Weathering the Insurance Claims Process of an Auto Accident

To successfully file an auto accident claim with your insurance company, you should first understand the process so that you are not shorted anything that you are entitled to. These claims can be filed by both the passenger and the driver of any car, in any collision. Knowing how the process works prior to calling your insurance company will give you a leg-up and will help ensure that things get taken care of the way they need to be taken care of.

The first step is to call the insurance company to report the claim. Let them know that you have been in an accident. The insurance company will ask many questions so that they can understand all the details of the accident before they get started processing your claim. Keep in mind that the call is recorded. You may not yet know the extent of your property damage, nor may you know the extent of your injuries. With that in mind, do not say anything that will jeopardize your claim down the road. Just stick to the basic facts, be honest, and don’t sell yourself short.
Taxi in accident on Aurora Avenue, 1962
Photo Credit: Seattle Municipal Archives

  • Helpful Tip: If you are at all unsure about how to report your claim, or you feel that you might be injured. Consult with an experienced car accident attorney before filing your claim. He or she will give you a free consultation, and will help you figure out the next step.

Once you have made the big phone call to your insurance claims department, the next step will be to speak with an accident claims adjustor. Your insurance company will assign one to your claim. He or she will review your insurance policy, determine your coverage, your deductible, and then start the process of valuing your claim. They will do this by first looking at your property damage.

Your claims adjustor may recommend a body shop where you should go to get your estimate, you are not required to use their recommended shop, but it may make the process a bit simpler for you. You are also not required to make the repair, after you go to the body shop, get an estimate, and give it to your insurance claims adjustor, he or she will write you a check. You could simply choose to leave the damage on your vehicle and pocket the cash. This is assuming, however, that your vehicle can still pass inspection with the damage it received from your car crash.

The next step after property damage is an amount for bodily injuries to you, or anyone else in the car with you. If you have reached this step in the process, it is extremely likely that you need a personal injury attorney. Your insurance company will likely offer to pay your medical bills for you if they are low amounts. In fact, in St. George, Utah, state law requires that your own insurance company will pay your first three thousand dollars in medical expenses even when the accident was not your fault.

Determining fault can be the most complicated part of an auto insurance claim. Always get a police report filled out at the scene of the accident. This will make determining fault easier because you will have a report from a neutral third party. Don’t allow the other driver to decide to later change his or her story. If fault is an issue, a car accident attorney is a must for you. Remember; never sign any documents from the insurance company until you have consulted with your attorney. He is there is make sure that you are not taken advantage of while you are doing your best to recover from a car accident.
This article is offered only for general information and educational purposes.  It is not offered as and does not constitute legal advice or legal opinion.  You should not act or rely on any information contained in this article without first seeking the advice of an attorney.    

 

Are You Required to Engage in Arbitration After an Auto Accident Injury?

Arbitration is not something that is required in any auto accident case. It is however a nice alternative to formal litigation when the two parties just cannot agree on a settlement amount. It is a very common form of what is referred to as alternative dispute resolution. Mediation is the other common form of alternative dispute resolution. Arbitration is more formal than mediation, but less formal than trial. Its processes are similar to that of an actual trial. In Utah, state statute provides that a plaintiff’s attorney can request arbitration during any litigation process where the amount at issue is less than $50,000. The time frame that this must be done is either within the initial complaint or within two weeks after the defendant files an answer. The rationale for this law is that cases of relatively small value should be handled relatively quicker than large cases with more at stake. Defense counsel could potentially block arbitration by opposing the plaintiff’s motion, but this is not typical.

In effect, arbitration functions much like trial. Its decision is binding unless appealed. The way is works is that both parties would agree on and then pay an arbitrator to hear their case. An arbitrator is typically a former judge or experienced attorney. You will want an arbitrator that is intimately familiar with the type of case at issue. There are many arbitrators in Utah with extensive experience in car crash cases.

New Vue
Photo Credit: RBerteig

The procedure of arbitration begins with opening statements from each side. Followed by examination and cross-examination of witnesses by each side. Both sides can introduce evidence, and finally, both sides will be allowed to make closing arguments. Sometimes the arbitrator may even ask questions of counsel or of one of the witnesses. After the arbitration is over, the arbitrator will respond with an order usually within a week or so. This order has the force of the law and will be followed unless either party chooses to appeal the award by motioning for a de novo review at trial. That basically means that the parties would go to trial and pretend that the arbitration never happened. That seems silly though, right? It is. The intention of arbitration is to save time and resources, when they are appealed, extra time and resources are wasted. For that reason, there is a penalty for appealing an arbitration award. The moving party is required to get either a 30% decrease or increase of the award at trial or that party will be required to pay the attorney fees of the nonmoving party up to $6,000.

An experienced personal injury attorney may recommend arbitration in a case where a reasonable settlement amount just cannot be reached. When the parties are so far apart and both feel that they are right, arbitration or trial may be inevitable. A good car crash attorney knows that the more it costs to litigate your claim, the less the victim will get. Sometimes arbitration gets a bad rap because there are not many big winners or losers. Arbitrators get a reputation of just splitting an amount down the middle. The middle, however, is better than nothing. There is some concern that arbitrators favor defendants because they want to be rehired. That is a legitimate concern, and it is one that you must weigh out with the help of your attorney.

This article is offered only for general information and educational purposes.  It is not offered as and does not constitute legal advice or legal opinion.  You should not act or rely on any information contained in this article without first seeking the advice of an attorney.