18 Tips for Handling Your Own Auto Accident Claim.
Let’s say you are at a stop sign in Chandler, Gilbert, maybe headed to Mesa, looking to take a right into the intersection, and as you inch forward, someone rear ends you from behind. You are in an Auto Accident. Now what? Do you make an Auto Accident Claim?
You look at your bumper and find that there is a ding, maybe a scratch, or maybe a bit more damage; it’s kind of hard to tell. You are a little shaken up. You approach the other driver, who is all apologies—or maybe not. Either way, you exchange information and they promise to call their insurance company. You get back in the car, take that right turn and head on your way. A day or two later, you look again at the bumper, and while holding your stiff neck, wonder where you go from here. Now, it feels like making an auto accident claim is the way to go. You want to resolve your stiff neck, aching back and get your car back to looking like it was before this accident.
If this situation sounds familiar, continuing reading here because here are some tips for handling your own auto accident claim. These tips will help you reach a fair and just settlement.
Tip #1: Sometimes, You Can Handle Your Own Auto Accident Claim
If injuries to yourself and your passengers are minimal and your car has little to no damage, this is clearly an auto accident claim you handle on your own. What qualifies as little or no damage? The industry calls this type of claim a low-speed collision.
This is the best type of auto accident case to handle on your own. Why, you ask? Because you can easily track the property damage to your car, yourself, and your passengers without worrying about fighting with the insurance company by using these tips. Also, the injuries to yourself and your car are usually in the hundreds of dollars and not thousands, which means more money for you.
Tip #2: Test to See If It Is a Low-speed Collision
A low-speed auto accident is literally what it sounds like: a collision that takes places at speeds lower than ten miles per hour. In an auto accident claim of this type, there is little or no visible property damage done to the bumpers or of any part of either vehicle; however, minimal or nonexistent damage to the vehicles involved does not mean that a physical injury has not occurred for the individuals inside either vehicle.
Tip #3: Report the Accident
After the accident occurs, call the police. It may, however, take up to four hours for an officer to arrive on site if no one is injured, so decide whether or not it is best to go to the police station and report the accident there. Make sure to have all the necessary information, such as the offender’s insurance information, name, and number, in order to make the report as thorough as possible.
Tip #4: Exchange Information
Make sure you exchange insurance information and policy numbers of your insurance companies. If the driver is uninsured, that is something to definitely put in the report. Driving without insurance is illegal and could come with serious penalties. Exchange names and phone numbers, but the insurance companies should handle the accident.
Tip #5: Photograph the Scene
Take pictures of both your vehicle and the other vehicle involved. Make sure to capture the entire vehicle, not just the side in which the collision occurred, because that will give a more accurate portrayal of what occurred within the accident. Also, take photos of the interior of the vehicle. It will help give a comprehensive representation of the full scope of the accident and how much damage was done.
As the victim of a low-speed collision, you should take photographs of all sides of the vehicle, not just the impacted area, to provide more proof and information on what exactly occurred during the accident. In addition, photographing the interior of the vehicle, dashboard, airbags, steering wheel, etc. can help refute any other future inaccurate claims against them.
Tip #6: Call the Insurance Company of the Driver at Fault
The insurance company will ask who was the driver at fault, how the accident occurred, and what, if any, injuries you have. Don’t say you feel fine unless you feel fine; it’s best to seek medical attention before giving that information. Keep the driver at fault’s information handy as well because you’ll be using it often.
Tip #7: Assess Injuries and Seek Medical Attention
Rear-end accidents are the most common low-speed auto collision. At low speeds, particularly where the impacted vehicle is already at a stop, the forces involved transfer to unrestrained body parts within the vehicle. Pain from an injury may be negligible or unnoticeable in the immediate wake of the accident and not surface until well after the collision.
As with almost all accidents, the attorneys for the victim of the accident will seek to establish that the injuries are directly due to the collision, or at least mildly related to the impact. With low-speed collisions, this can cause issues if the injuries do not manifest immediately. The defense attorney will attempt to portray the plaintiff’s claims as illegitimate, that the victim of the accident is exaggerating his or her injuries in an attempt to get money from the case.
