Obtaining a good settlement in a rear-end collision claim comes down to arming yourself with all of the available facts surrounding the collision, and persistently presenting them to the other side (i.e. the other driver's insurer) in a persuasive way.
Rear-end collisions are very common. At any given time, an insurance adjuster can have tens or hundreds of rear-end collisions awaiting settlement. The easier you make it for an adjuster to pay what you consider to be a fair settlement, the more likely you are to achieve an acceptable result.
Collect Information at the Scene of the Rear-End Collision
Immediately after a rear-end collision, obtaining a good settlement is often the last thing on your mind. The trauma inherent in any auto accident can cause even the most levelheaded individual to forget things. But the more information you can collect at the scene of the accident, the stronger your claim will be. At a minimum, try to obtain the following:
- a police report
- names and phone numbers of any witnesses, and
- insurance information and contact information for other drivers involved
Ideally, you would also obtain photographs of the scene and any damage to your vehicle. Photographs of any injuries will also be helpful. Remember, in this day and age nearly everyone has a cell phone that doubles as a camera. If you don’t have one yourself, try and ask someone at the scene to take pictures for you.
What to Do Shortly After a Rear-End Collision
If you are injured in a rear-end collision, seek medical attention immediately. Documenting your physical condition immediately after the accident can go a long way toward obtaining a good settlement. Insurance adjusters need medically documented proof of injuries to pay claims. Otherwise they will be forced to initiate a medical review of the file, which takes time and money -- money that will likely be deducted from any potential settlement offer you may receive. And if you aren’t injured and offer proof that you aren’t, an adjuster may take that as a sign of good faith when paying on your property damage claims.
At your first opportunity, write down a narrative of the accident. Include as much detail as possible. Sign and date your narrative, and initial and date any additions you may make as you remember anything. Within a day or so of the accident, you should also talk to any witnesses you can contact. Ask them if they would be willing to provide written statements if their recollections support your claim. Make sure you take notes during conversations, so you have a record of what was discussed. The more support you can provide for your claims, the better.
Finally, you should report the accident to your insurance company -- and that of the offending driver -- as soon as possible. Ideally, you would do this immediately after the accident, but as long as you do so within a day or two, you should be fine. Informing insurance companies of potential claims can trigger coverage and prevent disputes down the line.
Start a File
Once you get past the first couple days after the rear-end collision, organization will become key. Paperwork will begin to pile up. Letters, medical records, witness statements, insurance questionnaires, and repair estimates and bills can get out of hand in a hurry. A simple file folder in which you store all accident-related paperwork can go a long way toward making your life easier. When adjusters and investigators need information, being able to provide it to them in an organized fashion will make your life -- and theirs -- much easier.
Seek Legal Advice Sooner Rather than Later
Even if you aren’t planning on filing a lawsuit, attorneys can provide valuable advice regarding how to conduct your claim. Lawyers have an intimate knowledge of insurance claims, and can offer tips and tricks that may smooth your path to financial recover. And it never hurts to have a Plan B in place in case your rear-end collision settlement negotiations do not proceed as well as you would like.