How a Car Accident Settlement Works

You’re in an accident. Stress levels are high, and it can make it hard to process what’s about to happen. To start, you need to fill out an accident report. If the police were called, they will fill out the report for you.

Gather any photos you’ve taken, have the list of witnesses handy, and make a call to your auto insurance company. This starts the process of filing your car accident claim. Once that is done, you could wait more than a month to get your money. These are the details you should know.

How Long Will It Take for Your Insurance Settlement?

It helps to understand how long the process can take. Insurance companies have 15 days to respond to your claim. Most do this quickly, but it can take that long. If you haven’t heard anything in 15 days, you can ask the state to help.

Once they’ve told you they received the notice of claim, the insurance company has 40 days to investigate. In this time, they’ll go over the paperwork and evidence you’ve submitted. They’ll dispatch an adjuster to look at your vehicle and determine the cost of repairs to restore it to the condition it was in prior to the crash.

After returning a settlement offer to you, you have the right to accept it or refuse it. If you accept it, the company should pay it immediately, but they legally have 30 days from the date you accepted the settlement offer.

Breaking this down, you have:

  • 15 days before they have to respond
  • 40 days to investigate
  • 30 days to pay you

It can take up to 85 days to receive your settlement check. That’s almost three months!

Read Over a Copy of Your Policy

You’ll want a copy of your policy handy. There are items that you may not be covered for. You may also have deductibles to meet. For example, if your car has a $250 deductible, that money is taken out of the money you get in the settlement. If damages come to $1,000, you’d get a check for $750.

See if you have rental car coverage. If you do, you’ll get a rental car for a period of time. This ensures you have another vehicle to use for your work commute. If you don’t have rental car coverage, you’ll have to get someone else to drive you, borrow a car from a friend or family member, or pay for a rental car out of your own pocket.

Know Your Rights

You have the right to request a specific mechanic or body shop. If the insurance company recommends a repair shop, they have five days to give you a written recommendation. They cannot just make this recommendation in a phone call to you.

If the car cannot be repaired, they’ll look up the book value for that make and model. The value is determined by finding cars in similar mechanical shape and with similar mileage. It’s uncommon for an insurance company to cover additions you made to the vehicle. If you upgraded to a better stereo system, you may not get the added value of that new equipment.

If your policy covers a rental car and you’re not offered one, make sure you ask. The coverage may only cover so much per day or for so many days. It’s better to ask and have it available so that you don’t miss work.

Tips for Moving the Process Along

Make sure you respond to requests for more information quickly. The faster you respond, the less delay there is. If possible, use email so that you have a time stamp showing when you sent something. Ask for a receipt that the adjuster received that form or information. If you don’t get a response, keep hounding the insurance company until you do.

Call the company every day or two and ask where things stand. You may seem pushy to the company, but you have every right to ask for frequent updates. You can find out when the adjuster looks at your car, how long before the estimate is ready, and if all medical bills have been received.

What If You’re Not Certain the Settlement Offer is Enough?

Make sure you get the compensation you deserve. Don’t assume the insurance company will give you the best settlement. Even the slightest difference in the valuation process of your car can lead to a big headache when it comes time to replace or repair it. Talk to Carpenter & Zuckerman first.

The attorneys at Carpenter & Zuckerman specialize in vehicular accidents. You’ll know if your offer is fair or if you’re being shortchanged. Call 888-CZR-FIRST to request a free consultation.

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