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Thursday, February 20, 2014

Avoid insurance woes: Getting a better idea of your claim's value

By Molly Pearce

Improve insurance claim payments
Insurance fraud complicates claims negotiation
When watching television commercials featuring auto insurance companies, you get the impression that insurers will do whatever their policy holders need them to do to help them recover from an auto accident.

The fact is auto insurance companies will not pay what their customers’ claims are actually worth and most customers do not negotiate over the settlement amount. Yet, customers may be entitled to more money, particularly if they were injured in the accident. 

The Insurance Research Council (IRC) reports the average collision claim nationwide in 2012 was $2,950 while the average bodily injury liability claim was $14,653.

Florida drivers may find it more difficult to negotiate such claims because of rampant auto insurance fraud in that state. According to an IRC study, 1 in 10 no-fault auto insurance claims filed in Florida in 2007 appeared to be fraudulent since many of the claims were based on accidents that never occurred. Also, nearly one in three claims closed in 2007 exaggerated an injury which received unnecessary or excessive medical treatment, the report said. 

While fraud occurs, it does not negate the legitimate claims of drivers in Florida who were involved in real vehicle accidents. Doesn't it seem like a little bit of a conflict of interest that, as stated by Orlando Car Accident Lawyer Steinger Iscoe and Greene, "insurance companies are here to make a profit"?

Getting Damage Estimates   If you were involved in an accident and want to determine the value of your claim, then take the following steps:

1. Get repair estimates on your vehicle Find at least three repair shops to give you estimates. Your insurance company may require you to visit shops that they recommend. Follow your insurer's requirement, but get estimates on your own. 

2. Seek medical treatment Although you may not feel any pain immediately after the accident, get checked by a doctor for injuries anyway. Concussions are common injuries that occur after accidents and the most easily ignored by accident victims. 

3. Document out-of-pocket expenses You may have had to pay to get your car towed away from the accident scene. You also may have had to pay for a rental car. Include any medical expenses, including prescription drugs, that your health care insurance did not cover. 

4. Determine your lost income Not every job will pay employees when they do not report to work. You may have lost money from work because you did not have transportation or was told by your doctor to take days off to recover from your injuries. Calculate the amount of wages you lost for being off from work. 

5. Consult an accident attorney Although you may take the right steps, keep in mind that your insurance company usually has the upper hand when it comes to settlements. An accident attorney can evaluate your case and decide whether more information is needed to determine the value of your claim. More importantly, attorneys can negotiate with insurance companies to get a fair settlement amount for their clients. If necessary, attorneys can represent their clients in court, if a lawsuit is filed regarding the claim. 

What’s important to remember is that unless you have legal representation or a clear understanding of how auto claim negotiations work, you may not receive the true value of your claim. 

Unfortunately, once you accept a settlement check from your insurance company, you cannot receive any further compensation. So, make sure that you have done your due diligence to get a fair settlement.      


About the author: Author and artist Molly Pearce is always looking to expand her knowledge of finance, especially, when it comes to insurance coverage and often addresses the topics of human rights and the law in her work. To complete her research, Molly searched the phrase Orlando Car Accident Lawyer Steinger Iscoe and Greene to get legal facts from the firm's website and youtube videos on filing an insurance claim.

Image license: Anssi Koskinen; CC BY 2.0