Per a CDC report, the full cost of vehicle accidents in 2015 came to more than $63 billion. This included the cost of medical bills, lost productivity with workers, and expenses related to deaths. The financial impact of a car accident is tremendous. When you’ve been in a crash, there’s more to it than medical expenses and lost productivity.
A Claim Takes Time
California regulations require insurance companies to respond to you within 15 days of receiving the claim. They have up to 40 days to investigate the claim and accept it or deny it. Once the claim is approved, the insurance company is supposed to issue payment immediately, but it legally has up to 30 days from the date the settlement offer was accepted.
What this means is that close to three months could pass before you get the money to replace your car or pay for the repairs. In that time, if you didn’t have rental coverage, you could be without any transportation. Getting to and from work, even if you’re healthy, may be challenging. The loss of income could lead you to skip buying groceries and other expenses that have to be paid immediately.
That’s if the settlement offer is even fair. It could sound reasonable until you buy a replacement car and end up struggling to find a car in the same mechanical shape as yours. A car with the same value may not have new fuel and brake lines as your car did. It may not have new winter tires on separate rims that cost you hundreds of dollars.
Another issue people run into is having to deal with the interest on credit cards they’ve used to cover expenses until the settlement arrives. That interest may build quickly and not be factored into the settlement figure.
After an accident, you should see a doctor and make sure you’re okay. The medical expenses are just one factor. You may have to take time off work while you heal. You’ll have no car while it’s being repaired or replaced, so you could need a rental.
Your choice may be to take time off work without pay, which can drive you into debt. You also have the cost of a new car or repairs. These are covered by insurance, but it may be weeks or even months before you receive a settlement check. Can you go that long without buying groceries, paying rent, or paying your bills?
How Do You Maximize Your Settlement?
Knowing the possibilities when it comes to the financial impact, how do you maximize a car accident settlement? You need to start at the beginning. From the moment the accident happens, document everything.
If you have a dashboard camera, save copies of the video before and during the accident. This video footage will help determine exactly what happened. It can show the speed the other driver was doing, the signage in the area, and potential witnesses in the area. Take photos after the crash, if possible. Get close-ups of the damage to your car.
Don’t ignore your health. Even if you feel fine right now, you may not feel great hours after the adrenaline wears off. See a doctor and get checked. You could have fractures or sprains that don’t feel too painful right after the crash. As time passes, you may start to feel it. You should also be checked for internal injuries. Plus, you want to have a record of symptoms to watch for. If you develop neck pain in a day or two, you could have whiplash. Keep track of all of your bills and medical notes.
An insurance adjuster will look at your car and decide on the cost to repair the damage. If the damages are too high, the adjuster will look at the current value of that make/model in your area. Provide copies of all repairs you’ve made.
Most insurance companies will not reimburse you for aftermarket additions, but it’s worth fighting to get that extra money. If you installed a remote ignition system for cold winter days, you should say so and provide the cost and cost of installation. If you just had the brake pads and rotors replaced with professional-grade parts, say so.
Get names and contact information for anyone who witnessed the accident. Share this information when you call the insurance company. The more evidence you have to prove you were not the responsible party, the higher the odds of getting a great settlement.
Once you’ve gathered this paperwork and information, seek an expert’s opinion. Visit a lawyer who specializes in car accidents and can help you get the settlement you deserve. At KJT Law Group, every case evaluation is free. You’ll know if the first settlement offered by an insurance company is reasonable. If it’s not, we’ll explain why and let you know how we can help you. It never hurts to ask. Call us today at (818) 873-0181