Insurance company claim representatives are great at making you feel confident in your insurance company. They’re very sympathetic and will assure you the company is doing everything possible to get your claim settled so you can get on with your life. Remember, though, they work for the insurance company, not you. As nice as they may seem, they’re looking for any reason to minimize or deny your claim altogether.
The claims process starts with the claims rep gathering as much information about your accident as possible, including:
- the police report
- passenger and witness statements
- photos and measurements from the scene
- researching repair estimates
- anything you say during the call
Notice the italics on the last item on the list above. During the call with the claims rep, you need to be careful to not say anything to implicate yourself as being responsible in any way for the accident. If you do, you’ll find yourself with a woefully inadequate settlement—and your claim may even be denied entirely.
Most insurance companies will have their claims representatives contact their policyholders shortly after the accident. If you’re not prepared to talk to them, or don’t have a copy of the police report to refer to, tell the claims rep you’re not able to speak right now and ask for a number where you can reach them. You are under no obligation to speak with them until you’re ready.
Be aware that the claims adjuster may ask you to sign a release for your medical records. Don’t do it until you’ve consulted an attorney. A signed release for your medical records allows them to go on a fishing expedition through your entire medical history. If they find anything in your past they can use to dispute your claim, it WILL be used to deny your claim. Having a personal injury attorney handle this will ensure CSAA only gets the medical records relevant to the injuries you suffered in your auto accident.
If your injury occured while on workplace property, while using workplace vehicles or while carrying out duties on the job, you should speak to a workers' compensation lawyer.
If the settlement check they send you isn’t what you were expecting, don’t deposit it
After the claims rep gets information about your accident and speaks with you, CSAA will decide how much to pay out on your claim. They’ll mail you a settlement check, and don’t be surprised if it’s far less than you anticipated. If you have medical bills piling up, it can be tempting to cash the check. Don’t do it!
The check from CSAA is nothing more than an offer of settlement. If you cash it or deposit it, you’re implicitly agreeing to the settlement amount and you will not be able to negotiate with them for a better settlement. You can dispute the settlement amount on your own, but be prepared for one runaround after another. This is precisely why so many accident victims turn to personal injury attorneys.