The light turns red, and you come to an abrupt stop. The car behind you does too and ends up hitting you in the rear. This is your first accident, so now what?
First, make sure you and your passengers are OK. Secondly, think before you speak. Sharing too much information with an insurance adjuster or even emergency personnel could cause you to be liable for the accident, even if it wasn’t your fault. Adding in how fast you were driving, if you were talking on the phone, how much sleep you got last night, or even how loud your music was could put you at fault. When asked what happened, “I was rear-ended” will suffice. No other explanation is needed.
For adjusters who have been in the business for a while, they may prod you with loaded questions that seem irrelevant. Don’t be fooled. They are trying to ease their way into having you admit that the accident could have been slightly your fault. Stick to your story and know these questions are coming. Straying from the topic may seem like friendly conversation, but there’s usually a motive behind the matter. A simple question regarding your family could have an ulterior motive.
Next, you’ll need to find out if your car is repairable, or a total loss. Sometimes that can be easy to conclude, but before making the decision to send your car to a shop, it’s good to be conscious of its worth. Check Kelley Blue Book or Auto Trader online for quotes and comparisons. Keep in mind, sending your car to a repair shop that uses aftermarket parts could ultimately result in your car being worth significantly less than its original Blue Book value. Being confident in the numbers will serve you well when dealing with insurance adjusters, especially if your vehicle is deemed a total loss. By researching replacement costs, you will have a quote to compare to an adjuster’s.
Should your car not be a total loss, but repairable, adjusters will attempt to provide you with a fast and easy way for the repairs to be done. Most likely, the body shop they refer you to is part of their contracted network. Doing your research on local body shops will help you make an informed decision rather than relying on the insurance company to make the decisions, which are usually in their favor, not yours. Remember, steering you away from a shop of your choice and toward a shop of their choice is illegal. Don’t be caught in unethical practices that could compromise your safety the next time you get into your vehicle.
During the repair process, adjusters will most likely offer you a rental car while your vehicle is being repaired. Although it’s fine to accept the offer, don’t forget to receive a copy of all documents for your records. At the time of return, make sure to ask for a rental car reimbursement. Chances are the insurance adjuster isn’t going to remind you to ask for this. The more money he can make for his company, the better he comes out of the deal. At the end of the day, they’re business people just like the rest of the world. It’s their job to make and save the most money.
As you can see, settling an accident doesn’t have to be complicated and unfair. If you do your research and know your rights, there will be no hidden traps for you to fall victim to. Insurance adjusters prey on the ill-informed. By knowing your car and its properties, you will be the one walking out on top.