If you’ve been in a car accident and have suffered serious damages or injuries, you’ve likely already filed a claim with your insurance company or are in the process of filing. Many people who file a claim will take the first settlement offer from their provider. After all, you’ve acquired new bills and you want to be compensated as soon as possible.
However, the settlement process can move rather quickly as most insurance providers want to settle fast. This often leads to many people wondering whether they’ve been compensated fairly. This could be because they’re unaware of how much their settlement is worth, they were in need of money and didn’t take the time to negotiate with their provider, or there was a questionable situation that occurred in the process.
In all of these situations, it’s likely that you’ve thought about whether you could reopen your car insurance claim to ensure you are fairly compensated. With that said, read on to learn whether it’s possible to reopen a car insurance claim and what steps you should take if you’ve been unfairly compensated.
Understanding a Car Insurance Claim
A car insurance claim is a report you file after you’ve been in a collision with another vehicle or another situation that results in damage to your vehicle or personal injury. The individual who files the claim will receive payment from their insurance company after meeting the deductible requirements. Here’s the process of filing a car insurance claim.
1. Contact the police
Filing a car insurance claim begins with contacting the police. Having police on the scene helps to mitigate potential issues between you and the parties involved, ensures an ambulance and emergency services are there to handle injuries if needed, and provides a police report, which is helpful in the claim process.
2. File an accident report
The next step is to file an accident report. Most states have laws for reporting accidents to the local DMV or police. For this reason, it’s important to understand your legal responsibilities for reporting. If you’re uncertain, you can always contact your insurance agent to guide you on what to do.
3. Collect information about the accident
Documenting the details of the accident is an important step in successfully filing a car insurance claim. Your insurance company will request these details to determine the settlement. This means that individuals need to document the damage done to their vehicle, as well as, any personal injuries as a result of the accident.
4. Call your insurance company
Once you’ve documented everything, you will need to contact your insurance company on what steps to take next. They will likely advise you to send them pertinent information regarding the accident such as the extent of damages.
5. Claim specialist
Once you report the accident, your insurance company will assign a claim specialist who will represent you by talking with third-parties such as other insurance companies and other parties involved in the accident.
Is It Possible to Reopen Your Claim?
There are many reasons why an individual may feel motivated to reopen their insurance claim. Unfortunately, the claim process doesn’t always go as expected, and reopening your claim could be a great solution to the problem.
The good news is, there are situations where an individual can reopen their car insurance claim. However, it’s important to note that there is one instance where a closed claim will remain closed.
When is Reopening a Claim Not Possible?
Unfortunately, if you’ve already signed an agreement with your insurance company, it will be difficult to reopen your car insurance claim. Even more, reopening it isn’t likely. This is because signing the document means you agree that your claim is fully resolved and that you give up your rights to file suit against the insurer.
This agreement is signed in exchange for the settlement payment. Keep in mind, there is a difference between a settlement that’s fair and one that isn’t a good deal. A fair settlement is one that fully covers your financial needs, as well as your physical and emotional injuries. If a settlement offer doesn’t cover these things, it is likely a low ball offer and you should refrain from signing any documents.
When is Reopening a Claim Possible?
Here are four situations in which reopening a claim is a possibility:
1. No signed agreement
If you’re unsure about whether a car insurance settlement offer is fair, the best thing you can do is to not sign an agreement. Not signing gives you the opportunity to negotiate the offer and file a suit if necessary. Even if you’ve committed to a verbal agreement, there’s a chance you can still get out of it if no paperwork is involved.
However, it’s important to note that a verbal agreement can sometimes be interpreted as a legally valid agreement. If you have verbally agreed to a car insurance settlement offer but have decided against signing paperwork, it’s a good idea to reach out to a lawyer for a legal consultation.
2. Settlement document contained technical errors
Another situation where an individual can reopen their car insurance claim is if the settlement document contains technical errors. For instance, let’s say that the initial settlement amount you agree to was $65,000. However, the document outlines that your settlement offer is $56,000.
In this case, the document would include serious technical errors, making it invalid even if signed. If your settlement document has substantial errors, you can either have them correct the mistake or potentially back out of the agreement altogether.
3. There are other potential parties at fault
Many car accidents involve multiple vehicles. This means that there is a possibility of other parties being at fault. For instance, if you have a car accident involving a commercial vehicle, the defendant and the defendant’s employer could be at fault.
Similarly, a two-car accident not involving a commercial vehicle could still have multiple parties at fault. For instance, some accidents occur due to a vehicle defect, which means the car company would share responsibility for the accident. In the event that there are other parties at fault, you might be able to file a claim against them for additional charges.
4. You’re treated unfairly by the insurer
Unfortunately, there are situations when an insurance company will lie or treat customers unfairly. However, insurers have a responsibility to follow protocol and handle your claim in good faith.
With that said, if you learn that your insurance company did not follow protocol, you might have a new legal claim against your insurance company. Here are a few examples of unfair treatment by providers.
- The insurance company knowingly misrepresented facts about the situation or fails to disclose details about your insurance policy.
- The insurance company delayed the process of your claim by forcing you to do things such as provide additional or repetitive documentation.
- The insurance company pressured, tricked, or bullied you into accepting a low settlement offer.
- There was a lack of or refusal to communicate by the insurer.
- The insurance company refuses to negotiate the settlement amount.
What to Do if You’re Treated Unfairly by Your Insurance Provider
The best thing you can do if you believe you are being treated unfairly by your insurance provider is to get professional help from an attorney. Dealing with dishonest treatment from an insurance company alone is not only stressful but can sadly lead to no results.
The good news is, an experienced attorney can help you understand the situation better, help you identify how the insurance company violated your rights, and how you can best move forward with your legal claim.
5 Tips to Receive a Fair Settlement
If you are filing a claim for a car accident, use these five tips to simplify the claim process and increase the likelihood of a fair settlement.
1. Conduct a complete investigation
If you plan to file a claim, it’s essential that you conduct a complete investigation. An investigation ensures you are equipped with the information you need to file a claim and get a fair settlement. This means doing things such as getting contact information from witnesses and getting a copy of the police report.
2. Get sufficient photographs
It may not be enough to just snap a few photographs of the incident. You want to ensure that you are as thorough as possible when documenting any damage and injuries. This is your proof of the incident and allows the insurance company to see the extent of the situation.
3. Keep all bills and receipts
Be sure to keep all bills and receipts related to your accident to show proof and value of all damages. This is one of the factors that your provider will consider when it comes to the amount of settlement.
4. Don’t allow the insurance adjuster to pressure you
t’s not uncommon for an insurance adjuster to pressure you into accepting an offer. But keep in mind, this is usually a low-ball offer. In order to receive a fair settlement, it’s best to wait it out. This is also an appropriate time to talk with an attorney to understand the best course of action.
5. Keep adjuster informed about injuries
If you’ve been injured during the accident, it’s essential that you keep the adjuster informed about the seriousness of your injuries. For instance, if your injuries worsen over time, telling your adjuster will likely result in an increase in your reserves account.
If you have filed a claim due to a car accident and believe you are being treated unfairly by your insurance provider, it’s important to know that you have options. There are circumstances when a car insurance claim can be reopened.
If you are ready to take steps to reopen your claim, it’s a good idea to contact an expert in insurance law who can effectively deal with the insurance company and get you the settlement you’re owed. Here at Herman Wells, we’re dedicated to helping our clients get fair compensation. Contact our law firm for a free consultation or policy review.