The Law Offices of Chaikin and Sherman, P.C.
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Phone - 202.659.8600
Fax - 202.659.8680
Accident Lawyers - Insurance Dos and Don'ts
Washington, DC, Maryland, & Virginia
Insurance claims should be fairly simple and straightforward, but they're not. You live up to your end by paying your premiums and expect the insurance company to hold up its end of the bargain when the worst happens. That's why you have insurance. Unfortunately, insurance companies will try hard to hold on to your money. Here are some steps to take and some mistakes to avoid when dealing with your insurance company.
What you should do
- Immediately after the accident, get the names, addresses and phone numbers of everyone involved, and any witnesses.
- In an auto accident or an accident involving a large truck, get the insurance information for everyone involved.
- Take pictures of the scene of the accident, damage to your vehicle or property, and any injuries.
- Call your insurance agent right away. Make the call as soon as you get home. Don't wait until tomorrow.
- Read your insurance policy before discussing your claim with your agent. Read it thoroughly and understand it. Pay special attention to the "coverage" and "exclusions" sections.
- You may be covered by more than one policy. Think about it and review any policies which may cover your accident.
- When talking to your agent or anyone else with the insurance company, take detailed notes. Get the names and titles of everyone you speak with, and direct number for anyone you may want to speak to again. If they are going too fast for you to take notes, don't be afraid to say, "Would you please repeat that, I'm writing this down." Be sure to write down the date and time of each conversation.
- Be honest when talking to your agent. Failure to reveal all of the facts can give them a valid excuse to deny your claim.
- Keep all receipts related to your claim including medical bills, repair bills, gas, meals, lodging and any purchases made in the process of pursuing your claim, in your medical recovery, or while waiting for repairs to your property. If you're not sure if it applies, keep it anyway, you can always toss it later.
- When reading over your policy, check to see if it provides "replacement coverage" or "actual cash value." This is very important because the actual value of your property may not be enough to replace it.
Mistakes to avoid
- Don't be intimidated by insurance companies. Don't let them talk you into making a mistake and giving up your rights. Talk to an attorney about your claim.
- Don't give any written or recorded statements to your insurer until you are sure that you understand your policy. You do not have to allow the insurance company to record your phone conversations.
- Don't rely on your insurers estimates of your losses. They will always give you the lowest possible value. Get an independent estimate.
- Don't sign anything, including releases or waivers, without talking to an attorney first. You could be signing away your right to compensation.
- Don't put off filing your claim. Time limits apply in every situation. Know what they are and act well ahead of time.
- Don't take a check that says "final payment" unless you are sure that it should really be the last payment you receive.
Your insurance policy is a contract and your insurance company has a legal obligation to fulfill its part of that contract. Most insurance companies will not rush to honor their agreement or they try to settle it for as little as possible. You will have to work hard to hold them to it and get the full compensation you deserve. We can make that easier.
If you or a loved one has been injured in an accident in Maryland, Virginia or Washington DC, please e-mail or speak to one of our skilled personal injury attorneys before you settle with an insurance company. Our personal injury lawyers are committed to obtaining justice for you—the victim.