The two major concerns for everyone after an accident is the property damage to the car and the injury claim. Under Florida law you will have two claims that will need to be pursued one for property damage and one for personal injuries if you are hurt. If you have vehicle damage or were injured, you need to contact an attorney experienced in car accident claims.

First: Know the Real Enemy in Accident Cases – Insurance Company Attorneys

All insurance companies are not built the same so to determine how to file a claim is a complicated and multi-step process that a personal injury lawyer can help you with. However, the first step is knowing the enemy and realize that all insurance companies are trying to save money, including yours.

Insurance companies are all different and have different procedures and time lines of how they want things done to properly and fairly process a claim. Being unfamiliar with the process gives clients a big disadvantage, so be wary of giving any recorded statements to any insurance company before you meet with a lawyer because any statements that you provide can come back to be used against you later. You need to determine the specific procedure that your insurance company demands in order for your claim to be processed. Understanding the size and capacity of your specific insurance company can help you be determine how to proceed.

Larger insurance companies hire local adjusters and have lawyers who work only for them. These “in house” lawyers job along with the adjuster is to minimize all claims. Be that for repair of your vehicle or for your injuries such as neck and back pain.

Mid-sized and smaller insurance companies do not have the financial support to hire advisors and lawyers in every city or town, so they deal with claims differently through sub-contractors.  Be wary of an insurance company that wants to settle right away usually this is a sure sign that something is wrong!

Hiring a lawyer with knowledge about the insurance companies gives clients a distinct advantage on how to handle the claim to maximize recovery.

Second: Determine Insurance Coverage and Fault

After you realize that all insurance companies are the enemy you then will need to look to your policy to determine the types and coverages that you have available to cover the accident and determine who is at fault. In most cases, the police officer issues someone a ticket and usually he/she cites the person who is at fault. So, determining fault is usually the easy part.

Determine the Type of Coverage, Deductible, & Claim Limits

Next you need to determine coverages available. You will need to pull up your declarations page of your car insurance policy. On that page you will see all of the available coverages and the amounts policy limits of each coverage. Understanding these coverages helps you decide whether you are covered for the accident and what your insurance company’s responsibilities are. Our auto insurance claim attorneys not only look at your policy declarations page but we also force the other drives insurance company to provide us with a declarations page, so we can decide how best to pursue your claim for personal injury and/or property damage.

The property damage claim is for the repair of your vehicle, a rental car during repairs or replacement of the vehicle should it be totaled and loss of use of the vehicle.  Depending on fault and available coverage will dictate whose insurance company you will demand to repair your vehicle and provide a rental car.

If the accident was your fault you will probably want to go through your own insurance company to fix the vehicle. If the accident was not your fault and the other driver has property damage insurance, then you may want to pursue a claim for property damage against the other driver’s insurance company. An attorney can help you determine the fastest and most favorable route to pursue to get your vehicle fixed in a timely manner and get you a rental car to use.

Third:  The Value of the Claim

The value of the property damage claim is the cost of repair plus a rental car during the time it takes to repair or replace the vehicle. The difficulties occur when the car is totaled. The insurance company will try to pay you close to black book value (wholesale value) and you will try to negotiate it to retail value *(value if you were to buy it from a dealership). Use websites like Kelly Blue Book or Edmunds to help convince the property damage adjuster that your car is worth more. Also if you can produce maintenance records to show how mechanically superior the vehicle was before the accident it can increase the value to receive for your car. Finally if you can provide specific examples of similar vehicle (make, model, milage and options) for sale it will help the adjuster give you more for the vehicle that was totaled.

Injury claims from accident are hard to judge the value of. Only through experience can you get an idea of the value of a case. However, the bodily injury adjuster will consider your past medical expense, future medical care, lost wages and pain and suffering in computing a value. A lot of bigger insurance companies use software to determine the value of the case depending of various factors. This is why an experienced insurance claim lawyer is an invaluable resource and tool because we can force the insurance company to pay a fair settlement based on experience and the threat of litigation.