Pro Tip: Don’t diagnose yourself; see a medical professional.
To show that the injury stemmed from the collision, the attorney must gather all available evidence and then call upon a suite of experts to help interpret that evidence for the jury. The primary forms of evidence are eyewitness testimony, police reports, a thorough inspection and photographs of vehicular damage, medical bills and testimony from examining physicians, and reports of family and colleagues regarding the observed effects of the injury.
Tip #8: Evaluate the Damage Done to the Vehicle
Take care of the car by taking it into a dealership and having it checked out. Use your claim information and adjuster’s name and number when having the car evaluated.
Tip #9: How to Handle the First Call with the Auto Accident Claim Adjuster
This is the call where they will try to determine who was guilty in the accident. Listen closely to all the claims and then speak up with your side of the story. If you believe the other driver to be at fault, state what it is they did and why or how that contributed to the accident.
Tip #10: Save Receipts Related to the Auto Accident Claim
Start keeping receipts of all things related to the accident to prove the damage done to the vehicle and the financial effects of the accident. Email them to the adjuster if possible. Also, email medical bills to the adjuster as well. If you don’t have them at this time, let the adjuster know you will be getting that information to them as soon as you receive it.
Tip #11: Use Your Medpay
If you have a medical payments policy attached to your auto policy, now is the time to use it. Contact your own insurance agent and find out. Let your doctor know you have the coverage, and all of your medical bills, up to $5,000, can be paid from the policy. Note that your auto insurance premium does not increase when you use your coverage.
Tip #12: Tell Your Employer and Spouse About Your Auto Accident Claim.
Even if you can’t afford to take time off work, let your employer know that you’ve been experiencing discomfort and are not able to perform to your normal capacity. Ask your employer for a letter stating your work performance has been negatively affected by the accident.
In addition to your employer, also let your spouse know how the accident has affected you in regard to home life. If you have been feeling more sluggish and tired, have your spouse write a similar letter noting how the accident has affected your home life.
Tip #13: Know and Understand Your Diagnosis
It’s critical to know your injuries and diagnosis, especially when trying to settle your case. Letting your adjuster know these things will be exceptionally important when trying to settle a negotiation.
Whiplash, also sometimes called neck strain or sprain, is a soft-tissue injury to the neck caused by the “forceful, rapid back-and-forth movement of the neck, like the cracking of a whip.” The sudden movement of the head causes muscles and tendons in the neck to stretch or tear. Common causes of whiplash are sports, physical abuse, and rear-end auto accidents. This can occur in rear-end collisions at speeds as low as 5–10 mph.
Symptoms of whiplash include aches and pains, decreased range of motion, soreness, muscle tightness in the neck, and increased pain when turning the head. Whiplash may also cause headaches that form at the base of the skull, dizziness, numb fingertips, tenderness in the upper back, shoulder pain, and fatigue. These symptoms can linger for weeks or months depending on the severity of the strain and even cause consistent nausea. Some, however, also experience chronic neck pain and complications that can last years. Treatment usually involves rest, pain medication, an exercise regimen, and physical therapy.
Other Soft-issue Injuries
Bruises and other minor injuries may also occur to other parts of the body during a low-speed collision. The seatbelt, while undoubtedly preventing greater injury, can itself cause rib and chest bruising and soreness. Parts of the body that are not restrained by the seatbelt in an accident can also be more prone to an injury. Concussion may occur if the head impacts the door or frame of the car, as seatbelts do little to constrain side-to-side motion; concussions and head injuries are also very common in a low-speed collision.
Whiplash and soft-tissue injuries can persist for years, yet be difficult to show via medical scans and tests that make it challenging to show proof of injury. Seeking professional medical attention directly after the collision provides the best chance for documenting an injury such as the ones listed above.
