A car wreck can happen in the blink of an eye, but the aftermath can drag on for months. Chances are your car will be in repair for some time while you're hoofing it. Also, you might suffer personal injury that causes you pain and suffering and time lost at work. You can almost guarantee you'll need to pay for some costs out of pocket before an insurance company -- yours or another party's -- issues you a check. This is true when you are at fault or when another person is responsible. Getting reimbursed for your losses is critical.
Call the police immediately. Even if there does not appear to be damage to your vehicle or injury to yourself, it is paramount that you file a police report. Do not move your car unless its present location endangers yourself or other motorists. The police will create documentation that is necessary for the insurance companies. Provide the police and other driver, if there is one, with your insurance information.
Make a report with your insurance company and that of the other party. You'll need to describe how the accident occurred, including where it happened, at what date and time, what parties were involved, who witnessed the accident and what damage or injuries occurred. The insurance agent will likely inform you that your statement is being recorded.
See a physician as soon as possible. You could be hurt even if you don't feel the effects of the crash immediately. Ask for an ambulance if you're in any immediate pain. Do not attempt to walk or move around, but remain still until a medical professional arrives to check you out. The impact of the wreck could have damaged your head, neck or spine or caused internal injuries that might not be readily apparent to you or others. Follow up with your personal physician who has your personal records and can best assess whether the accident aggravated any preexisting conditions.
Document how you feel everyday following the accident. Take notes on your suffering using a numeric scale to identify the level, with 1 being painless to 10 being the worst pain imaginable. List any medications you take for relief, including those prescribed and over-the-counter remedies. Record in detail any sharp or dull aches, numbness and other discomfort. Keep track of how well you function throughout the day and the quality of sleep you get at night.
Make copies of each bill you incur as a result of the accident. This includes not only your hospital, doctor or dentist bills, but other costs such as rental car usage. Keep receipts of anything you purchase that is related to the accident, such as medications, bandages and ice packs. Track the work you miss due to the wreck. This includes any days you miss plus additional hours you take off for doctor, physical therapy or chiropractor appointments.
Schedule a date and time for the insurance company's claim adjuster to inspect your vehicle. This individual will look over the damages and send a report to the company but you generally won't be privy to that information. The insurance agent will then likely call you with an offer. Obtain at least two estimates for the damages to your vehicle on your own so you'll be better prepared to accept the amount or fight for more.
Consider suing the insurance company in court if you believe you aren't being given a fair offer for damages and injury. Make a claim for diminished value in addition to repair costs. This amount covers the money you would lose in a sale or trade of the car due to its having been in an accident. Consider hiring an attorney in complicated and high-cost situations.
- Check the statue of limitations for filing an injury claim in your state. If you wait too late you will not be eligible for medical bills reimbursement.
- Many insurance companies pay "market rate" for medical services so be advised that your choice of medical professional might charge more than you will be reimbursed for.
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