When you’re involved in a Miami car accident you may need money to help you get back on your feet. In most cases, you’ll need to begin your quest for compensation by filing a personal injury claim with an insurance company. Navigating the insurance company claims process can be stressful and overwhelming.
What do you have to do to kickstart the process? How can you be sure that you’ll get a fair settlement? What options do you have if an insurance company denies or undervalues your claim?
It’s important to know what to expect and how to make the most of your claim. Here, we provide an overview of insurance claims process and explain how you can maximize your financial award.
One: Notify the Insurance Company
The first thing you’ll have to do is let the insurance company know that you’ve been involved in an accident. Contacting them after your accident will begin the insurance claim process.
Whose Insurance Company Do I Contact?
Florida is a no-fault state. This means that your insurance company will be primarily responsible for covering costs related to your physical injuries, regardless of who caused the accident. So, it’s important to contact your insurer as soon as you can after an accident.
Your insurance policy may not be enough to cover the full extent of your injuries. If this is the case and someone else is responsible for causing your accident you can also file a claim with that driver’s insurance company.
When Do I have to Contact the Insurance Company?
The amount of time you have to notify an insurer after an accident will really depend on the company’s own policies. Most insurance companies will refuse to acknowledge your claim if you don’t notify the company within a “reasonable” amount of time after an accident. It’s always best to contact insurance companies as soon as you can after an accident.
Two: Gather Evidence and Information
Once you’ve notified the insurance company that you intend to file a claim you’ll have to act quickly. Remember, insurers can deny your claim if it’s not filed within a reasonable amount of time. It’s important to understand that the insurance claim you’re about the file isn’t a demand for compensation.
Instead, it’s a way to provide important information about the accident. You’ll have the opportunity to draft and submit a demand letter once you’ve been able to assess your damages.
An insurance company will want to know specific details about your accident. Take the time to gather the following information:
- Time, date, and location of the accident
- Personal details and insurance information of others involved, and
- Injuries, deaths, and property damage caused by the accident.
Once you have the details of your accident squared away you can formally submit your insurance claim.
Three: Identify Damages and Prepare Your Demand Letter
Your demand letter is your opportunity to explain your injuries and ask for money for the damages you’ve suffered. You have the right to ask for compensation for special (economic) and general (non-economic) damages. These can include compensation for medical expenses, lost wages, disability, pain and suffering, and more.
It’s important to supplement your demand letter with evidence. Take the time to investigate your accident and gather any evidence that may support your claim and prove damages, including:
- Police reports
- Photographs and/or video footage of the scene of the accident
- Photographs of your physical injuries and/or property damage
- Witness statements
- Pay stubs and/or a letter from your employer
- Medical reports and records, and
- Statements from your doctor.
You want to paint a picture that persuades the insurance company to pay you for your injuries. The more evidence you have to support your demand, the better your chances of getting the money you need.
When Should I Submit My Demand Letter?
In many cases, it can be helpful to wait to submit your demand letter until you’ve fully recovered from your injuries. This will allow you to really understand the extent of your injuries. Knowing how an injury may affect you in the future can give you a better sense of your damages.
Submitting your demand letter too early – and then accepting a settlement offer – could prevent you from recovering all of the money you really need. Waiting until you’ve (mostly) recovered from your injury can help you maximize your financial award.
Four: Wait for the Insurance Company’s Response
The insurance company will conduct its own investigation into your accident. The investigation will typically depend on whether you’re filing a first-party or third-party claim.
If you’re filing a first-party claim with your insurance company, they’ll review your request and determine if your accident is covered by your policy. If it is, they’ll review your demand letter and consider the value of your injuries. Most insurers rely on a software program to assess the value of your claim.
The adjuster will input details about your accident – including a list of your injuries and the severity of each – into the program. The program will analyze the data and provide the adjuster with a value for your case.
