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After a car accident, you may need to submit a claim with one or more insurance companies, such as your own insurer or the insurer of another driver involved in the crash. More often than not, submitting an insurance claim means bureaucracy, red tape, and paperwork. And a misstep could mean that you don’t receive the full and fair compensation you need.
At Parrish Law Firm, PLLC, our experienced Virginia car accident legal team is highly trained in the complex insurance claims process. Our insights come from the insurance companies themselves, as attorney James R. Parrish began his legal career representing insurers before deciding to change gears and represent accident victims instead.
Although dealing with insurance claims adjusters is tough when you’re already trying to recover from an injury, an experienced car accident lawyer can help you get through the process. There are several steps you can take to help your claim go more smoothly, as well as several common mistakes you should avoid.
When Dealing With the Insurance Company, DO …
1. Read your insurance policy as soon as you receive it.
If you haven’t read your auto insurance policy, read it as soon as you can after your accident. Knowing what your policy covers will help you understand the compensation you can pursue, making for more effective negotiations. Provide your lawyer with a copy of your policy as soon as you can. Also, review your other policies: homeowner’s insurance, workers’ compensation, or disability insurance may also provide coverage in some situations.
2. Notify your insurance company about an accident as soon as you can.
Most insurance companies set time limits for notifying the company of a claim. If you wait too long to tell your insurance company what happened, it may deny your claim, depriving you of the car accident compensation you need and making your recovery more difficult.
3. Get contact information for other people involved in the accident.
For people who were involved in the accident or who may have contributed to causing it, collect each person’s full name, address, telephone number, email address, and insurance information. The name, address, telephone number, and email address for any witnesses who saw the accident or stopped to help can also assist you in determining what happened.
4. Take pictures or draw diagrams of your vehicle, the accident scene, and your injuries.
Make these notes or take photos as soon as you can after the accident. Be sure to put the date on your notes or photos. Many cameras date photographs, including digital photographs, automatically. These records can be invaluable information to support your claim.
5. Make a record whenever you communicate with the insurance company.
Take notes of the time and date of phone calls with the insurance adjuster, as well as what was said. If you receive anything in the mail from any insurance company, keep a copy of it in a secure location. Print out emails and keep these in a secure place as well.
6. Keep your receipts.
Whenever you pay an expense related to your claim, keep the receipt. For instance, keep receipts for all medical expenses (such as doctor’s visits and prescriptions), repair work on a damaged vehicle, and other losses. Also, keep track of the mileage you travel that is related to the claim. If you’re not certain whether a particular expense is “related,” keep the receipt anyway. Your lawyer can help you determine whether or not it applies.
When Dealing With the Insurance Company, DON’T …
After an accident, you are likely to be rattled, scared, angry, in pain — or all of these things at once. Although it is important to process your feelings, it is equally important to avoid letting them trip you up. Here are several common mistakes to avoid when pursuing your claim.
1. Don’t volunteer information.
When talking to law enforcement officers, other people involved in the accident, or insurance claims adjusters, think like a journalist and stick to the “four W’s”: who was involved, where the accident happened, when it took place, and what kind of accident it was. Stick to the facts, and don’t guess or lie. If you don’t know the answer to a question or you can’t remember, say: “I don’t know” or “I can’t remember.”
2. Don’t admit you were at fault.
It’s possible that your actions caused the accident. It’s also possible that the accident was caused by a factor you don’t even know about yet, such as a hidden defect in your vehicle that made it impossible for you to avoid the accident or injuries. If you take the blame now, you may damage your claim, even if later facts show that you were not responsible.
3. Don’t sign or agree to anything in writing without showing it to your lawyer first.
“I’ll get back to you once my lawyer has reviewed this” is an appropriate thing to say when an insurance claims adjuster presents you with a written statement, settlement agreement, or any other item in writing. Do not sign or agree to anything in writing until you have reviewed your policy, talked to your lawyer, and had all your questions answered in a way you understand.
4. Don’t assume that the offer your insurer gives you is the best you will get.
Your insurance agent may appear to have your best interests at heart. The agent may even present the offer as the best deal you are likely to get. Remember, however, that they work for the insurance company, not for you — and insurance companies work hard to pay as little as possible on car accident claims. Instead, work with your lawyer to estimate the value of your accident claim, so you can pursue a full and fair settlement amount.
Talk to an Experienced Car Insurance Lawyer Today
At Parrish Law Firm, PLLC, we understand that personal injury law is personal — that it affects every aspect of your life. That’s why we get to know each of our clients personally, as well. After years of experience representing insurance companies, attorney Jim Parrish is committed to ensuring that injured people have the same focused, dedicated representation that the big companies enjoy.
Whether you are in Manassas, Fairfax, Warrenton, or elsewhere in Northern Virginia, contact an experienced Manassas car accident lawyer today to discuss how we can help you navigate the complex claims process and pursue full and fair compensation for your injuries. Call us or fill out our online form to schedule a free case consultation.