Auto Accident Claim Process Explained
Auto Accident Claim? Learn the basics of how they work to protect you and your family if you've been in a car accident.
If you’ve just been in a car wreck, figuring out the intricacies of filing an auto accident claim is likely the last thing on your mind — and for good reason.
That’s why taking a proactive approach and learning how the process works now can save you valuable time and energy should you need to do it in the future.
Today, we’re breaking down just what happens after you file that initial auto accident claim. Where does it go? Who handles it? How long until you can expect to hear back?
We’ll answer all of those questions and more. Ready to dive in? Let’s go!
The Basics of an Auto Accident Claim
As with almost any legal process, the exact steps that your claim will take will differ according to a few factors. These include:
- The exact nature of the accident
- How severe the accident was
- The degree of property or bodily damage (or both) that occurred, if any
That said, there are a few actions that will occur regardless of your individual circumstance. Let’s look at those in closer detail:
Step 1: The Claims Adjustor
As soon as you file your accident claim, your insurance company will dedicate a claims adjustor to your case. He or she will be responsible for reviewing your auto policy to determine exactly how you’re covered — and how you should proceed.
Depending on your case, your claims adjustor might do the following to help create a clearer picture of what occurred during the accident:
- Ask for a copy of the detailed police report
- Communicate with other parties involved, including the driver and any witnesses
- Go to the scene of the accident
- Examine your car and photograph any physical damage
- Review your medical record (with authorization) to discern sustained injuries
This step is critical for determining fault as it helps your insurance company understand precisely what happened and who should be held responsible.
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Step 2: Finding Fault
Next, your adjuster will work to gather the evidence, listen to recounts, and pore over details to determine who was at fault.
You may be aware that not all automobile accidents are cut-and-dry. Sometimes, one driver is mainly at fault, but not completely.
While you’ll likely have a hard time proving total (100%%) or no (0%) fault, figuring out a percentage of blame is a helpful way for insurance companies to determine who pays what amount.
For instance, if you were found to be 70% at fault and the other driver was found to be at 30%, the settlement payments would be divided against those ratios as well.
Checking You Out
Increasingly, insurance adjusters are adopting a more digital mindset, turning to the Internet to help fill in any holes they might need while determining fault.
One place they’re likely to look? Your social media accounts. Now, you can find out more about a person in just a few clicks than you ever could in an over-the-phone interview.
Often, you can also trace that person’s steps according to what they post that day — a feature that helps adjusters grasp the timeline of the day of the accident.
For instance, you might claim you were in an automobile accident on Thursday, then upload a Facebook Live video showing your pristine car in the background on Friday.
Sounds fishy, right? Your adjuster will think so too.
Adjust the settings on your accounts so that only your added friends and family members can see your posts.
Also, it should go without saying, but try to avoid posting about the accident in the social sphere, as doing so could come back to hurt you in the end.
Step 3: Payment for Damages and Losses
After your claims adjustor reviews your case, he or she may determine that the other driver was at fault.
When this is the case, he or she will work with the other party’s insurance company to seek payment for any medical attention you might have received or any property damage done to your vehicle.
In insurance speak, this payment process is known as indemnification. Alternately, if your adjuster determines that the other party is at fault, it can sue that party for the amount of its payment in a process known as subrogation.
Vehicular Damage in An Auto Accident Claim
If your vehicle is damaged during the accident, you’ll have a few ways to go about getting it fixed with your insurance money.
You can either go to a body shop that approved by your insurance company, or you can opt for a local one that you prefer. Regardless, it pays to do your homework and get plenty of estimates.
If you end up going with your preferred shop over the approved one, keep in mind that you could be required to pay the difference if their price is higher than what your insurance company budgeted.
To give your claims adjuster as much information as possible, it’s important that you allow him or her access to your medical records, including any other pertinent yet personal data such as your amount of lost wages.
Doing so will allow the adjuster get a more in-depth understanding of your case, as that information is often highly detailed.
Typically, all it takes to allow this permission is to sign a patient release waiver.
Not entirely comfortable with the idea of a veritable stranger rummaging through your medical history? Hire a personal injury lawyer to facilitate this process, so you can rest assured that the documents are sound and allowing access to them is the best next move.
Not Satisfied? Your Rights and Options
If the outcome of your accident claim wasn’t quite what you thought it would be, take heart that there are measures you can take to ensure another chance.
You could start by requesting your adjuster’s boss review the claim from a fresh point-of-view.
If that doesn’t work, you can choose legal mediation or head to small claims court. If you want to avoid a full-blown trial, you can seek arbitration instead. Follow the advice of your attorney to discern what the appropriate steps are.
Your Next Move: Hire an Experienced Auto Accident Claim Attorney
Regardless of whether you’re totally satisfied with the outcome of your accident claim or wish it could be different, an experienced car accident lawyer is a key asset throughout this journey.
That’s where we come in.
Our injury lawyers are skilled in helping clients win big and we’d love to answer your questions and prepresent you if you have a case. Contact us today to learn more! Or give us a call at 312-500-4500.