If you’re filing a third-party claim with another driver’s insurance company they’ll also investigate your case. However, this insurer will be searching for evidence that proves their insured driver is responsible for the accident and your injuries. If there’s any doubt about who is to blame the insurer will deny your claim.
If fault isn’t contested, the insurer will investigate your claim in an effort to find ways to limit your payout. Insurers will also use a software program to come up with a value of a third-party claim.
Five: Consider the Insurance Company’s Settlement Offer
An insurance company has an obligation to act in good faith. This means that an insurer must genuinely consider the merits of your claim and offer compensation if it’s valid.
Once you’ve submitted your demand letter an insurance company must consider it and offer a response. There’s no requirement, however, for an insurer to respond to your demand right away. Some may even try to intentionally delay a response to make you worry and eager to accept any offer they may extend. Try not to panic while you’re waiting for a response from the insurance company.
Most insurance companies will not respond to your claim and agree to pay the amount you’ve requested. Instead, they’ll extend a settlement offer that’s less than what you’ve asked for. This settlement offer is typically based on the value determined by their special software program.
Most companies will support their offer by saying that you’ve overestimated the value of your injuries or have failed to provide sufficient evidence. Don’t accept an insurance company’s first settlement offer without giving it thought. It’s important to fully consider the merits of a settlement offer.
- Has the insurance company rejected any of the damages presented in my demand letter?
- Does this offer cover the full costs of my accident-related injuries?
- Do I deserve more than what the insurance company is willing to pay?
If you’re satisfied with the company’s offer you can agree to accept it. However, it’s important to know that accepting a settlement will likely prohibit you from recovering additional compensation in the future.
You’ll be asked to sign a release that waives your right to file a lawsuit or additional claims. This can be dangerous if you accept an offer for less than you deserve.
If you believe that the insurance company has undervalued your claim you have the right to reject the settlement offer.
Six: Make a Counteroffer
You have the right to reject an insurer’s settlement offer and submit a counteroffer of your own. This counteroffer is essentially a second demand letter. Highlight evidence that supports your case and make a strong argument for more money.
Emphasize the extent of your injuries and the consequences you’ve experienced because of the accident. If you’re dealing with another driver’s insurance company it’s important to make sure that you make it very clear that the other driver is to blame.
You can demand the same amount as in your first demand or decide to meet the insurer somewhere in the middle. An insurance company may be more willing to consider your counteroffer if you budge on the figure you’d like to receive.
Seven: Consider the Final Settlement Offer
You may go back and forth with an insurance company a few times during the claims process. However, at some point, the insurance company will extend its final offer. Once you’ve received a final offer the company will be unwilling to negotiate any further. It’s up to you to accept or deny the claim.
When Should I Accept a Settlement Offer?
Consider accepting a settlement offer if:
- The insurer provided legitimate reasons for denying some of the money you requested;
- It covers most or all of your damages; or
- You are responsible for causing the accident and won’t be able to recover money elsewhere.
It can be helpful to have an experienced attorney review a settlement offer before you make a decision.
When Should I Reject a Settlement Offer?
Consider rejecting a settlement offer if:
- The insurer denied most of your demands without providing justification;
- It not enough to cover the full extent of your injuries; or
- It fails to provide compensation for future costs you’ll experience because of your injury.
Your quest for compensation isn’t over just because you reject a settlement offer. You still have the right to file a personal injury lawsuit if someone else is at least partially responsible for your injury.
While you can navigate an insurance claim on your own, you’ll probably be more successful if you have an experienced attorney by your side. At Lavent Law, our Miami personal injury lawyers know that insurance companies will do whatever they can to limit the money you get after an accident. We’ll make sure that insurance companies respect your insurance claim and extend fair settlement offers.
If you’re dissatisfied with the offers you received we won’t hesitate to take additional legal action. We can file a personal injury lawsuit on your behalf and fight for the money you deserve. Contact our legal team today to schedule a free consultation. We’ll review your case and help you understand your rights.