How to Value Accident Settlements
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UPDATED: Jul 16, 2021
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Before you file a car accident insurance claim you need to determine the value of your losses so you can request the right insurance payout. To handle your own auto accident claim, it is best to educate yourself on how to find your claim value or you can easily be taken advantage of and not get the compensation to which you are entitled. Here are some guidelines that will help:
- Know When to Get Help: While car insurance adjusters are professionals who evaluate claims for a living, they are not always correct in how they value your claim. If you feel like you should get more money, but can’t identify why, then speak with a car accident attorney.
- Know the Facts: Know the facts about your accident, not just your own recollection. Collect any witness statements or police reports available, and be consistent with your story, especially if the other party is saying something different. This will help you to be credible in the adjuster’s eyes.
- If Fault Matters, Know Who Is at Fault: Whose fault was it? If it was clearly the other driver’s fault, liability probably won’t be an issue. However, if it was partially your fault, check out your state’s comparative or contributory negligence laws. In some states, your partial responsibility for the accident will bar you from recovering any money at all. In other states, you can get a percentage of your damages.
TIP:When fault is not clear, or when it is shared, you would be wise to have an attorney evaluate your case, give you advice, and/or handle the case to its conclusion.
- Identify Your Injuries: Were you injured? Document your injuries, treatment, prognosis for recovery, and temporary or permanent disability with copies of medical reports. During the auto insurance claim process, you may be asked to sign a medical authorization form. This will give the adjuster permission to obtain your medical bills and medical records. Read carefully before signing.
- Know Your Claimed Expenses: What expenses can you claim as a result of the accident? You will be required to lay out for the adjuster all of your medical expenses, including ambulance, emergency room, hospital, doctor visits, medicines, medical equipment, etc. Will you require future medical treatment? Get an estimate of future costs from your health care providers. Did you lose any income? You’ll need proof from your employer. What about other expenses, like transportation to your appointments or hiring home assistance such as a babysitter or a housekeeper? Did your spouse stay home to care for you and lose income as a result? Did you hire a baby sitter to watch the kids while you were required to take physically therapy?
TIP:The more complicated or difficult to prove your claimed expenses are, the more you should consider turning your case over to an attorney or getting some legal advice.
- Identify any Special Factors: Are there any special factors that you would like the adjuster to consider that might make your claim worth more? Consider things such as your age, your occupation, the fact that you cared for your elderly parent and can no longer do that. Maybe you can no longer sit for long periods of time and therefore, you have to consider changing your occupation. Or maybe perhaps you will need to always use a cane to walk in the future or you will have to give up your part time job as a referee as you can no longer run up and down the courts. Whatever your individual situation might be, it might very well add value to your claim, so don’t keep quiet about it.
- Detail Your Damages: You are entitled to be compensated for your medical and other expenses (special damages) along with general damages, which include money for pain and suffering. Even though adjusters will tell you there is no formula to figure out the value of pain and suffering, if you are doing this on your own, a good place to start is in the neighborhood of three to 5 times the special damages. When you are evaluating your claim’s worth, usually the greater the injury, the greater the value. Also the larger the property damages to the vehicles involved, the greater the value. (i.e., you can’t expect $150 dent from backing into someone to create, $50,000 in medical bills. The two don’t correlate). Make your case as to the amount of damage to your car and how that created your injury.
TIP:If you are convinced your claim is worth much more, consult an attorney for advice on value.
- Be Prepared to Negotiate:Knowing what your auto insurance claim is worth is key. Be ready to negotiate your settlement offer! Don’t just roll over and take what the adjuster offers unless you truly think it is a fair offer. If you are uncertain about the offer, don’t hesitate to tell the adjuster that you need time to think about his or her offer and call an attorney for free advice. It is not too late! Getting advice on what your claim is worth may be the best advice you will receive!
- Be Wary of Your Insurance Company: The insurance company will make money by paying less on your claim. This does not mean they are trying to cheat you or deceive you, but it does mean that if they think there is a way to avoid paying the full value of your claim, they will take it. You don’t need to be hostile with them, but be firm and always keep their motivation in mind when working with them.
You should understand that the entire auto accident insurance claim can be handled by an attorney. Attorneys understand claim valuation and claim worth. If you are thinking about hiring an attorney to handle your car accident claim, talk to him or her first before talking with the insurance company. If you have retained an attorney, let the initial report of the accident be done by his/her office. If anyone from the insurance company should contact you directly, let them know immediately that you are represented by an attorney. At that point, they should cease any and all conversation with you and contact your attorney for anything that might be needed. Click here to find an auto accident insurance attorney to manage your claim.
For more information about auto insurance claims, check out the following articles:
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