We get calls everyday from people who have been involved in car accidents and are having difficulty dealing with an insurance agent. Sometimes people want to know if they really have to provide the information being asked for. In other instances, victims are trying to determine if what they are being offered is a fair and acceptable settlement.
While we can help you deal with an insurance agent, there are some mistakes you may make that will make those dealings a bit more difficult. How you handle the insurance company immediately following your accident will have a great impact on what happens next. Here is some of the advice that we frequently offer our clients following an auto collision.
Immediately following the crash, you should take as many pictures as you can. Take photos of all of the vehicles involved in the collision. Take pictures of the accident scene, the surrounding area and even the roadway. Take close-up shots of any damage the vehicles sustained and, if you have something handy, hold something next to the damage in the picture for size reference.
Before you pick up the phone and dial your insurance agent, take the time to review your policy. You should know what is included and excluded. This will help you prepare to speak with the agent in an educated and informed manner. If you do not believe you are being treated fairly and in accordance with your policy, don’t argue with the agent. Simply end the phone call and speak with an attorney.
Take notes as you are speaking with an insurance agent. You should, at a minimum, write down their name, the date and time. If you are provided with an identification number, write that down as well. If you speak with a supervisor, remember to write down their name. Make quick note of anything you are told.
Know the difference between depreciation and replacement coverage. If your policy says that you have replacement coverage, you don’t want to accept a settlement for “actual cash value.” If you have replacement coverage, it is important to note that you may be required to replace these items on your own and then submit receipts for reimbursement.
You are not bound by law to allow the insurance agent to record your phone call. You are also not required to provide a written statement. If you have doubts as to your rights when dealing with an insurance company, reach out to a qualified attorney for advice.
The insurance company may ask you to sign some type of waiver or release. Don’t. In many cases, an insurance company will have you sign paperwork when accepting a settlement and, if you are like most people, you will sign without reading. This is never a good idea. If you are asked to sign anything, advise the insurance company that you will be having your attorney review the document prior to adding your signature.
Your insurance company will advise you to visit a certain mechanic or autobody shop. These people are often affiliated with the insurer in some way. You are never required to accept this first estimate and it may be lower than what it will actually cost to repair your car. If you do get an estimate from the person your insurance agent recommended, always get a second opinion.
When you receive a check in the mail or in person, it may be labelled “final payment.” Do not accept this check without first speaking with an attorney. If you take and cash this check, you have ended your dealings with the insurance company and most likely eliminated any ability to file a personal injury claim.
An insurance policy is a legally-binding contract. Your insurance company must provide you with the coverage outlined in your policy. Do not forget this when you are dealing with an agent. You have a right to exactly what your policy says. If you believe that your agent is trying to skimp on your coverage or force you to agree to things that you shouldn’t, end your dealings with them and call a lawyer.
No one wants to be involved in a car accident, and very few people want to argue with insurance agents. If you are in a car crash in West Palm Beach, our experienced team of attorneys is here for you. We can help you fight the insurance company and we can take your case to court. Before signing any document, give us a call to schedule an appointment for a free case evaluation and let us advise you of your legal rights.