A Forbes Advisor survey revealed most drivers have a very poor understanding of their car insurance coverage. This includes both believing they have a type of coverage that doesn’t really exist and a lack of understanding of the different types of coverage available. For example, nearly half of surveyed drivers said they had extended crash protection, which isn’t a standard policy type. While Iowa law requires drivers to carry liability insurance, only 31% of those surveyed understood this insurance covers property damage if they cause an accident. These misunderstandings indicate most drivers aren’t prepared to successfully negotiate with insurers after an accident, especially when they weren’t the ones at fault. These tips can help drivers deal with insurance companies and avoid some common mistakes.
Tip 1: Keep Detailed Records
A car accident claim will need to establish who was at fault and what damages were incurred. Proving both of these will depend heavily on thorough documentation. After an accident, a driver should start by taking detailed photos of the scene from as many angles as possible if it’s safe to do so. They’ll also need to keep track of the police report, their medical records, repair receipts for their vehicle and any employment or income records that show missed work time.
Police reports generally include witness statements and other important details like the other driver’s contact information. This can help establish what happened and who was responsible. Vehicle repair expenses are likely to be relatively straightforward, but drivers should make sure to hold onto these receipts and those for related expenses like a rental car they need during repairs. Medical billing is usually complex, so it’s important to keep all of the bills and receipts related to the accident. Employment records are helpful in any claim involving lost income, but especially when the claim includes future earnings. All of these documents can demonstrate property damage, medical expenses, lost income, and pain and suffering, which will go into the calculations that determine the driver’s financial award.
Tip 2: Prepare Yourself and Know Your Policy
Iowa drivers are required to carry basic liability insurance, but this coverage can vary substantially, so drivers in the process of filing an insurance claim should take the time to understand their policies. Minimum liability policies in Iowa cover damages to another driver up to $20,000. Drivers might have additional liability coverage and will pay for a higher amount of damages. Some policies also include collision coverage, which takes care of damage to the policyholder’s vehicle. Some drivers have uninsured or underinsured driver coverage, which will pay out if the other driver doesn’t have proper insurance coverage.
A driver who understands exactly what their policy covers is in a stronger position going into negotiations with the insurance company. If they were at fault, they’ll have a good idea of what their insurer should offer. Otherwise, they’ll have a sense of what might be available through their own insurer if the other driver’s insurance company won’t cover all of their expenses.
Tip 3: Understand the Total Cost of Repairs and Other Damages
By filing an insurance claim, a driver is asking for compensation for specific damages. While a claim may also include medical expenses and emotional distress, just about every claim involves the expenses associated with repairing or replacing a vehicle. It’s important to know this number as a starting point for what the insurance company should offer.
If the driver was injured, they’ll need to determine the costs associated with the injury as well. This includes both direct costs like medical bills and indirect costs like lost future earning potential. Medical bills and lost wages are straightforward enough to calculate directly, but earning potential or future medical expenses are more complex. Insurance companies often use a multiplier of the financial damages to award compensation for pain and suffering.
Tip 4: Negotiate a Settlement, If Necessary
When it’s time to negotiate, remember it’s in the insurance company’s best interest to pay out the smallest reasonable amount possible. Drivers should decide on a minimum acceptable number ahead of time. Reviewing their records and calculating their total accident-related expenses is a good starting point for this number.
In Iowa, drivers have two years from the date of the accident to file a claim. Otherwise, they shouldn’t feel rushed to accept an offer. If there is ongoing pain or medical complications, the person might not have enough information to determine how much compensation is reasonable. This means it’s usually a good idea to wait until injuries have healed and doctors have a clear prognosis before settling.
Tip 5: Utilize Resources for Guidance
The most helpful resource in dealing with an insurance company is an attorney. Whether a driver chooses to hire an attorney or not, these additional resources will help with filing a successful claim. First, drivers should always call the police to report an accident. It may seem easier to make a handshake deal with the other driver to handle the costs without involving the insurance companies or the police. However, this can ultimately be risky if there are injuries that weren’t obvious right away or vehicle damage that wasn’t clearly visible. The police report is an important piece of documentation for an insurance claim.
Drivers should also seek medical attention right away, even if they don’t think they were seriously injured. Seeing a doctor the day of the accident makes it easier to establish the accident caused the injuries. When people wait a few days to seek care, they make it easier for the insurance company to argue someone else caused their injuries. Drivers also need to be careful what they say to insurance companies in general. They should avoid any comments that could be taken as an admission of fault or minimizing their pain.
Dealing with an insurance claim after a car accident can be overwhelming and full of opportunities for missteps. Working with an attorney can increase the chances of a good result. Contact or call us at 515-444-4000 as soon as possible for a free consultation.