It is important to contact an Oklahoma Auto Accident lawyer before speaking with an insurance company. Once you have been in an accident you have entered into a legal battleground where you are significantly disadvantaged without proper legal representation.
An auto accident insurance claim always begins with an accident. If you are involved in a car accident, there are some very important things you should do at the accident scene, the first opportunity, call the police and emergency medical personnel.
After you have contacted your attorney he/she will report the accident with your insurance carrier and begin the process of filing a claim. After submitting, a claims adjuster (someone who works for the insurance company and deals exclusively with claims) will either call, write or email the attorney regarding your claim. He or she will then look at your policy to determine the types of coverage you have, deductibles, and any coverage limits that may affect your claim. (i.e. they will make legal and contractual decision about whether they are going to pay or not). If make the slightest error or say something wrong, your claim could be denied.
If your claim is simple (i.e., fault is not at issue, the damage was minimal, and little or no medical treatment was necessary), the adjuster will probably want you to get an estimate for repairs and then send you a check. You and your attorney will have to fill out some paperwork, but you probably will not have to meet with the adjuster in person. If your claim is more complicated (for example, liability is unclear, you do not have enough coverage in your policy, or you do not agree with your adjuster’s settlement offer), then the negotiation process will take longer and a lawsuit may need to be filed. More often than not, if you are injured and have car damage, the property damage portion will be settled first and then your injury claim will continue until you are completed with medical treatment and care.
After we receive sufficient information to file an insurance claim with the other party’s insurance company, we will begin the same process with them. The process is drastically different as they have no legal obligation to you whatsoever and their primary goal is to get the claim settled and closed as quickly and cheaply as possible.
Investigating Your Automobile Accident Claim
In relatively complicated injury accident cases your attorney and the insurance adjusters typically must do some investigation in order to adequately assess the insurance company’s liability. The adjuster will comb through your policy and possibly contact witnesses to the accident, the other party to the accident, look at the police report if there is one, take photographs of the damages and scene of the accident and generally investigate your medical expenses by sending out requests to your medical providers for information regarding your treatment. If you are seeking to have medical bills covered, the adjuster will send you a medical authorization form for the release of your medical records. It is important to always speak to an attorney first before signing any documents or speaking to an adjuster.
After our investigative process, we might hire certain experts such as medical experts, life care planners, accident scene reconstructionist, damage experts, engineers, and visual demonstration experts. After all the reports are completed we package up into a settlement demand and submit to the insurance company. In complicated or high damage cases it is not uncommon for us to file a lawsuit before this process.
The Settlement Offer
Once we have submitted the demand packet and the adjuster has investigated your claim and looked at your policy, he or she will typically respond to our settlement demand with an offer to settle your auto accident claim. How much is your claim worth? It is impossible to say because each and every case is different. The damages depend on many factors such as the level and severity of the collision, amount of bodily injuries, amount and duration of medical treatment, whether any scaring or disfigurement is present, and the extent of nerve damage. Because there is no exact science to the evaluation of an injury claim, the adjuster will likely have a settlement range. The settlement offer will tell you what the insurance company is willing to pay on your claim and the initial offer is almost always at the bottom level of this range. The offer could be all, it could be part, it could be none. This opening offer is typically on the low side. After all, the adjuster’s job is to save his or her employer money. But the adjuster also wants to close a case and thus is typically allowed a settlement range that offers room for negotiation.
Negotiating with the Claims Adjuster
Once your attorney has received an opening offer from the adjuster, keep in mind that opening offers for settlement are almost always on the low side. Then, we generally work to understand what particular point of contention the adjuster has with our demand packet. Is it a legal issue regarding insurance coverage? Is it a legal issue regarding medical treatment or injuries? Or is the insurance adjuster simply trying to get out for a little as possible? Generally we try several rounds of negotiation before filing a lawsuit; however, once we reach an impasse with the adjuster we file a lawsuit in the District Court.
If Your Auto Accident Claim Is Denied
If your claim is denied in whole or in part, there could be many legitimate and reasonable reasons. Most have to do with limits in your coverage or police exclusions. You can check the denial letter against your policy to see if the denial seems legitimate or not. If you have not retained us, the insurance attorneys at Compton Law will perform a free insurance coverage analysis for you. But whatever you decide to do, don’t wait too long to do it. If you sit on your claim for too long, you may lose the right to sue in court to get your recovery. Oklahoma has a fairly short statute of limitations (a time limit for filing a lawsuit in court).