Frequently Asked Questions

How Do Car Accident Claims Work?

Hey there, everyone! My name is Peter Jaraysi, the Slam Dunk Attorney, and my goal is to make sure that everyone with a car accident case makes their case a slam dunk. Today, we’re discussing how car accident claims work. Now, full disclaimer: this is going to be a very broad overview of the claims process. There’s no way we can get into the nooks and crannies of every single portion of the claims process because you can really end up going down some rabbit holes. This video is simply meant to kind of give you a broad understanding of how the claims process works.

So, step one is reporting the claim itself. Nothing happens in the case; nothing happens in the cloud until someone reports the claim, and that claim is usually reported by someone’s representative, themselves, or their attorneys. Usually, the claims are reported over the phone or online through some sort of form or a bunch of questions. You call on the phone and usually end up with a claims representative. They’ll ask an onslaught of questions related to the accident: how it happened, whether there’s any evidence, photos, videos, things of that nature. That call can usually go about 30 minutes to an hour, depending on the person on the other side and how long it takes them to get the information they need.

Once the claims reporting process is complete, you’ll move on to the next part, which is the investigation stage. This is where the insurance company is going to investigate and try to determine fault. This portion of the claim involves the collection of documents, various evidence, photos, videos, statements from witnesses, statements from the parties involved, and pretty much any other information they can get their hands on. Here’s a tip: if you’re involved in a wreck where the other person’s at fault and you know for sure they’re at fault and they’re saying they’re at fault, make sure you get that person on camera, pull out your phone, record them, and have them repeat that they’re saying they’re at fault for the wreck. They’ll help you out a lot. Oh, and another thing, make sure you never admit fault at the scene.

Once the fault has been determined, you move on to the next stage, which is property damage assessment. So, your property damage can actually be handled by either insurance company that’s involved in the case, depending on the available coverage. If you’re found at fault and you have Collision coverage on your policy, then you’ll be able to have your property damage claim taken care of through your own insurance company. Collision coverage protects your vehicle if it’s involved in a collision, irrespective of whether you’re at fault or not. The only caveat is you’ll have to pay the deductible. If you’re not found at fault, you’ll have the option of handling your claim directly with the other person’s insurance company or with your own insurance company if you have Collision coverage. And I’ll say this: the only reason you’d want to use your own insurance company in that situation is if the other insurance company’s taking way too long to determine fault, and you need to get your car looked at. Typically, most insurance companies will not proceed with a third-party property damage claim until the fault is determined. If you opt to use your own insurance company, you’ll get your deductible back once your insurance company is able to obtain their money back from the other insurance company.

Now, there are two ways that a typical property damage claim can go: either the insurance company will determine that your vehicle is a total loss, or they’ll determine that it’s repairable. If they deem it a total loss, you’ll have the option of either accepting that total loss payment or taking a percentage of the total loss payment and retaining possession of your vehicle, but with a branded title. Most people typically choose not to accept the vehicle with the Branded title because it really, really reduces the value of your vehicle. Before anything, I would suggest you obtain an independent appraisal of your vehicle after it’s deemed as a total loss, just to make sure you’re getting paid exactly what you’re meant to be getting paid. And once it’s deemed a total loss, you’ve decided to accept payment. What you’ll do is send your title to the insurance company. If you’ve got it, if you’re still making payments on the vehicle, you’ll just provide your lien holders’ information, and then they’ll send a payoff letter to the insurance company, and then they’ll pay off your lien. Now, if they deem your vehicle repairable, here’s what will happen: you’ll have to find a body shop to get the repairs done on your vehicle that would be necessary after the collision. Most insurance companies will try and direct you to particular shops and say that they’re better, but it’s usually best for you to do your research and pick a shop that you feel comfortable with. Once you’ve found a shop, you’d want to notify them and let them know that you’re planning on taking your vehicle there to get assessed for bodywork. Now, if you’re handling the repairs through the other person’s insurance company or if you’ve got rental coverage on your own policy, you’ll be able to get a rental for the duration of the repairs on your vehicle at the shop. Also, if for any reason your vehicle is not usable or not drivable at any point before that, you could also obtain a rental during that period as well. Once your vehicle’s repairs are complete, you’re going to want to get an appraisal for diminishment in value. What that means is that, essentially, when a vehicle is involved in a wreck, it suffers a loss in its value, and you know what they say: a vehicle never drives the same after it’s been involved in a wreck. You want to make sure that you’re getting that assessed by somebody who is a good expert in that field. Once you’ve obtained that diminished value appraisal from your expert, you’re going to want to send it off to the insurance company and demand payment from them.

