After an accident, the settlement offer you receive from the insurance company may not be what you expect. While a low offer may just be a negotiating tactic, this is not always the case. The claims adjuster may have information that you don't have - or may be missing information - related to your injuries or to the damage of your vehicle. He may believe that negligence on your part may give the insurer a good court case should you pursue legal action to get a higher amount.
1. Review your policy
The details of your insurance policy specify what your policy covers and what the limits are. Specifically, you should examine the collision and comprehensive coverage and medical coverage provisions. For example, if your policy has a $50,000/$100,000 limit on bodily injury for one accident the settlement offer cannot exceed $50,000 per person, or $100,000 per accident for this portion of your claim.
2. Talk to the claims adjuster
The insurance company's claims adjuster is responsible for gathering all of the information related to the collision and preparing the settlement offer. You should keep in mind that he or she usually has a dollar range to work from, and will often select a value from the bottom of that range for the first offer. Ask the claims adjuster for the information used to prepare your claim, including the output from the software used to perform the settlement calculation. An insurance company should provide this report to you if asked.
You should also ask the adjuster how he calculated fault in the collision. If the adjuster believes you were partially or fully at fault, this can reduce the amount of the offer.
3. Do your own assessment
Once you have the information the claims adjuster used to calculate the settlement offer, you can now compare this to the information you have. For a collision claim, make a note of how much it will cost to restore your vehicle to its condition before the accident, and know that a repaired vehicle does not have the value of one that has never been damaged or repaired.
For a personal injury claim, add up your medical bills and related expenses, like prescriptions, medical equipment like crutches or braces, and the cost of traveling back and forth to the doctor's office. Secondly, calculate how much time you lost from work, and if you were unable to perform your usual activities at work or at home. Thirdly, estimate any future costs that will result from the accident, including medical treatment, loss of work and physical therapy.
Ask the police for a copy of the police report if you don't already have one. This is usually an important part of how an insurance company determines who was at fault. You can use this to make your own determination of what a fair assessment of fault should be.
Once you have this information, you can now compare it to what the claims adjuster has calculated and you have the facts you need to dispute the offer if needed.
- FindLaw: When the Car Insurance Settlement Offer is Too Low
- California Department of Insurance: Automobile Insurance Information Guide
- Free Advice Insurance: How To Know When Your Car Insurance Settlement Offer Is Too Low
- Consumer Federation of America: Checklist for Getting the Settlement You Deserve
- Esurance: The Blame Game: How Fault Is Determined After a Car Accident