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How To Handle A Disputed Car Insurance Claim
Battling an auto insurance company over the payment of a claim isn't something most people enjoy, and with good reason: Insurance carriers have much more experience dealing with claims than private individuals, and have deeper resources at their disposal.
In short, going up against a car insurance carrier can be an experience that drains your patience and your finances; however, there are times when it may be a worthwhile venture.
Below are a few things to keep in mind when disputing a car insurance claim.
If you're unhappy with the claim figure given to you by an insurer, tell the insurance rep (typically an adjuster) that you feel it's an inadequate amount. Explain your reasoning in a calm, rational, but firm manner.
Insurance adjusters usually have some wiggle room with the money they're willing to pay. And, naturally, they'll start at the low end of their range. If the adjuster or rep still won't satisfy your request, ask to speak to a supervisor or someone else higher up within the company. It can be beneficial to send that person written documentation that presents your case in a logical manner.
If these steps fail to bring a fair claims settlement, consider filing a complaint with your state's department of insurance. While this agency may be limited in how it can help you, the act of filing a complaint may nudge your insurance company in the right direction.
Hire an Independent Appraiser
If you can't reach a claims agreement after these initial steps, you'll need to escalate your efforts. Unfortunately, doing so will cost money.
Consider getting an impartial evaluation of your vehicle from an appraiser without any ties to the insurance company. Having an independent analysis of your situation that agrees with your assessment will strengthen your case. Send the report to your insurer and see what happens.
It's also smart to contact a lawyer, especially one with considerable experience with car insurance claims. Many attorneys offer a free consultation, and from this you can receive a better understanding of how strong a case you have and if it's worthwhile to continue your efforts.
Try Mediation or Arbitration
Mediation is a non-binding form of discussion between you and the insurance company, moderated by an unbiased third party. Legally, neither side has to abide by the recommendations given by the mediator; however, this process can promote a mutually agreeable settlement.
Meanwhile, with arbitration, both sides must follow the ruling of the arbitrator. You don't need to have an attorney present your case in mediation, but you should consider doing so in arbitration because of the finality of the results.
Again, though, the more you heighten your efforts, the higher the costs, as mediators, arbitrators, and attorneys all command expensive fees.
Go to Small Claims Court
Depending on the nature of your claim, you may want to seek justice by going through small claims court (instead of using arbitration). You can argue your case without an attorney, although you may receive better results if you have one.
Proceed Wisely When Disputing Car Insurance Claims
You may be frustrated with the insurance company about what you perceive as an unfair claims amount, but it's important to act in a restrained, unemotional manner throughout the appeals process.
Remember to start small, and gradually increase your aggressiveness. And, always be mindful of the possible costs involved - in terms of money, time, and aggravation - with continuing your fight.
If you have truly been frustrated with the whole claims experience, you might just be ready to get some quotes from some new insurance companies.
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