Filing a claim on your auto insurance policy does not end with filling in the details. You need to do some homework to make sure you are satisfied with the decisions and actions of your insurance company when your vehicle has been damaged or stolen. With knowledge of your rights in this type of situation you may be able to negotiate a higher settlement than your company offers. At the same time, you need to be able to estimate in advance the costs you will incur by appealing any decision by your company, in case these costs are going to be more than the value of the settlement you would otherwise receive. In that case you would need to reconsider your strategy. Otherwise, if you are not happy with the terms offered to you, there are steps you can take to help yourself.
When your car has been stolen, or declared a total loss after an accident, you need to be especially vigilant to make sure you receive full value from your insurance company. Remembering that the claims adjuster you deal with has a responsibility to help save the insurance company as much money as possible, and may have an income based on performance, you should be aware that you will need to look after your own interests to ensure that you receive a fair value for the car you have lost. This means you need to do some research, thereby arming yourself with knowledge about car prices and appeals processes, before talking to the claims adjuster and deciding whether or not to accept the amount recommended.
If you are happy with the outcome after the claims adjuster has decided the value of your car, you can consider the issue has concluded satisfactorily. If, however, the value offered for your car does not seem to equal its worth, you should not feel this is the end of the matter. The research you have done should enable you to argue the case with some authority. Take, for example, a scenario where the claims adjuster declares your car a total loss and tells you it will be replaced with a car of equal value, estimated at $7000. If you believe the value of your car was higher than this, you will feel more confident about asking for a better quality car if you have first done some homework.
One of the easiest ways to get up to date information about the value of your car is to check newspaper advertisements. Take a note of the prices being asked for vehicles whose model year is the same as yours. Once you have obtained several prices, total them up and divide the total by the number of vehicles whose prices you have researched, thus arriving at the current average price for that particular model year. This will provide you with evidence of the replacement vehicle you can expect to receive. You can use this evidence to bolster your argument if the insurance company offers you a vehicle lower in value than this average.
You can also visit or call car dealers to obtain information about the average costs of vehicles similar to yours. You can also ask the insurance company for a list of the cars it considers equal in value to yours and from which it is offering your replacement. Before accepting any of those cars you should have them checked to find out information that may not have been included on the database used by the insurance company to find another car for you. You will need, for example, to make enquiries about such matters as whether the vehicle selected for you has exceptionally high mileage, whether it has a salvage title and whether it has been involved in an accident. If you receive an affirmative answer to any of these questions you can ask to have a better vehicle selected for your consideration.
If you are still not satisfied with the insurance company’s offer, you have the option of hiring an independent adjuster, or even a third adjuster to help mediate. A compromise or agreement may result in you and the insurance company agreeing to split the difference between the company’s estimate of the value of your car and your own estimate but, even if this is done, you may still lose out financially. Attorney Stephen Ryan, who has worked on such disputes for claimants, warns that as well as not receiving the complete replacement cost, a claimant will have costs such as hiring adjusters. On the other hand, you may be successful in winning a settlement that has a higher value than originally offered by your insurance company. While the overall process of negotiating a claim on your auto insurance policy is not easy, you have more chance of getting the full amount owed to you if you learn what is involved in the process and use your knowledge to work towards the best possible settlement for yourself.