Such accidents can further lead to torn rotator cuffs, vertigo, back spasms, subluxation (where one or more of the bones of the spine is displaced and puts pressure on the spinal cord), bulging discs, and driving anxiety that could be persistent, even leading to accidents in the future. Defense attorneys and insurance companies have attempted to create the perception of greedy plaintiffs, or the one who brought the case into court, where the plaintiff would be accused of overstating their injuries. Recent scientific studies, however, have shown that low-speed collisions can and do have significant risks of grave injury.
In addition to physical repercussions of low-speed collisions, drivers can also experience reoccurring driving anxiety after the accident. If a victim of an accident starts to experience reoccurring or persistent anxiety while driving, the individual will be more at risk of another accident; they are putting both themselves and others on the road at risk due to an accident that was not their fault in the first place.
A New Zealand study shows the effects of driving anxiety after a motor vehicle collision and found that the effects can be comparable to a panic disorder, such as not reacting quickly enough and experiencing slower thought processes.
After a low-speed collision, and similar to other effects listed above, it is important to seek professional medical attention if driving anxiety becomes persistent. In a court setting, however, it can be difficult to prove driving anxiety as a disorder and direct result of the accident, which is why medical attention should be sought immediately after symptoms begin. It can be challenging to recognize this disorder as an actual effect of the collision, as well as seeing the disorder as a serious issue overall. Understanding mental health and the impact driving collisions have on mental health can be beneficial in the long run, especially after a low-speed collision.
Tip #14: Keep a Journal
Keep track of all your records and receipts that have been a direct cause of the accident or directly related to it. This will be important when trying to settle the case. Also, keeping a journal of pain and symptoms of your injury, how your life has been affected since the accident, etc. will help give the adjuster a better idea of the effects of the accident. This applies even to less serious diseases and conditions. Chronic back or neck pain, arthritis, and many other maladies may become worse or more prominent due to a low-speed collision. The defendant who caused the accident may still be held responsible.
Tip #15: What It’s All Worth When Settling Your Auto Accident Claim.
When you’re getting ready to settle your auto accident claim, get all your information together. Get your auto estimate, medical expenses, out-of-pocket expenses, and anything else paid for in relation to the accident so you know exactly how much the collision has cost you. Decide then what amount you think is fair.
Tip #16: Determine a Fair Settlement For Your Auto Accident Claim.
You are entitled to receive financial compensation for the costs stemming from the injury. This includes not only property damage to their vehicle but also medical expenses, time missed from work, and pain and suffering extending from injuries and treatment.
Typically, low-speed collisions will cost roughly $500 to $5,000, but this total will depend on medical and auto expenses. To determine what a fair settlement would be, consult your records and medical bills and generally stick within this range, but it will depend on time off work and injuries from the accident.
Tip #17: Paying Your Doctor
Depending on the case, the adjuster will either pay the doctor directly or provide you with the payment for medical expenses. Let your doctor know that you’re ready to settle and find out what option the adjuster is going to choose. The insurance company will then require you to sign a release form that states that you agree upon the total arrived at for compensation.
Tip #18: Your Time Limit To Make an Auto Accident Claim
You have plenty of time to settle this claim. In fact, you have two years from the date of your accident to settle, so use the time wisely and record your experiences. Typically, these cases can be settled in a matter of a few weeks but know that you don’t need to feel rushed either.
What It All Means
A common theme in present-day media, perpetuated by self-interested insurance companies, is that of the greedy accident “victim” clad in a foam neck brace and broken leg, only to be revealed and reviled as a fraud. This imagery flies in the face of modern science, which has repeatedly proven that injuries from “minor” collisions can be severe, yet the media concocts ideas that make more and more of the nation skeptical, which can result in denying victims of real injuries. The law of the United States permits victims of accidents to recover the reasonable expenses of their injuries, yet many injured individuals do not want to be seen as part of the problem of over-litigation, or taking a case too far or too long into court, so they allow things to drop.
The impression is more myth than fact and should not stop the victim of an auto accident from recovering the compensation he or she is entitled to and deserves. Through careful documentation of injuries, medical visits, and the accident scene itself, the victim in the accident can have the best chance of a successful case.