Getting the Most From Your Car Insurance Claim

Eleanor Hanson

In order to avoid these unhappy scenarios it is important to be an informed consumer and know what to expect from the insurance claim process. It is also important to gather the evidence you will need if a dispute were to arise. Being prepared is your best defense against shoddy service and lowball offers.

Document the Scene

One of the best things you can do when there is an accident is take lots of pictures. Fortunately, getting pictures of the damage is easier than ever, thanks to the proliferation of cell phone cameras and other digital devices. Take pictures of the damage from as many different angles as you can, and take lots of pictures of the other car as well. Also take pictures of the surrounding area, including the street where the accident occurred. Documenting things like blockages in the street or a fallen tree branch can be very important in reconstructing what happened and determining who was at fault.

Get Estimates

After the accident is over it is important to get several estimates for the repair of the damage to your car. In some cases the insurance company will require you to obtain an estimate from one of their affiliated body shops – go ahead and get that estimate, but get other estimates as well. This will help to protect you in case a dispute arises. When getting your estimates, always ensure that the body shop uses genuine replacement parts and not remanufactured or gray market parts. Only genuine parts will provide the protection and security you need to drive your car safely.

Know the Value of Your Car

Getting a copy of the Kelly Blue Book is a good idea as well. This is the guide insurance companies will use to determine the value of your car and any others involved in the accident. If the cost to repair your car exceeds is Kelly Blue Book value the insurance company will declare the car a total loss, and your recovery will be limited to the value of the vehicle. Knowing how much your car is worth will help you make an intelligent and informed decision, and it will protect you in case the insurer tries to lowball you.

You can fight back against a lowball offer by using not only Kelly Blue Book but other resources as well. Things like classified ads for cars of the same model and year, and the price of cars on your local dealer lots, can help you fight back against an unrealistically low settlement offer.

Time is On Your Side

When it comes to dealing with a car insurance claim, time is on your side. Often if you have the resources to wait it out, you can get the car insurance company to raise the amount of their settlement. That is because car insurers, like other businesses, need to close their books, and having a large number of claims outstanding makes that process difficult. If you are able to wait for the payment you will be in a better position than if you need the money right away.

That is one of the reasons why building an emergency fund makes sense. An emergency fund protects you not only from job losses and unforeseen medical expenses, but from things like car insurance claims as well. Having an emergency fund in place allows you to purchase or rent alternate transportation while you fight it out with your insurance company, and that allows you to negotiate from a position of strength.

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