Getting into a car accident can be incredibly stressful. Even if you aren’t severely injured your car may sustain a significant amount of damage. Fortunately, you can file a claim for damages with your insurer or another driver’s insurance company. The insurance adjuster will assess the damage to your car and determine how much repairs should cost. You’ll then be offered a settlement to cover your costs.
How do insurance companies and claims adjusters determine vehicle damages? What can you do to make sure that you are able to recover a fair settlement offer? Car accident attorney Sherwin Arzani outlines the process and explains the steps you can take to maximize your recovery.
Thorough Inspection of Damage
Once you’ve filed your claim with the insurance company an adjuster will schedule a time and date to visually assess the damage to your vehicle. They will try to schedule this as soon as they can after your accident. Always make an effort to be present when the adjuster is looking at your vehicle. They’re working for the insurance company and have the insurance company’s best interests at heart.
While it is their job to consider damage honestly and in good faith, it’s also their responsibility to limit the amount of money you get. If you are present during the assessment you can ensure that the adjuster identifies every inch of damage to your vehicle.
The adjuster will go over your car with a fine tooth comb. They’ll also take a lot of pictures from several angles. When damage is identified they’ll look closely to see if it was likely caused in this particular accident or if it was pre-existing. The insurance company will only compensate you for damage that was caused by this particular accident. If there is evidence of prior repair or rusting, the company may refuse to accept liability for that pre-existing damage.
Once the adjuster has looked over the vehicle they will use a computer program to determine the cost of fixing any accident-related damage. The program will provide an estimate for how much it should cost to fix your car. If there are any issues or questions about damage and repairs they may consult a mechanic or auto body repair expert.
Considering an Initial Repair Offer
Keep in mind that the claims adjuster works with the insurance company. The primary goal is to limit the amount of money you get after an accident. The adjuster may be authorized to offer you a certain amount of money for the damage to your vehicle.
In many cases, you’ll probably receive an initial repair offer that is less than the maximum amount they’re authorized to extend. They hope that you’ll take the money and run without negotiating a better deal.
Things may be different, however, if your car was damaged beyond repair in the accident. If repair costs exceed the car’s value it will be declared a “total loss.” The company will then simply give you a check for the car’s value prior to the accident.
How to Secure a Fair Repair Offer
You do get to have a say in how much money you get for vehicle repairs after an accident. However, you have to be diligent and persistent throughout the claims process. Follow these steps to make sure that an insurance company extends a fair offer for repairs.
- Document the Damage Yourself: Take photographs of your car immediately after your accident. Write down a list of damage that you can see. This evidence can be used to support your claim and contest assessments made by the adjuster down the line.
- Visit an Auto Body Shop (or Two): Don’t let an adjuster determine your fate alone. You can bring your damaged vehicle to an auto body repair shop for a repair estimate. It’s always best to seek out multiple opinions. Include these estimates in your demand letter for compensation.
- Walk the Vehicle With the Adjuster: Stay with the adjuster when they are assessing the damage to your car. Be sure to point out any damage that they miss or disregard.
- Analyze the Initial Offer: Review the initial offer and compare it to the estimates you received from the auto body shops. Are the repair costs comparable? Did the adjuster identify all necessary repairs? Did the adjuster factor in higher costs that may necessary to repair a rare, historic, or foreign vehicle? Make a note when you find discrepancies or problems. You can reject the offer if you have a valid reason for doing so.
You’ll maximize the money you get for repairs by staying engaged in the claims process. It always helps to gather your own evidence and consult with mechanics and auto body repair experts of your own.