Billings, Montana, has staked out a surprising claim to fame in recent years as one of the most car accident prone cities in the country. Whether you are only passing through or have lived in the area for some time, you may experience a car accident at any time, and when you do, it’s important to know how to effectively handle your insurance claim while protecting your interests and rights.
In general, pursuing maximum benefits from an insurance claim goes more smoothly when you have an attorney representing you. Insurers regularly prioritize their own bottom line above the needs and fair coverage of policyholders.
In practical terms, this means that an insurer may look for any justification they can find to deny you coverage after an accident, or may offer significantly less than you deserve in a settlement.
Whether you choose to handle your own claim or seek out an attorney to represent you, there are several mistakes you should avoid when dealing with an insurance company, whether it’s your own insurer or another driver’s.
Know your rights and the limits of your coverage
While you should contact your insurer as soon as you can after an accident, you should make sure that you understand your coverage first. If you call your insurer without understanding your coverage, you may make statements that compromise your coverage or benefits.
Of course, you don’t have unlimited time to make your claim. Your policy documentation contains time constraints for filing a claim, so be sure to keep those limits in mind if you want to research your coverage before filing a claim. You certainly don’t want to miss out on proper coverage because you failed to meet the deadline for filing a claim.
Carefully review any offer
If your insurer gives you an estimate for damages, protect yourself by comparing their estimate with a third party. It is very common for insurance companies to make low estimates to protect their own interests. Remember, an estimate is only that, and until you accept an offer in writing, you have room to negotiate.
In general, you should never casually sign anything that an insurer gives you after an accident. You can only benefit from carefully considering the terms of any offer, and you can save yourself many headaches by examining the details of any waiver or release.
If an insurer seems too eager to offer you a settlement, it is possible that the offer is lower than you deserve. An insurer may even send you a check that says “final payment,” indicating that they believe negotiations are finished. Be sure you agree to the terms of any settlement before accepting or signing any such check.
Remember, successfully negotiating an insurance claim depends on understanding the details of your policy and insisting that you receive all, not some, of what you deserve. Your insurer has a contractual obligation to you, and sometimes you simply have to insist they honor it.