Tips to Settle Your Car Insurance Claim Favorably

Don’t Add Insult to Injury

Tips to Settle Your Car Insurance Claim Favorably
September 25, 2015

Nobody likes filing a car insurance claim — partly because it is never fun to have to deal with insurance companies, and partly because that means you have been involved in an auto accident.

You usually want to avoid going to court to sue for a more favorable settlement or a jury award, because juries are unpredictable. Even so, there is no reason simply to accept whatever settlement the insurance company offers you without question. Consider the following steps to get the insurance payment that you deserve.

  • Initiate Claims Quickly – Contact your insurance company as soon as possible after the accident. The longer it takes to file the claim, the more details get fuzzy. Witnesses are less reliable, and important evidence may be lost. Injuries that prevent you from filing will be taken into account, but you still need to get the claim in as soon as possible.
  • Gather All Necessary Records – Compile and organize all the records you need to justify your claim, including accident reports, photos, affidavits of any witness accounts, damage estimates, and any applicable medical bills and records from accident-related injuries. If you lost time at work, have records to verify that as well.

  • Know the Proper Value – Calculate a total value for the claim you expect to receive based on the value of your car, all medical bills, lost wages from missed work time, and any enduring issues (pain and suffering or some degree of disability).

Start with the value of the car (if totaled) or the damage estimate. The value of the car can be found through Edmunds.com, Kelley Blue Book (kbb.com) or similar online sites. Consult with the medical care facility to make sure that you include the upfront medical bills but also any scheduled future medical procedures or likely bills.

The point is to enter negotiations with a settlement amount in mind. Consult an attorney if you need assistance correctly valuing your settlement.

  • Send a Demand Letter – Once you know the proper value, send a demand letter to the insurance company detailing the accident and all of the losses you suffered. Do not forget to include ongoing health concerns. Ask for anywhere between 25-100% over the value you calculated. You will need some room to negotiate.
  • Don't Accept the First Offer – Insurance adjusters start with the lowest offer in the range they can pay (why would they do otherwise?), and perhaps even less. It is understood that neither side will accept the initial offer, but those unfamiliar with the process may accept just out of convenience. Rest assured that any insurance company can pay more than their first offer indicates.
  • Prepare for a Prolonged Process – It may not turn out that way, but it is likely to do so. Insurance companies can drag out the process hoping that you will either tire of the process or need to settle because you are getting short of cash. We cannot tell you that you should always hold on to the bitter end, but if you possibly can avoid it, do not let time be one of the settlement factors.
  • Get it In Writing – The terms of the settlement must be properly documented and signed by all parties to avoid future concerns on either side.

Should all efforts fail, you may have no choice but to go to court. Retain an attorney and ask them to review the situation and determine whether a personal injury lawsuit is warranted. We hope that will not be necessary with the precautions you have taken — but oddly enough, you can never be sure about anything regarding insurance.


Photo ©iStock.com/rocketegg

  Conversation   |   33 Comments

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Erin | 09.25.15 @ 18:01
Settling claims is such a headache. Thanks for the great tips to make sure you're covering all the bases.
Sarah | 09.25.15 @ 18:02
Good information for when you need it.
Christina | 09.25.15 @ 18:04
Good info.. I wish we didn't need..
Nancy | 09.25.15 @ 18:07
I've been lucky that the only accidents I've been in only involved fixing my cars. There was nothing to negotiate. But, I'm glad that I've read this so that I am prepared in the event of a future collision.
Angie | 09.25.15 @ 18:07
It is such a shame that all of this is required in order to recoup losses from an accident. Why, oh, why can't insurance companies just pay a fair amount to get the person compensated? Wish there was some kind of 3rd party consultant in these cases that could balance the process between the claimant and the insurance companies (and no, not a lawyer who is trying to get the most possible just because he wants to be paid well).
Elaine | 09.25.15 @ 18:13
Some vital information in this article. Having to deal with the accident is hard enough, insurance claims can make it worse.
Britt | 09.25.15 @ 18:14
I thankfully have never been in this particular situation (yet) but lots of great tips
George Middleton | 09.25.15 @ 18:14
Thanks for the good tips. Will keep in mind if every needed..
Coryn | 09.25.15 @ 18:15
Having to deal with insurance people is one of the BIGGEST headaches.
Daniel Dohlstrom | 09.25.15 @ 18:25
Any tips and advice people can get in these situations is and should be well accepted and read. It can be a major hassel.
Bobbie | 09.25.15 @ 18:31
I had minimal issues with my insurance company after my car was totaled (not my fault) only hitch was the Dr. office did not send over some records that I felt should be included in the claim, but once they were sent over the insurance decided it was part of the claim. I did all of the steps above for full documentation, except Demand Letter since that was not necessary on my part.
Christina | 09.25.15 @ 18:31
A good insurance company is so important. When I was hit, my insurance handled everything quickly and was so helpful!
Tina | 09.25.15 @ 18:43
These tips are great.
trish | 09.25.15 @ 18:45
Was on the receiving end of a rear ended this summer. Insurance was easy to work with then. Know that it tends to be a pain when you are at fault. Thanks for the tips
Irene | 09.25.15 @ 18:47
Excellent information, thanks!
Crystal | 09.25.15 @ 18:52
I've heard all of these horror stories and have NEVER had an issue with an insurance claim. Maybe I've been lucky.
gracie | 09.25.15 @ 18:56
Great tips that hopefully we don't have to use too often!
Steffanie | 09.25.15 @ 18:59
Settling claims is never fun. This is a great checklist to help out.
Kelley | 09.25.15 @ 18:59
This is handy. I wish I'd had this when our car got totaled a few years back.
Rowan | 09.25.15 @ 19:00
I wish I'd had this article back with my claim a few years ago.
Kamie | 09.25.15 @ 19:00
Seriously makes me glad I am not a car owner or a licensed driver.
Ron | 09.25.15 @ 19:09
If necessary, get a lawyer and play hardball.
Alec | 09.25.15 @ 19:10
Thank you for the tips. I've only ever filed one claim and I had to take what they offered. It wasn't enough to fix my car, sadly.
Meredith L | 09.25.15 @ 19:20
Thankfully I have never had to put in a claim for my car. These are great tips and I will be bookmarking them.
Crystal | 09.25.15 @ 19:59
Great tips
Zanna | 09.25.15 @ 20:12
I could have used this resource a few years ago! I hope I don't ever need it again, but am going to bookmark, just in case.
Wanda Langley | 09.25.15 @ 20:16
I just went through this back in March when someone rear ended me. I thought it was going to take forever to get my vvan fixed. It will give you a headache dealing with the insurance companies.
Jonathan | 09.25.15 @ 20:21
What I've ran into is you have to realize that the insurance company is not on your side, they're looking to get out the cheapest way possible.
Rychana Vingia | 09.25.15 @ 20:32
I've been lucky that my insurance agent is my cousin and has always made sure everything was handled properly.
Sara | 09.25.15 @ 20:37
Most of the times settling claims can be a huge headache (no matter if you are at fault or not). These are great tips
Carla Truett | 09.25.15 @ 20:38
Great advice! I wish I had known years ago that I didn't have to accept the first offer. The agent made me feel as if I had no choice.
Clarissa | 09.25.15 @ 20:49
Fortunately I have yet to need to do this. But this is helpful to know in case I ever do encounter a situation like this. Suggestions for good insurance companies would be helpful as well!
Jackie | 09.25.15 @ 21:46
Great information about how to deal with insurance adjusters when settling a claim.
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