I am often asked what is my very best car accident claim advice.
Based on thousands of cases of experience as a car accident lawyer, I can think of quite a few candidates for my best advice. Here are some of my best tips.
Make A Diminished Value Claim
One piece of good car accident claim advice is: don’t overlook the possibility of a diminished value (“DV”) claim if your relatively new vehicle was extensively damaged.
Not familiar with DV claims? If you had a fairly new vehicle — not more than 2 or 3 years old — that had extensive damage repaired, you probably have a DV claim. Even after the damage has been repaired, your car is not worth as much as a similar vehicle that has not had extensive damage. You simply get an expert to review your repair record and state an opinion on the amount that your vehicle’s value has been diminished.
This tip could put thousands more in your pocket.
Purchase Ample Uninsured and Underinsured Motorists Insurance
Another good piece of car accident claim advice is: buy as much uninsured motorists insurance coverage as you can. Of course, you can’t purchase this insurance coverage and have it apply to an accident you have already had. But, before you have an accident, or before your next accident, you should review your car insurance coverages and make sure you have as much uninsured motorists coverage as you can get and can afford.
Uninsured motorists insurance coverage (commonly called “UM” coverage) protects you if your vehicle is damaged or you are injured by a driver that doesn’t have any insurance. Sure, every state requires drivers to have insurance but, guess what, not everyone does. And in this bad economy, with people faced with choices between food and shelter, on one hand, and car insurance payments on the other, do you think there will be more or less uninsured motorists in the future?
But here’s even more good news about UM coverage. In most states, it also serves as underinsured motorists (“UIM”) coverage . That means that it kicks in and pays you for your losses if the driver who caused your accident had insurance but did not have enough insurance. This is what saves you if you have a $100,000 claim against someone with $20,000 of insurance and no assets. If you find yourself in that situation, this coverage could be the greatest thing for you since the iPad.
Negotiate Reductions in Health Insurance Subrogation Claims
Here’s one more piece of car accident claim advice: after your claim is settled, your health insurance company is probably entitled to recover the amount of the medical bills it paid to treat your car accident injuries BUT they will usually accept less than their full claim.
You may not know this but you probably have to repay your health insurance company if it paid for any of your accident-related medical treatment. Their claim for repayment s called a subrogation claim. The point I want you to remember is that your health insurance company will probably agree to accept less than its full claim.
To get a reduction, it is critical that you negotiate with your health insurance company before you settle your claim with the at-fault driver’s insurance company. When there is uncertainty about whether the claim will settle and long delays are possible, the health insurance company is more likely to reduce its claim. They don’t want to run the risk that you will lose your case and they don’t want to wait a lengthy time to recover. However, once the claim is settled, all they have to do is sit back and enforce their right to a full reimbursement.
So, be sure to negotiate the subrogation claim reduction before you settle with the other driver’s insurance company. This is another tip that can put mucho additional bucks in your pocket.
Be Smart When You Decide Whether To Hire A Car Accident Lawyer
Here’s more good car accident claim advice: know when to settle your claim yourself and when to hire a lawyer. In my opinion, you can safely settle most car accident claims yourself, without a lawyer. Why pay a percentage — usually 1/3 — to a lawyer to do something you can do yourself?
On the other hand, there are times that it is foolish to try to be your own lawyer. For example, if there is a dispute over who caused your accident, if you had serious injuries such as broken bones, serious lacerations, a herniated disc or a head/brain injury, or if your financial losses are large, such as more than $10,000, you need a lawyer. The bigger the claim, the harder the insurance company Bad Guys resist you and the more you need a pro on your side. If you’re in that situation, find the best car accident lawyer you can and consider the lawyer’s fee money well spent.
Never Settle Your Own Claim Without Learning Car Accident Claim Basics
On the other hand, the overwhelming majority of car accident claims can safely be settled without a lawyer’s help.
But — and this is my best car accident claim advice — if you are going to settle your claims yourself, don’t do so blindly. The insurance company is an adversary. They are protecting their bottom line, not yours. So, take a little time to educate yourself about car accident claims before you try to settle with the at-fault driver’s insurance company.
Because I know that you can’t rely on the insurance company to protect you — and thus have to protect yourself — I have written a book that teaches you everything you need to know. It’s called The Car Accident Claims Kit.
With the information and advice in my book — not to mention the examples, forms and checklists — you can learn all you need to know in a couple of hours. Doesn’t it make sense to invest that little time to prepare for one of the most significant financial negotiations you will ever have?