Filing insurance claims after an automobile accident may be a daunting experience, no matter how minor the incident. Knowing what your insurance covers as well as what to do after an accident occurs can help ease the process.
To begin a car accident claim you will have to call your insurance company to let them know the accident has occurred; the insurance company will ask for some initial information about the details of the accident before they proceed with the claim. Additionally, be careful with your first phone call reporting the claim. You do not want to say anything that may jeopardize your claim later on down the road. Stick to the facts without adding any thoughts or opinions.
Even when there is no obvious injury, if there is even a remote possibility that there could be a medical bill later, let the insurance company know up front. This will allow the insurance company to make the necessary notation on your file to expect medical bills later; they will also send you the proper related forms. To make things easier down the road, start keeping track of all your expenses. This includes mileage to the doctor, prescriptions costs, time missed from work, etc.
What your Insurance will Cover:
- Comprehensive Car Insurance
Comprehensive insurance means coverage for almost everything except in cases of accident or collision. It is a blanket term to include natural occurrences such as “acts of God” including hailstorms, floods, falling trees, vandalism, and the like. In the event your car gets stolen you can also file a claim. Damages to your car due to collision with another vehicle as well as medical expenses incurred will not be covered by your comprehensive car insurance.
- Collision Insurance
As the name implies, collision insurance protects you financially in case of a collision; a collision is defined as begin hit, or hitting another vehicle or object. Your collision insurance will cover your expenses for any damage your car has suffered, however the coverage will only be up to a certain amount (usually limited to the cash value of your car)
- Auto Liability Insurance
Liability insurance helps pay for the costs associated with bodily injury and property damage to third-parties that you are found to be legally responsible for; it doesn’t cover the cost of your own injuries or the damages to your own property. Most states require liability insurance, and each state determines its own liability coverage minimums. Your liability insurance generally applies to vehicles you own, as well as vehicles you drive with the owner’s permission. If you’re liable for a serious accident you may face a lawsuit from the injured party; if the injured party wins, your life savings and property could be in jeopardy. Liability coverage can shield you from most, or all of this, especially when it is coupled with an umbrella policy. Furthermore, liability insurance pays your legal defense costs should an injured party sue you.
There are two types of liability insurance: Bodily injury and property damage liability. Each type of coverage comes with a limit on how much your insurance company will pay. You set this limit by deciding how much you are willing to pay for the coverage; the more you’re willing to pay, the bigger the risk your insurance company will assume.
Bodily Injury Liability
This covers costs associated with personal injuries (remember it only pertains to the injuries of other people, not your own). Bodily injury liability covers all sorts of matters including:
- Hospital bills
- Doctor visits
- Rehabilitation expenses
- Long-term nursing care bills
- Lost earnings due to accident
Property Damage Liability:
Property Damage insurance deals with damage to third-party properties such as:
- Street lights
- Street signs
- Utility poles
- Mail boxes
- Garage doors
- Personal Injury Protection (PIP)
PIP is a type of medical payments coverage added on to auto insurance policies; it provides the policy holder – as well as your passengers, relatives living in your home, and drivers authorized to drive your vehicle– with medical coverage for immediate and subsequent injuries sustained in an auto accident. PIP also covers you and your family if you are injured in a car accident while in someone else’s vehicle, and in some states, if you’re stuck by a vehicle as a pedestrian. PIP is a no-fault coverage that provides coverage regardless of who is at fault in the accident; it is required in the state of Florida (the minimum amount of PIP coverage allowed in Florida is $10,000).
- Uninsured Motorist Coverage
Uninsured motorist coverage is a type of insurance that protects you if you are involved in an accident with a driver lacking auto insurance. Although nearly every state requires a certain amount of liability coverage, or some other financial responsibility, not every driver follows the law. Therefore, some states require drivers to also have uninsured motorist insurance (Florida does not require it). Furthermore, it is recommended that drivers who live in states that don’t require this coverage purchase it anyway.
- Umbrella Insurance
As the name implies, umbrella insurance acts like an umbrella, providing broad protection against a host of potential financial dangers. It works in conjunction with a homeowners and/ or auto insurance policy and applies after you have exhausted your liability protection with those policies. Since it is a type of liability insurance it does not cover loses to your property or medical expenses. An umbrella policy not only adds an extra layer of liability protection, it may also pay for your attorney’s fees and other legal costs if you are sued. Furthermore, umbrella insurance is portable and able to follow you wherever you go, even overseas. Almost everyone can benefit from having an umbrella policy. For example, you cause a terrible accident that results in a devastating amount of bodily injury and property expenses; your car insurance policy will only pay so much, the rest is up to you. The umbrella policy can cover the amount that exceeds your policy.
