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What do I need to do if I was injured due to a car-accident?

Below are helpful tips on how to answer the above stated question:

Call 911 –  If there is significant property damage and/or injury. A police officer should arrive at the scene of the accident, be sure that a police report is written stating which party is at fault. If an injured party needs assistants, do not move that individual as it may do more harm (especially if there is an unstable fracture of the spine). In Washington if the damage to the property is 700 dollars or more, a traffic collision report must be filed. A Traffic collision report can be found here, or by contacting your local police department, sheriff’s department, or the Washington State Patrol. A report must be done within 180 days and mailed to this address: Accidents, Department of Licensing, P.O. Box 9030, Olympia, WA 98507-9030. (Please note that this information is for car accidents that occur in Washington state only and may vary depending on state).

Get a statement from the other driver that is at fault. If a police officer was not able to arrive at the scene of the accident, then try to obtain a written note of fault from the other driver. Begin by asking him/her to write the date, time and location of the incident, then add all the parties that were involved and have them sign that statement. Also make sure you have all the involved parties contact information as well as any witnesses that were at the scene. You should have their full name, telephone number, address, date of birth and signature.

Open up a claim. Call your insurance company and aware them of the car accident within 24 hours. Make sure to give them accurate information and answer all their questions. They will give you a claim number that you will need to use for treatment, lawyers office, collision centers and other expenses.

Get medical treatment. If you got injured then get medical treatment as soon as possible. Do not wait for these symptoms to go away on their own. Some people wait too long. The longer you wait the harder it will be associating your injuries with the auto collision.

How do I get my vehicle repaired?

Make a claim with the other driver’s insurance company (a.k.a. 3rd party claim). To set up a 3rd party claim, you must call the drivers’ insurance company that is at fault. An adjuster will be assigned to the claim that has been opened up and he/she will do investigation of this car collision before coming to conclusion if they will or will not pay. This process may take a little be of time depending on how cooperative the driver at fault and if both descriptions of the car collision match (this is where its nice to have police traffic collision report).

-OR- Make a claim with your own insurance company (a.k.a. 1st party claim). If you don’t wan’t to wait or simply can not wait for this process and you need your car repaired as soon as possible then you can let your car insurance know about this. They will ask you to pay your deductible which can still be recovered from the car insurance company of the other driver that is at fault.

Do I have to use one of the insurance company’s “approved” auto repair shops?

No, you can use any repair shop. In fact, sometimes its best to have a second opinion on the repairs of the car. Very frequently even though there is a scratch on a bumper, once taken apart there maybe internal damage to the car, after a car accident. It is more costly for the most part but more often than not, damage amount can double and triple once its done. If the repair cost is higher then the car its self than insurance will most likely give the average cost of your vehicle in cash and you can invest in another car. Insurance is required to get your car in the pre-collision state. This can be good and a bad thing, because if the car is several years old then they may use a recondition (a.k.a non-OEM) parts to fix it.

What is a “diminished value” claim?

Diminished value is a reduction in price of your car after the car collision. This is very common to miss out on if you are trying to handle the case on your own. (Get a lawyer or ask us to recommend you one). Basically what happens is that you just bought a new car or vintage vehicle and someone damages it shortly after. You just lost lots of money on it if you are going to try to re-sell it after its fixed. When this occurs best choice is to examine appraisal figures before and after the car collision to accurately determine a reduction of the price of you car. Which you must be compensated for. Insurance will not mention this to you.

Does the insurance company have to pay for my rental car, towing and storage?

Yes. For every day that you are unable to drive your car insurance must provide a rental car that is approximately equal in value of the vehicle damaged in the collision.

What happens if my vehicle was totaled?

If your vehicle is “totaled” (i.e. the repairs exceed the total value of your vehicle), you are entitled to the fair market value of your vehicle, which must be paid within 30 days of making your claim. Fair market value is determined based on a variety of factors including make, model, options, mileage, and condition. If you are unsure about the fair market value of your vehicle, check with Kelly Blue Book. Searching for used car sales in your local classified ads or craigslist can also be helpful. You may also elect to keep your vehicle, but your settlement check for fair market value will be reduced by the salvage value of your vehicle.

As mentioned earlier if the cost of repair is more than value of the car which means that your car is “totaled” you must receive a fair market value of your vehicle. Typically that must be determined and paid within 30 days after opening a claim. If you are unsure about the fair market value of your car, check with Kelly Blue Book. Searching for used car sales in your local classified ads or craigslist can be helpful too.

What happens if my vehicle was modified or customized?

If that is the case then simply let your insurance adjuster know about this. Typically what happens if you don’t happen to have receipts, you may need to find reasonable prices online on your local classified ads such as craigslist and such.

How do I settle my property damage claim?

Be careful with this one! When an insurance adjuster handling your claim has competed their investigation, he/she will offer you a check to settle your car insurance claim. It is very tempting to just take the check. Lets face it who wouldn’t want money, but be careful. Sometimes symptoms may come up or change even within a whole month. Do not settle too soon! Make sure everything OK and you have considered all possible outcomes. Also make sure the check includes the cost of transferring your tags, plus any prorated annual tax and/or registration fees. Once this is done you can’t go back and re-open the car accident claim.