An Easy Guide to Filing a Car Insurance Claim in California
Filing a car insurance claim doesn’t have to be complicated, provided you know what to do at each step of the claim process. Here are a few important things you need to keep in mind while filing your claim.
Who to Contact Following an Accident
If the accident involves injuries that require immediate medical attention, call 911 and ask for assistance from first responders. You’ll also need to contact local law enforcement if the damage is beyond a fender bender. An officer will fill out a police report, which will be available to the parties involved in the accident.
Others you’ll need to contact include your insurance agent and the California DMV within ten days of the accident if there was a fatality or property damage over $1,000.
People involved with the accident should remain calm and restrain from talking about fault, which will be determined by the insurers after reviewing the evidence. It’s a good idea to collect as much photographic evidence and documentation at the accident site as possible. Drivers should exchange contact and insurance company information.
If you were at fault, it’s essential to share your story with your insurer as soon as possible. The other party will likely contact your insurer to file a claim. Certain types of coverage, such as collision insurance, provide reimbursement regardless of which driver was at fault.
Statute of Limitations
Some cases go to court when the at-fault party refuses to pay for the car insurance claim. The state’s statute of limitations for suing someone over an auto accident allows you to file a lawsuit within two years of the incident.
If You Lack Insurance
You may file a claim with the other party’s insurance company if you are uninsured and not at fault. The insurer, however, is not obligated to approve your claim. That’s why it’s helpful to first discuss the case with an attorney.
When You Need an Attorney
Filing a small auto insurance claim usually doesn’t require consulting an attorney. However, if it’s a claim involving an accident with severe injuries or damage, you can benefit from an experienced personal injury attorney’s help. It may lead to a larger settlement than what you can collect from your own efforts.
Dealing with an Adjuster
When an insurance company receives your claim, it assigns the case to an adjuster who contacts you by phone, mail, or email. State law requires the adjuster to contact you within 15 days of receiving your claim. The adjuster will request a statement about the claim, along with the evidence you have gathered to determine who was at fault. You simply need to be honest and present the facts.
If the adjuster asks to record your statement, you are not required to do so, and it’s better for your case that you decline. Be aware that anything you tell them could be used to deny or delay your claim. If the adjuster asks about your condition, it’s advantageous to say it’s too soon to tell. Don’t make it appear you are seeking a quick settlement.
Medical Exam Considerations
You are not required to take an independent medical examination (IME) if requested by the adjuster. Many people don’t realize that the insurance industry pays for these exams. You should generally avoid giving the adjuster much information about your medical condition, and it’s in your best interests to deny the request for an IME. Instead, suggest you’ll sign a medical release that gives them access to notes about your treatment.
Essential Evidence to Present
- Your claim form with statements from you and the other party
- A vehicle inspection report
- Photos of the crash scene
- Repair shop estimates and documentation of damages
- Medical reports and hospital bills
- Evidence of lost wages or inability to earn
- Any other relevant evidence
Getting Your Settlement
Insurance agencies are required by state law to initiate an investigation within 15 days of receiving a claim. The insurer then has 40 days to accept or deny the claim. If it’s a clear open and shut case, you’ll likely be paid within a week. Nonetheless, complicated cases in which the party at fault is unclear can drag on for months or years.
After investigating the claim, the adjuster will make a settlement offer, which is typically the amount it takes to cover medical bills and vehicle damage. This offer is usually less than what you can get by taking the case to court with an experienced attorney. An attorney typically sends a demand letter before the adjuster’s offer to ask for a high amount to set a scale for negotiation.
The final settlement amount will likely be somewhere in the middle between the adjusters’ low figure and your high figure. Once the adjuster agrees to an amount, you will sign a settlement agreement, superseding your right to sue.
How to Handle Car Repair
Once you get a reimbursement check, you can take your vehicle to any auto shop to get it repaired. Keep in mind most auto insurers work with a network of auto repair shops that facilitate direct billing to the insurer at discounts. Choosing a shop outside the insurer’s network may mean negotiating prices with an adjuster. That’s why it’s often easier to work with auto shops within the insurer’s network.
Make sure you understand the process when you file a California car insurance claim. It helps to work with seasoned insurance professionals. Our experts at Remland Insurance Services Inc. will help you navigate the process. Contact us today to get started!