Under California’s Fair Claims Settlement Regulations, you should hear from an insurance company within 15 days of filing a claim. The company must accept or deny the claim within 40 days after fathering the proof. If you’re waiting on a settlement payment, this can seem like an unbelievably long period of time.
In order to understand why it can take so long, it’s important to look at the things that go into a settlement. Here’s a step-by-step look at what happens after a car crash.
Immediate Steps to Take
Right after the crash, call 911 if there are injuries and give details to where you are and how many cars, pedestrians, bicyclists, or motorcyclists were involved. If 911 doesn’t call the police for you, make sure you do.
If you’re able, get names, addresses, policy numbers, driver’s license numbers, and phone contacts for everyone involved in the accident. Get the contact information for any witnesses. If you have a phone or camera with you and can do so, get photos of all cars, the location, road signs, and obstacles in the road. If you have a dash cam, save a copy of the video footage before, during, and after the accident.
If you feel you may have injuries, insist on going to the hospital. Adrenaline may prevent you from feeling pain for several hours. It’s better to get looked at and find out nothing is wrong than to go home and suddenly find you have a concussion, back pain, or internal injuries that adrenaline was hiding.
California laws require you to report any accident with damages exceeding $750. Make sure you do this within the 10-day deadline. If you do not, you could lose your license.
Contacting the Insurance Company
When you’re back home or recovering in the hospital, call your auto insurance company. They will start processing your claim. If the accident wasn’t your fault, your agent or insurance company will likely call the other company for you to get the claim started.
Your insurance company will want to see copies of medical bills, accident reports, witness names and contact information, and a statement from you regarding the accident. If you’re missing work or school, keep track of how much time is missed.
If 15 days pass and you haven’t heard from your insurance company, call California’s Department of Insurance. They will take action to find out why there’s a delay.
What Happens Next
Your insurance company starts investigating the accident. The adjuster will look at your car and determine how much it will cost to fix the car to meet safety requirements and return it to the shape it was prior to the crash.
If the cost is too excessive or there’s no way to meet safety requirements due to a bent frame, the car will be declared a total loss. In the event your car is a total loss, the adjuster looks at how much it would cost to replace your car with a similar make/model that was in the same shape and had similar mileage.
The insurance company will pay your medical bills related to the car accident. Keep records of all tests and treatments. You also should keep records of the doctor’s recommendations. If you’ve been told to go to physical therapy following a bone fracture, do it. Make sure you do everything the doctor recommends to prevent the insurance company from saying the injury was worsened because you went against your doctor’s orders and refusing to pay for future treatments.
Loss of wages will be included, but you won’t often get reimbursed for changes to your habits or lifestyle. If the car accident forces you to miss an important training conference that eliminates your chances for a promotion, you may need to file a lawsuit. Your car insurance company may not factor that into your settlement offer.
Has another driver’s insurance company offered a fair settlement? It’s hard to tell. Insurance companies tend to go with the lowest value when appraising your car. They don’t look at the car’s sentimental value or the amount of money you’ve put into repairs or upgrades. They don’t consider things like anxiety that may occur weeks or months after the accident.
That’s why you should call an attorney with experience in car accidents. KJT Law Group’s attorneys know how to look at all aspects of an accident. If they feel the settlement is fair, they’ll tell you. If not, you could be like one client who received $210,000 after suffering a concussion in a car accident.