Dealing with Insurance Companies After You’ve Been in an Accident

By: Attorney Tim Bottaro | September 2020

You were recently the victim of a motor vehicle accident. Maybe your vehicle was totaled and you were transported to the hospital to spend several days recuperating. Now, you are home experiencing the aftermath. When dealing with the insurance companies, there are two issues you may have to address: (1) the property damage claim and (2) the personal injury claim. Here’s what you can expect. 

Property Damage Claim:

Estimates

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If you have been in an accident, you are almost immediately contacted afterwards by the other driver’s insurance company (if the other driver does in fact have auto insurance). Often, insurance companies divide up the individuals who will be handling your claim (known as adjusters) between the property damage side and the personal injury side. From the property damage side, they will either want to send someone to make an estimate of the amount of the damages to your car, or they will ask you to take your vehicle to certain repair shops who have an arrangement with them. If the cost to repair the damages to your vehicle is more than the value of your car, your vehicle will be totaled. You will be offered the value the insurance company says your vehicle was worth at the time of the accident. If you disagree with the valuation you must provide proof of your valuation. If the cost of the repair is less than the value of your vehicle, the costs will be paid.

Arguments regarding property damage claims are relatively rare. Often, personal injury attorneys do not even get involved other than providing information or advice to their clients regarding whether the property damage claim is being handled appropriately.

Rental Car

Rental car availability can sometimes get a little dicey. The other insurance company may have a limited number of days for which a rental vehicle is allowed. Basically, the law in Iowa is that you are entitled to the value/cost of the loss of use of your vehicle during the time it is waiting to be repaired. However, if you do something which delays having your vehicle repaired or other issues arise, you may have this right reduced.  Your auto coverage may provide rental coverage.  Your policy may similar limitations.

Limited Insurance Coverage

Regardless of whether the other driver has liability coverage, you have the option to process your property damage claim through your own insurance company as long as you have full coverage.

Personal Injury Claim:

Recorded Statement

Personal injury claims are treated very differently than property damage claims. One of the first things the adjuster will request is a recorded statement. The insurance company will want to know background information about you, how the accident happened, and what injuries you have from the accident. They will sometimes also ask about any pre-existing conditions, which are prior health problems you have had to the same areas of the body you are complaining of being caused by the accident.

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It is often preferred by attorneys to be present when an individual provides a recorded statement to an insurance company. This way, the attorney can get you prepared for the statement beforehand, make sure you are clear about what happened, and make sure you are accurately responding to the question being asked during the interview.

Most individuals are contacted by the other driver’s insurance company before they contact and hire an attorney. Thus, it is always important to be as short as possible when answering the adjuster’s questions. Be honest of course, but also be careful about how you word your answers. Sometimes, people can mistakenly answer or describe something. The insurance companies put a lot of stock in the answers provided in a recorded statement. If you do not have an attorney at the time you give a recorded statement, be smart and use your common sense.

Authorization to Get Medical Bills and Records

The insurance company will also ask you to sign papers to allow them to gain access to your medical bills and records and even talk to your healthcare providers. If you sign these documents, you are allowing the insurance companies to potentially have access to all of your healthcare history, which is very personal and could be detrimental to your case.

The insurance company will request forms allowing them to contact your employer for wage information and potentially obtain your personnel file, which again contains personal and private information. There are other documents the insurance company may want you to sign as well. You need to consider this very carefully. If I represent someone, I simply put those documents aside and tell the insurance company we will provide medical bills and records after you have reached maximum medical improvement and when we are ready to discuss settlement. The same thing applies to wages and any other documentation the insurance company may want to obtain.

Hiring an Attorney

Hiring an attorney results in the insurance company representatives can no longer talk to you. They may only communicate with your lawyer. This takes the stress off of you and allows you to focus on healing and getting your life back on track.

Personal Injury - Auto Insurance 7When hiring the best personal injury attorney for you, look for someone who primarily practices in this area, has several years of experience, and is someone you are comfortable with and is more readily available to you because this process can take several years depending on how long it takes you to recover from your injuries.  It is a good idea to hire a top lawyer that is as attentive to your case as you are to help ensure the best outcome for your case.

A lot goes into resolving a claim after an accident. Ultimately, you make the decision as to whether you want to handle every aspect involved or hire a competent attorney to do so.

DISCLAIMER: The information in this blog post is provided for general informational purposes only and may not reflect the current law in your jurisdiction. By visiting this website, blog, or post, you understand that there is no attorney client relationship between you and the Vriezelaar, Tigges, Edgington, Bottaro, Boden & Ross, L.L.P. law firm attorneys and the website publisher. No information contained in this post should be construed as legal advice from Vriezelaar, Tigges, Edgington, Bottaro, Boden & Ross, L.L.P. law firm or the individual author, nor is it intended to be a substitute for legal counsel on any subject matter. No reader of this post should act (or refrain from acting) on the basis of any information included in or accessible through this post without seeking the appropriate legal or other professional advice on the particular facts and circumstances at issue from a lawyer licensed in the recipient’s state, country or other appropriate licensing jurisdiction.