Many people add towing and labor coverage to their auto insurance policy. Having towing coverage with your insurance provider frees you from the hassle of trying to track down a tow truck company and reduces their expensive costs; it’s a nice touch of convenience and security when you are stranded. Depending on the terms of the program, your insurer will either foot the entire towing bill or part of it; some insurance companies might pay only for a tow service shop within a certain radius (say 15 miles). Many car insurance companies offer towing as a standalone service, but many package it with other services like battery jump starts, flat-tire changes, emergency fuel delivery, or locksmith service.
- Rental Reimbursement Coverage
Rental reimbursement coverage is optional and provides coverage for the cost of a rental vehicle after your car has been damaged in an auto accident. This coverage is beneficial if you do not have a second vehicle and need to travel to work or school while your car is undergoing repairs. When using rental reimbursement coverage there are usually two different options:
- You can rent a car from an approved provider and have them bill your insurance company directly
- You can rent a car from a business of your choice and pay for the cost up front; you will then submit receipts and a claim form to be reimbursed for the cost of the rental.
There is often a per-day and per-accident limit for rental reimbursement coverage. For example, your rental reimbursement coverage may have a $25 per day or $750 per accident limit (your insurance coverage will only pay $25 per day and that coverage will stop once you hit the $750 limit). This coverage only covers rentals needed after an auto accident.
- Medical Payment Coverage
Medical payment coverage can help cover medical or funeral expenses of covered drivers and passengers after an accident, regardless of fault. Medical Pay covers you and your passengers, can kick in after health insurance limits are exceeded, and offers additional protection to insured drivers who like to walk or cycle. In addition to funeral expenses, medical payments coverage may kick in to help cover expenses for:
- Passengers hurt while you or a family member is driving
- You’re injured as a passenger in someone else’s car
- Your struck by a car while walking/ cycling
- You require dental care after an accident
- You require extended nursing services or hospitalization while rehabilitating
- You require prosthetic limbs
In states that require Personal Injury Protection (PIP) many of the same things are covered that medical care coverage will pay for. However, if your PIP limits are exceeded after an incident, medical payments coverage can act as a safeguard, filling the gap between your PIP limits and actual medical fees up to the limits of your medical payments coverage. This can save you from having to pay more out of pocket.
If you have a good reliable healthcare plan, you may not need all of the features that medical payment coverage offers. However, they can work together and medical pay coverage can cover expenses that aren’t included in health care plans. If you have Medicare or Medicaid for example, medical expenses related to a car accident might not be covered. If you have health insurance and chose to add medical payments coverage, it can kick in after your health insurance limits are exceeded.
Documents to Have When Filing an Auto Accident Claim:
Regardless of what type of insurance policy you hold, you should collect all of the documentation you need to prove your claim prior to attempting to settle the claim. Any and all expenses that you have tracked should be itemized, supported by receipts, and listed for the adjuster. The adjuster will likely ask for:
- Copies of all your medical bills
- A medical report from your physician (You may be asked to sign a medical authorization form at the beginning of the claim)
- Documentation from your employer if you missed time at work
- Proof of all other expenses
Tips to help you File a Car Accident Claim:
- Remember the insurance company saves money by paying less than the full amount of your claim, and the adjuster can use any mistake to deny part of your insurance; stick to the facts of the accident and avoid making any statements or comments that can jeopardize the value of your claim.
- Understand your rights before you sign anything; signing away your rights could change the outcome of your claim.
- Once you have collected all documentation and have provided the requested information to the insurance company, asses the value of your claim. Take your time in the assessment, but be aware of any deadlines the car insurance company may have.
- If you are confident that your claim is worth a certain amount, learn how to write an accident demand letter, or have your car accident attorney draft one for you. This letter to the insurance company will summarize all of your losses and ask for a lump sum amount to settle your accident claim.
- Do not accept a claim settlement agreement and release your right to pursue additional damages unless you are absolutely sure that your car insurance claim settlement is fair and that no other damages will arise.
It is important to remember that the entire auto accident claim process can be handled by an attorney. If you retain an attorney to handle the matter make sure to talk to him/her prior to filing your claim; let the initial claim be done by his/ her office. If anyone from the insurance company contacts you directly, let them know immediately you are represented by an attorney; at that point they should stop communication with you directly and contact your attorney for anything that may be needed. If you do decide to take on the claims process alone, be aware of your limitations; if you are unsure about any part of the process reach out to an experienced car accident attorney before you sign anything.
If you or a loved one has been injured in Florida as a result of an automobile accident, contact Dolman Law Group for a Clearwater car accident attorney and/or personal injury attorney available to speak with you today. We offer a free consultation and will gladly explain how Florida no-fault insurance works, the facts of your accident, and scope of our representation. For more information, please call Dolman Law Group at: (727) 451-6900.