How to Dispute an Auto Insurance Settlement Amount

by Steve Lander
If your insurer's settlement isn't enough, you don't have to accept it.

Having something happen to your car is no fun. Whether you get in an accident, it gets stolen, or the weather damages it, you might have thought that you could trust your insurance company to do right by you. If they didn't, you don't have to just accept it and move on. You can dispute their offer and, hopefully, get more to help you fix your car or get another one.

Read your policy carefully. Before starting to dispute a claim, you should know how you can dispute it, and what process and time frame you must follow.

Talk to your insurance agent, if you have one. Your agent should be your helper in the claims process. He can talk with the insurance company on your behalf and may be able to get it to increase the amount that it is willing to settle. Give him what he needs to help you, though. The more information that you can give him about why you're right and your insurer is wrong, the more effectively he can fight for you. Keep copies of anything you give your agent -- if he can't help you, you'll need that information again.

Send a letter to your insurance company that tells them why the proposed claim settlement isn't enough. Include your evidence with the letter.

Call your state's insurance department, insurance commission or attorney general to see if they can be of help to you.

Request mediation. In mediation, you and the insurance company's representative sit down with a third party to discuss the claim and see if you can come to an agreement. If you go to mediation, bring as much evidence as you can and stay calm. The mediator is there to help both sides come to an agreement based on the facts of the case.

Request an appraisal if your policy gives you the right to. In an appraisal, you or a representative and the insurance company's appraiser try to come up with an acceptable solution. If you can't, a third party "umpire" comes in. The umpire, who is usually an independent person with insurance claims experience, will review the facts and come up with his opinion of the value of the case. If either side accepts his judgment, your claim will be closed at that amount.

Hire an attorney and sue your insurance company. This route is your last option. Bear in mind, though, that it can be expensive. Also, you probably won't end up in court -- most lawsuits settle long before you see a courtroom.

About the Author

Steve Lander has been a writer since 1996, with experience in the fields of financial services, real estate and technology. His work has appeared in trade publications such as the "Minnesota Real Estate Journal" and "Minnesota Multi-Housing Association Advocate." Lander holds a Bachelor of Arts in political science from Columbia University.

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