Successfully navigating the insurance claims process can be complex and difficult to do alone. Here are the common steps to navigating an insurance claim:
Notify the other party
Before you file any paperwork or pursue your claim, you must notify anyone who might be responsible for your accident. In the case of a car accident, you will need to notify the drivers of all vehicles involved, the owners of the involved vehicles, the employer of the driver (if it was a commercial vehicle on company business), and your own insurance company.
At this stage, you are not required to give anyone—including the potential defendant’s insurance company—any detailed information about your injuries. All you are required to include in the initial notice is:
- An accident occurred at a certain time and place
- You were injured
- You intend to file a claim
The sooner you notify involved parties, the better. This increases your chance of receiving a quick settlement and prevents potential defendants from arguing that your claim unfairly surprised them.
The next step is to return to the scene of the accident and thoroughly document evidence. A qualified New Jersey personal injury lawyer has years’ worth of experience documenting evidence for an insurance claim.
Gathering evidence often includes:
- Taking pictures
- Locating witnesses
- Documenting injuries (and keeping track of medical records)
Another important part of gathering evidence is determining what your claim might be worth. Many factors are involved in determining the monetary value of a claim, and they all depend on your unique circumstances.
Insurance companies must compensate:
- Medical care (and future expected medical care) and related expenses
- Lost income and decreased future earning potential
- Permanent physical disability
- Property damage
- Loss of family, social, and educational experiences
- Emotional damages
Insurance companies use a damages formula to determine the approximate value of the physical and emotional costs of the accident.
Write a formal demand letter
Once you have gathered all the evidence and determined how much your injuries have cost you, it’s time to write a formal demand letter. This demand letter should address:
- What your injuries are (and were)
- Why the potential defendant is legally responsible for your injuries
- A description of your medical treatment and how much it cost
- The amount of lost income
- Any other damages suffered
The conclusion of the letter should demand a lump sum from the insurance company to settle your claim.
It is key to stress certain points in your demand letter, such as liability. Make it very clear how the accident happened and why the potential defendant was at fault. Also emphasize your lack of fault in the accident; issues of comparative negligence may arise during settlement negotiations, but you should start off the process by denying any fault.
Once the insurance company has reviewed your demand letter, you will engage in informal negotiations with the insurer. Once the company offers a settlement you are comfortable with, you can agree to settle.
Be sure to contact an experienced New Jersey personal injury attorney if you have trouble during the insurance claims process. From gathering evidence to dealing with unreasonable claims adjusters, Maggiano, DiGirolamo & Lizzi can help make sure you receive a fair settlement.