If your vehicle has ever been damaged in a traffic collision, you may already know that it can sometimes be quite difficult to get an auto insurance company to meet its obligation to you. This is something our San Antonio car accident lawyers know very well.
Texas makes at-fault drivers pay for the injuries and the damages that they cause. Because Texas is a no-fault auto insurance state, if your vehicle is damaged by a negligent driver in this state, you can submit a property damage claim to that negligent driver’s auto insurance company.
WILL YOU NEED A LAWYER TO HANDLE A PROPERTY DAMAGE CLAIM?
But if no injuries were sustained in a traffic accident, for most people it is usually easier and much more expedient to handle a property damage claim on your own.
Property damage in a traffic crash is often more than merely auto damage. Other vehicles, buildings, mailboxes, and fences are frequently damaged in traffic collisions. Items that you may carry in a vehicle – from golf clubs to computers – are also frequently damaged in traffic wrecks.
WHAT ARE SOME TIPS FOR NEGOTIATING WITH AN INSURANCE COMPANY?
Here are some recommendations for the best ways to negotiate a property damage claim with an auto insurance company:
1. At the scene of the accident, call the police. Find out how to get a printout of the written police accident report and when it will become available. A police accident report is key to documenting the facts and details in a traffic accident.
2. Exchange complete personal contact and insurance company information with the other driver or drivers. Take abundant photographs of the accident scene and the property damage. If there were eyewitnesses, get their contact information.
3. Your own auto insurance company may require you to inform them within 24 hours of a collision. When making that call, do not provide any formal statement to the company. You are simply telling them that an accident has happened, where it happened, and when.
4. You must have a medical exam – even if you feel great – within 24 hours of a traffic accident to make sure that you have not suffered a latent or difficult-to-detect personal injury.
5. When you speak to any insurance company representative, take thorough notes. Write down the name of the person you are speaking with and that person’s job title, phone number, and extension. Also note the time and date and what was talked about.
6. Keep strictly to the facts as you negotiate a property damage claim. If you do not stick exclusively to the facts – and if you exaggerate or misrepresent what happened – you will receive no compensation, and you conceivably could even be accused of fraud.
7. An auto insurance company’s first reimbursement offer will almost surely be too low. Determine the amount you need, and gather evidence to support your claim. Independent repair estimates, along with before-and-after photos, can be quite helpful.
8. Be friendly and polite when you speak with an insurance company representative, but be firm. Most of the agents, claims adjusters, and managers who work for insurance companies in Texas are hard-working professionals doing their best to serve the public.
SHOULD YOU CONSIDER UNINSURED MOTORIST COVERAGE?
The state of Texas makes drivers pay for the injuries and the accidents that they cause. However, the Texas drivers who do not have auto insurance don’t have it for one predictable reason – because they’re broke – so suing a driver who doesn’t have auto insurance is a futile gesture.
That is why the smart motorists in this state carry uninsured motorist (UM) coverage. UM insurance coverage protects you in traffic accidents with hit-and-run drivers, drivers who carry no auto insurance, and drivers who carry only minimal coverage.
WHAT ELSE SHOULD YOU KNOW ABOUT NEGOTIATING A SETTLEMENT?
When you negotiate a property damage claim, be aware of any deadlines, and do not miss them. Do not cash a settlement check unless it is for the full compensation figure that you are seeking. And do not settle for brush-offs, delays, excuses, or discourteous, unprofessional treatment.
If an auto insurance company can’t persuade you to accept a “lowball” settlement offer, the company may use other strategies – excuses and delays, for instance – hoping that you will go away.
However, that’s actually quite rare in Texas. Unless an insurance company is operating in “bad faith,” you will almost certainly settle a property damage claim in less than six weeks.
WHAT IS INSURANCE BAD FAITH?
However, if you are injured by a negligent driver in a Texas traffic crash, or if an auto insurance company makes excuses and refuses to pay your property damage claim after weeks of negotiating, discuss your case with an experienced San Antonio car accident lawyer.
“Bad faith” is what the law calls it when an insurance company negligently or unfairly handles a claim. Sometimes, just hiring a good attorney will compel an auto insurance company to meet its responsibility to you. In other cases, a letter from your lawyer may be all that is needed.
IF YOU’RE INJURED IN AN ACCIDENT, WHO SHOULD HANDLE YOUR CLAIM?
If you are injured in a traffic accident, your health may genuinely be at risk. Personal injury law in Texas is complex, so a personal injury claim should not be handled by anyone other than a reliable personal injury attorney. Don’t even think about handling an injury claim on your own.
After most accidents that result in a personal injury or injuries, an experienced car crash attorney can negotiate an acceptable out-of-court settlement on your behalf. Personal injury trials are not rare, but the overwhelming majority of these cases are settled in out-of-court negotiations.
If you need legal help after a traffic accident, obtain that help at once. While you should be able to negotiate a property damage claim on your own, it is imperative for you to remember that after any accident in Texas, a good attorney’s help is your legal right.