The sudden impact of a car accident can leave you frazzled and unsure what to do. After addressing your immediate medical needs, you know you need to inform your own insurance company about the accident. But how much information do you have to provide? And how do you go about figuring out exactly how much you are owed for the accident? And what if another driver was responsible for the accident?
Gathering All of the Necessary Information
The first step in presenting any kind of insurance claim is to send a demand letter. Depending on the facts and circumstances of the accident, this letter may be sent to your own insurance company, or the insurer for the negligent driver. Although the phrase “demand letter” may sound unnecessarily adversarial, it simply means that you are presenting formal notice of the accident and a statement of your damages. In this sense, the demand letter is simply the initial step of the claims process.
Before you even send a demand letter, however, it is important to gather as much documentation related your accident as possible. This includes, but is not limited to, the following items:
● Medical records. If you received any kind of medical treatment following the accident, make sure to get a copy of your records from the providers. This is important not only to establish the injuries you received, but also as proof that those injuries were actually the result of the accident and not some other cause.
● Auto repair records. Obviously, if your car was damaged in the accident, you will need to gather any repair records. If the damage is fixable, you should always get a written estimate of repair costs from one or more auto-body shops.
● Incidental expenses. You should keep receipts for any money you spend for items related to the accident. For example, if you need to take a cab to go to a follow-up medical appointment to deal with your accident injuries, keep that receipt. You may be entitled to reimbursement from the insurer.
Be Specific, Be Firm, Be Reasonable
When it comes to writing the actual demand letter, the three cardinal rules are, “Be specific, be firm, and be reasonable.” The demand letter should be specific in that it presents a detailed accounting of your injuries and losses. It should be firm in asserting your right to compensation. But it also needs to be reasonable. In other words, do not exaggerate your injuries or demand a dollar amount you know is beyond the limits of the policy.
One issue you will need to address with respect to “reasonable” compensation is figuring out how to properly value your non-economic damages, commonly known as “pain and suffering.” The truth is there is no universally applicable rule for calculating these kinds of injuries. This is why it is a good idea to consult with a qualified personal injury lawyer before sending a demand letter.
The personal injury attorneys at RMD Law know how to assist accident victims in dealing with insurance companies. Contact us today if you have been in an accident and need advice on how to proceed with filing a claim.