Getting in a car accident is bound to happen to all of us at some point, and once you've handled the six things everyone should do immediately following one, then it's time to deal with the insurance companies.
But where to start? What must you remember to do, and what should you never do? And why would it help to have a lawyer on your side?
Let Anthony Pusch and Chi Nguyen explain. With more than 50 years of combined experience, they have made it their life's work to help people in exactly this type of situation. The team of attorneys at Pusch & Nguyen, plus their network of investigators, work together to make sure their clients receive the maximum settlement possible.
Here is their handy list of dos and don'ts to keep in mind when dealing with insurance companies, and remember that you can always reach out to them for help, as consultations are free and you don't pay a fee unless you win.
Do contact your insurance company as soon as possible
Even when an accident isn't your fault, it's still usually best to reach out. Why? It typically takes the other person's insurance carrier about two weeks to accept liability and begin work on your vehicle (and sometimes much longer). So if you're not able to be without your vehicle during that time or if it's too damaged to be driven safely, it's best to get the ball rolling.
"A lot of people like to wait for the other person's insurance to accept liability so they don't have to open a claim through their own insurance," says Nguyen. "Most people generally do this because they are worried their premiums might go up. That is a real issue, but some insurance companies will raise your rates regardless of whether it's your fault. Regardless of how your insurance company finds out, you might as well file the claim with them. Your car will get repaired much faster."
Do read your insurance policy carefully
This should be done before you speak with an adjuster, and pay special attention to the "coverage" and "exclusion" portions of your policy (also known as the declaration of benefits page).
Don't disregard deadlines
Most insurance policies will require a signed proof of loss within a certain time period after the accident. It is important that you comply with this requirement, unless your insurance company has given you a written waiver to submit this proof of loss after the stated deadline. If you are not satisfied with the settlement of your claim, you must contact an attorney before this deadline or you could lose your right to sue.
Do keep records
These records should include detailed notes of any conversations with your insurance company, including the names, contact information, and job titles of the people you talk with, as well as all receipts for expenses dating back to the accident.
Don't give any recorded or written statements to your insurer until you are aware of your injuries
This is an important one, says Pusch. If you are injured, it is always best to seek out a personal injury law firm that specializes in motor vehicle accidents. They are best equipped to speak with insurance companies on your behalf.
Do take pictures of your vehicle and injuries
It is not required that you take pictures of your injuries every day, but it is important to get good documentation of the significance of the injuries. If your injuries are internal, your medical provider can document the severity for you.
Do gather any and all other insurance policies in your household
What does your homeowners insurance have to do with this? Possibly a lot. Your attorney can determine whether there is any additional coverage from your homeowner or "umbrella" policies, as well as from car insurance policies from other drivers in your household.
Don't automatically accept the value your insurance company sets for your vehicle's damage
It is important to get a second opinion from a non-biased third party company to ensure you receive a fair amount for your damages.
"Remember, insurance adjusters look out for their employer's interests first," says Pusch. "Because of this, the value they set for your vehicle could be significantly lower than fair market. The numbers are always negotiable. You should not sign any waivers or releases of any kind until you have had them reviewed."
Avoid accepting any form of payment that contains the phrase "final payment" (or something similar) unless you have reached an agreement with the insurance company and do not expect any further compensation for your damages.
For more information, call 713-524-8139 or visit their new office at 6330 Gulf Fwy.