As if damaging car accidents weren’t problematic enough on their own, in the aftermath of these events, you and your insurer will have to agree upon a reasonable payout for the damages that your car has incurred. Insurance companies obviously have the upper hand in these negotiations given that this is what they do, whereas you’re probably dealing with this type of negotiation for the very first time.
Here are a few ways to stay empowered while you work to obtain the best settlement possible from your car insurance company.
Research The Costs Of The Needed Repairs
After a car accident, a claims adjuster will be given your file, and this professional will be tasked with the challenge of deciding how much your vehicle repairs will cost, and making an offer to settle your claim. To assess the value of any claim, it is important to know whether or not these monies are actually going to cover the full costs of the necessary automotive repairs.
Next, you can start asking for additional estimates for damage repairs. The most obvious solution is to bring the car to a local and trusted body shop or mechanic if you’ve got access to either of these. You actually have the ability to take your auto to as many garages and mechanics as you want, until you receive a figure that you believe is a good reflection of the damages that the vehicle has sustained.
Good Faith Negotiations
If you receive an initial offer that falls below the estimates that you’ve collected, you are not obligated to take it. Instead, you can begin negotiating with the insurance company. At this stage, the goal of the insurance company, and your goal should be to constructively engage in an effort to avoid legal action, which can be both costly and time-consuming for everyone involved.
Go into these negotiations with your ideal settlement amount in mind, as well as the minimum dollar amount that you’re willing to accept. Both your maximum and your minimum numbers should be based on the estimates that you’ve collected. As these negotiations move forward, stay level-headed so that you can weigh both the weaknesses and the strength of the offer objectively. If the offer falls below the amount that you expect, ask for the insurance adjuster to justify the offered amount so that you have a better idea of how the offer was ultimately shaped.
Beware Of “Betterment”
Betterment is one thing that an adjuster might attempt to argue against. If you have an older car, it may be necessary to source new parts in order to repair it, which will actually wind up making your vehicle more valuable than it was before your car accident – or this may be what the insurance company attempts to argue.
A lot of insurance companies might charge you for the extra value or try reducing their settlement in relation to the expected increase in value. To counter claims of betterment, you will have to prove that using new parts isn’t going to add value to your vehicle. To help your case, think about getting testimony from an expert witness or your mechanic.
Working With Write-Offs
If your car has sustained a considerable amount of damage, it may be written off by your insurance company as a “total loss” given that the insurer may believe that the costs of repairing it will actually exceed its cash value. The definition of what constitutes a total loss is often different from state to states. There are states that use TLT or the total loss threshold for this determination – where the damages need only to go over a specific percentage of the automobile’s value before calling it a total loss. However, nearly half of all states use the TLF or the total loss formula instead, which means that”if the total repair costs and the salvage value of the vehicle are over the market value for the car, then the car can be considered a total loss,” says Tim from Tim Louis Law.
If this is a decision that you want to negotiate with your claims adjuster on, or if you want to know more about total loss, you will need to find out whether the TLF or the TLT system applies in your area. If you do attempt to challenge, it is best to show proof that your vehicle is worth more than the value that has been determined before. As an example, if modifications to your vehicle were not accounted for in the appraisal, document these modifications and provide evidence showing how the vehicle’s value has been increased as the result of these additions.
If you believe that you aren’t being offered adequate compensation at this point, you can always hire a car accident lawyer to fight for you. Hiring legal help is actually always an option whenever you lack sufficient time, or the ability to negotiate with insurance adjusters effectively. If your claim is relatively small, however, the payout that you ultimately get could be lower than your legal fees. Notwithstanding, if the case appears to be difficult in terms of determining which driver was at-fault, then hiring an attorney could be your best bet.
Upon Accepting A Settlement Offer
Once negotiations are complete, and each party is happy with the outcome, you will need to accept the settlement offer in writing. This does not need to be a long and drawn-out document, but rather, one that clearly outlines the settlement amount and what repairs the related funds will be used for should be perfectly sufficient.