the car is located.
- The insurer will then come up with an estimate of the damages. After inspection, the insurer will create an estimate of the car’s damages. This estimate may or may not be enough to pay for the cost of repairs. The insurer may suggest that you bring the car to an auto repair shop and may specifically recommend that you bring the car to a mechanic of its choice. However, you are free to use any mechanic or auto shop of your own choosing.
- Inquire as to whether the mechanic will accept the estimate. Once you obtain an estimate of the insurance coverage, it may be wise to bring your car to a mechanic and ask if they will accept the insurer's estimate before beginning repairs. If the mechanic believes that the estimate is too low, he will likely have the option to speak to the insurance adjuster directly regarding the estimated costs of the necessary repairs.
Tips for dealing with insurance companies after a car accident
You should consider some of the following tips for dealing with car insurance companies:
- Never befriend insurance claim adjusters. Insurance adjusters may seem to be friendly at first. However, it is important to remember that they are not your friends. Instead, this friendly strategy is most often used to get you to trust them so that you may be more comfortable talking to them. This comfortability with an insurance agent may result in you inadvertently saying something that can damage your case.
- Communicate effectively with the insurance company. You should make sure that you are effectively communicating with the insurance company. This means promptly reporting your accident and following up with any requests for information or documentation from the insurance company. If you fail to respond to the company’s requests in a timely manner, it may send a message that the claim is not important to you.
- Before speaking with the insurance company, determine all damages you are entitled to. Before you reach out to the insurance company, you should first make sure you are aware of the full extent of your damages. This is when it would be helpful for you to consult a personal injury attorney, who can help you identify the various sources of damages that are available to you. You should make a list of any property damage you have sustained; any medical expenses (including hospital bills, visits to follow-up treatment, travel costs associated with seeking treatment, prescription medication costs, rehabilitative care and any anticipated future medical expenses); and any lost wages, decreased earning capacity, or other economic damages. Once you have identified these different types of damages, you should gather documentation to support your claims. If you go to an insurance company without being aware of the types of damages that you may be entitled to receive, the company will not likely provide you the entire compensation package you deserve.
- Consider hiring a personal injury attorney. A personal injury attorney is responsible for helping car accident victims with recovering compensation for the injuries that they sustain. A personal injury attorney will likely be able to help you obtain a higher settlement when compared to plaintiffs who do not have an attorney. Additionally, an attorney is better skilled at dealing with insurance companies, who may try to deceive you or who will not completely inform you of your rights. It is important that you not try to negotiate your own settlement. Many insurance companies will try to offer you a prompt settlement to entice you to accept it right away instead of hiring an attorney. Additionally, if you choose not to hire an attorney, you may end up having your claim denied or receiving an inadequate amount of compensation for your injuries.
What not to say to an insurance adjuster after an accident
After getting into an auto accident, there are some statements you should never make to a car insurance claims adjuster. Some of these include the following:
- “The accident was my fault.” You should always avoid admitting fault for the accident that occurred, even if you genuinely believe that you were at fault in some way. Keep in mind that the main goal of insurance adjusters is to minimize the amount of money they will have to pay you. When you admit that you were at fault for the accident, this justifies their attempts to pay you a nominal amount, if anything at all, for your injuries or car damage. When you do need to describe the accident to the company, make sure you do so in a matter of fact manner without adding your personal opinions as to who you believe to be at fault. You should also know that making an admission of fault in front of the other driver at the scene of the accident is a statement that may later be used against you.
- “I am not injured.” Though you may not feel like you have suffered any bodily injury immediately after a motor vehicle accident, that may not necessarily be true. Some injuries are not noticeable until well after an accident has occurred. For example, you may unknowingly be suffering from internal bleeding or a brain injury. As such, you should never tell an insurance company you are not injured. Instead, you should remain silent regarding the extent of your injuries until you obtain a medical examination by a qualified medical professional. Lastly, you should avoid signing any medical release form from the insurance company until you have been properly advised to do so by a personal injury attorney.
- “I think….” Sometimes, insurance companies will ask you tricky or loaded questions shortly after the accident with the intent to trap you with the answers you provide. As such, you should not provide answers that you don’t actually know to be the truth. If an adjuster asks you a question you genuinely do not know the answer to, it is perfectly acceptable to say, “I don’t know.” You should never try to provide an estimate or opine an answer.
- “I accept your offer.” Settlement offers can be tricky. Generally speaking, most initial settlement offers from insurance companies will be low ball offers that they are hoping you will take. You should be wary about stating on the record that you will accept a lower settlement amount, especially if you have mounting medical bills and are losing wages while you are at home recuperating from your injuries. Your best bet would be to consult with a personal injury attorney before accepting any settlement offers so that he or she can advocate on your behalf and negotiate a fair settlement with the insurance company.
- “I do not have an attorney.” You should never admit that you do not have an attorney, even if it is true. Unfortunately, when some insurance companies learn that you have no legal representation, they may not take your claim as seriously or may delay the processing of your claim. As previously mentioned, it is recommended that you actually hire a personal injury attorney, as that attorney will have more experience than a layperson in laws regulating insurance companies and in estimating the true value of a claim.
Were You Recently Injured in a Car Accident? Speak to an Illinois Personal Injury Attorney
If you were recently injured in a car accident, the Palermo Law Group can help. We will work hard to help you prepare a strong personal injury case and will ensure that you are able to hold the liable party responsible for your injuries. For additional information, call us today at our phone number, (630)-684-2332 or use our online form to schedule a free consultation with our experienced personal injury attorney.