Now, while the property damage portion of your claim is going on, you’re probably going to be treated for your injuries. Now, I’m not going to get into the weeds of all this, but you’ll likely see various doctors throughout your treatment: chiropractors, orthopedic surgeons, neurosurgeons, physical therapists, therapists—I mean, anything you really see some doctors just depending on the extent of your injuries. Now, here’s another tip: I would suggest you obtain an MRI on every single body part that you’ve injured in the wreck. You never know what’s going on under there, and it’s always great to have objective proof that an insurance company cannot argue with to show in their face and say, “Hey, I was injured as a result of this accident, and you need to pay me for this.” Once you’ve completed your treatment, you move on to the next phase, which is preparing the demand to send to the insurance company for payment. Now, there are two ways this can typically go: if you were determined to be at fault for the accident, your only recourse would be through PIP, which is Personal Injury Protection, through medical payment benefits, which is exactly the same thing, pretty much as Personal Injury Protection, or no-fault benefits, which again, essentially function the same way. These are coverages that’ll pay for your medical expenses in the event that you’re involved in a wreck, irrespective of fault. The biggest thing with this is being mindful of the amount of coverage that you’ve got on your policy. Medical bills can rack up really quickly, and they can be very expensive, so just be careful and make sure that you’re not going over your coverage limits. Now, if you’re not determined to be at fault, then you have a lot more options. Typically, the first demand goes out to the liability insurance company because, in terms of priority, they come first. If they have sufficient coverage to cover all your claims, medical bills, injuries, and everything else, then the claim will stop there. Now, if the coverage is insufficient, then you’re going to want to turn to your policy if you have the appropriate coverage. Now, this is where we go back to PIP, med pay, and no-fault benefits, and also, you’re going to get into uninsured motorists and underinsured motorist benefits. Now, those last two are new, so we’re going to talk about those. Uninsured motorist benefits come into play when the other person who hits you or is at fault doesn’t have insurance at all that covers their vehicle, and so, at that point, you’d send your demand to your insurance company; they’d cover you, and then they’d go after the person personally to obtain their money back, so you don’t have to do it yourself. Underinsured motorists are kind of the same thing, the same line of thought: if the other person is underinsured or doesn’t have enough coverage to cover all your injuries, medical bills, pain, and suffering, so forth, your insurance company will step in, pay you, and then they’ll go after the other person for the excess amount. And I’ll say this: most people don’t have good coverage on their vehicles; they’re going around here with the minimum coverage on their vehicles, and just driving around just because they think that’s all they need to get around, so because of this, you want to make sure you have uninsured motorists, underinsured motorist on your policy, and make sure they’re high amounts just to make sure you’re protecting yourself in the event that you’re involved. And depending on how the insurance companies respond to the demand, you’ll either settle the matter through negotiations or you’ll end up deciding, “You’re not paying enough for my injuries; this is unacceptable; I’m taking you to court.” And so then, you’ll file your case in court, and you’ll go from there. Either way, this case is going to resolve somehow, and once it does, you’ll sign a release, you’ll obtain a check, you’ll pay your medical bills, get rid of any liens or anything outstanding, and then you’ll be on your way.

And that’s it, guys! That’s really it, in a nutshell. I know I blew through that, and it was really fast, and there was a lot of information, but these claims processes can be pretty overwhelming. I tried my best to simplify it and give you guys a broad overview. Please let me know what else you guys would like to see. Leave a comment down below, like the video, subscribe, and let me know! I’m here for you guys, here to provide you with as many resources as possible.

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