After a car accident, what should I do if my car insurance claim is denied?

Question:

After a car accident, what should I do if my car insurance claim is denied?

Answer:

Regardless of the warm and fuzzy messages they try to send in their television commercials, car insurance companies are in the business of making money. Their first priority is profits, not the happiness of policyholders. You shouldn’t always expect your insurer to cut a quick settlement check. And if you’re making a claim against the other driver’s insurer (this is known as a third-party claim), you may be in for more of a fight than you’re expecting.

Having said all that, an outright denial of a valid car insurance claim is pretty rare. Typically, if a claim has any level of merit, the insurer will make a settlement offer to the claimant, even if it’s a low offer.

If your car insurance claim has been denied (by your own insurance carrier or by the other driver’s), here are a few things to consider.

Take an objective look at your claim. It’s not an easy thing to consider, but if the insurer has denied your claim outright, they may have a point. Maybe fault for the accident isn’t as cut-and-dry as you think it is (or it actually is cut-and-dry, but not in your favor). Maybe you’re claiming extensive injuries without showing any corresponding treatment from health care providers. Whatever the specifics, it may be time to re-evaluate your position.

Talk to an attorney. Sometimes, insurance carriers will play hardball with claimants who are not represented by legal counsel. Discussing your case with an experienced attorney -- many will offer a free initial consultation -- will give you a quick and clear idea of the merits of your case. If an attorney agrees to represent you, rest assured that once the insurance company learns you’ve got a lawyer, they will exhibit a sudden and enthusiastic willingness to talk seriously about a fair settlement.

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