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Automobile Insurance Claims: Filling, Negotiating, Settling

Settling Your Automobile Insurance Claim

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An insurance company adjuster (or an adjuster's representative) will usually have to inspect the damage to your car before you can receive payment. The adjustor will also try to determine the cause of the accident and collect information about any injuries.

If your loss was due to vandalism, theft, or collision with an inanimate object (such as a guardrail or a tree) you will often receive a check after the adjuster's inspection.

If other vehicles were involved, the adjuster will thoroughly investigate the accident and then try to settle the claim.

Don't let an insurance company pressure you to use a specific repair shop.

If parts are needed, don't be surprised if the insurer wants you to use generic aftermarket parts instead of original manufacturer parts. You can usually insist on manufacturer parts if some one else's insurance company is paying. It may be more difficult with your insurer -- but it's worth the try.

A car that has been repaired is generally worth less as a used car or trade-in than an identical car without an accident history. This is known as "diminished value." Ask for diminished value as part of your claim. If you don't get it, see if you can write it off on your tax return.

Don't accept a settlement until you get an estimate from an independent repair shop. The settlement may be less than the amount for which you can get the car repaired.

Once you and your insurance company agree on the terms of the settlement:

  • The company must by law send your payment promptly.
  • Many state laws require that the adjuster provide names of one or more repair facility in your area that can make repairs for the amount of the appraisal. Adjusters cannot require you to use a certain shop or recommend one in particular.
  • If your car is drivable and can pass inspection, you are not legally obligated to have any repairs done at all.

Consider hiring a post repair inspector to be sure the work was done properly.

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