Understanding the claims process after a crash

After you're involved in a car crash, you'll need to start an insurance claim. This claim is the way that you obtain financial support following a collision.

Since you're hurt by another driver, you'll be making a personal injury claim. This claim relies on determining fault. To start with, you'll have to find out who is at fault for the crash. The police report generally indicates fault and is a document you'll want to have on hand for the insurance company.

How soon do you have to report the incident to the insurance company?

You'll need to report the incident within 24 hours. If you are in the hospital or otherwise unable to report the incident, the other driver may do so, or you can ask your attorney or a family member to call the insurance agency. Generally speaking, these agencies are fair about the report times, especially if you were hospitalized, but it's important to report the accident as soon as possible.

What happens after you file a claim with the other party's insurance?

After you file a claim, the insurance company begins an investigation. This investigation goes over any documents related to the collision. If you have photos from the scene, the insurance company may want them and a statement from you. It's a good idea to speak with your attorney before taking these steps, since saying or doing the wrong things at this point could end up limiting your claim options.

Most people do need to submit an independent medical examination that is performed by a doctor of the insurer's choice. After this happens, the insurance agency is likely to offer you a settlement. It's best not to take this right away, because you need to know the full impact of the crash on your finances and life first.

Your attorney can help you review the settlement and decide if it's fair. If not, your attorney can call the agency and attempt to negotiate for a different settlement. You can always appeal a settlement offer to attempt to obtain more.

Remember, your compensation should include special damages, lost wages and medical expenses. There may be other items you'd like to add to the claim as well, which is why it's a good idea to submit all your receipts and documentation to your attorney for review before you take a settlement or offer a settlement amount you'd be happy with.

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