Basics on Filing Insurance Claims

If you are involved in a vehicle accident where you believe the other driver is at-fault, there are certain steps you should take to protect your claim for compensation from the at-fault driver and his insurance company and even to protect any claim you might have on your own automobile insurance policy. 


At the Law Office of Paul R. Bennett we help people every day navigating the insurance claims process to secure compensation for property damage and bodily injury claims. Here are the basic steps that must be taken following a vehicle accident in order to protect your claim and how an experienced lawyer can assist you.

If you are involved in a vehicle accident where you believe the other driver is at-fault, there are certain steps you should take to protect your claim for compensation from the at-fault driver and his insurance company and even to protect any claim you might have on your own automobile insurance policy. 


At the Law Office of Paul R. Bennett we help people every day navigating the insurance claims process to secure compensation for property damage and bodily injury claims. Here are the basic steps that must be taken following a vehicle accident in order to protect your claim and how an experienced lawyer can assist you.

Immediately After an Accident

Call the police.


If a Georgia Uniform Motor Vehicle Accident Report is not prepared and filed by an investigating police officer, you may lose your right to file certain insurance claims. An investigating police officer can assist your claim by interviewing witnesses and recording their names, addresses, and telephone numbers on the accident report. These independent witnesses may later be of great benefit to you and your claim. The investigating officer will also examine the accident scene and take statements from the involved drivers themselves in order to determine what caused the accident and who was at fault.

If you are able, you yourself can obtain the names and telephone numbers of witnesses on the scene who might leave before the police officer arrives. You should also take photographs and even videos of the accident scene, damage to the vehicles, and of any injuries then or later apparent.

The police will generally ask you whether you are injured or whether you would like for an ambulance to be summoned to the scene. While you may not feel the need for an ambulance to take you immediately to a hospital, you should be cautious about declaring yourself to be injury-free. Often times, injuries manifest themselves within hours after an accident. It is better to tell the police officer that
you do not know whether you are injured and you will seek medical attention later if you are. Adrenaline produced by the shock of being involved in an automobile collision can often temporarily mask symptoms of pain.

Immediately notify your insurance carrier or insurance agent.

Why should you notify your insurance company that you were involved in an automobile collision that was not your fault? Because if you don’t, you may lose the right to file claims on your own automobile insurance policy. For instance, the at-fault driver may turn out to be uninsured. They may never have purchased liability insurance in violation of the law, or their insurance coverage may have lapsed,
or the insurance coverage denied for some other reason. If you have uninsured motorist coverage, your insurance policy may require that you notify them “as soon as possible” in order to later make a claim for uninsured motorist benefits--money paid to you to compensate you for your property damage or bodily injury where the other driver has no coverage or too little coverage.

Also, if the other driver has no insurance or insurance coverage for any reason, you may need to make a claim on your own automobile insurance coverage for medical payments benefits (which will pay a certain amount of your medical bills regardless of who is at fault, even yourself) and you will want to protect your right to file a claim for possible property damage under your collision coverage. Filing a claim for uninsured motorist benefits or medical payments benefits will not cause your automobile insurance premium to rise.

After you notify your insurance company that you have been involved in an accident, you will get a call from the claims department representative who will want to take a statement from you on how the accident happened and what, if any, injuries you sustained, and they will usually record the statement. You have a duty to cooperate with your own insurance company.

You do not have a duty or obligation to cooperate with the at-fault driver’s insurance carrier. You also are under no obligation to even speak with them, although they will want to talk to you as well and possibly record a statement. Be careful. The liability insurance carrier for the at-fault driver can use your recorded statement against you in some cases to argue later that you were wholly or partially to blame for the vehicle accident.

If talking to the liability insurance carrier about getting your property damage claim settled, do not give the insurance adjuster for the liability carrier a detailed statement about the accident. You can offer to provide a copy of the police report where the investigating officer has determined that their insured driver was to blame for the accident.

Often times, a property damage claim can be settled without a lawyer, although a lawyer can certainly give you advice on how to make sure you are getting everything you deserve on your property damage claim. If your car can be repaired, you are entitled to take your car to the body shop of your choosing and have it repaired to your satisfaction. While your car is undrivable--and it will certainly be undrivable while it is in the body shop--you are entitled to be paid for loss of use of your vehicle or be provided with a rental vehicle. After your car has been repaired, if it has dropped in value due to being damaged in a collision, you may also be entitled to be paid for the drop in value (a diminution of value claim).

If your vehicle has been totally destroyed, the liability insurance carrier must pay you the fair market value of your car, or what it was worth before it was destroyed. The insurer will also owe you an additional amount: the amount of sales tax you will pay to purchase another vehicle of the same fair market value.

If you cannot negotiate a fair property damage settlement with the liability insurance carrier, you may want to file a claim on your own automobile insurance policy where you have collision coverage. You will have to pay the deductible amount listed on your policy, but your insurance carrier will then go to the at-fault party’s liability insurer to be repaid by them. Once your insurance company has been repaid, they will refund your deductible to you.

How We Can Help

Navigating claims against insurance companies can get complicated. Insurance companies are always looking for ways to reduce their liability and pay you less. Mistakes made by you in trying to handle a claim by yourself can end up costing you money. You may not get the fair compensation you deserve on your claim. While you may be able to negotiate a property damage claim with the liability insurance carrier, settling a bodily injury claim for fair compensation is much more difficult and often times impossible without the help of an experienced auto accident attorney. Don’t be afraid to reach out to an attorney for help on such claims.

Feel free to call us at the Law Office of Paul R. Bennett. Consultations are FREE. If you choose to have us represent you, we will do so on a contingency fee where we only are paid if we win your case.

0 0
Feed