If you own an insured vehicle that just has been in an accident, you should claim for the damages beginning with reporting to your auto insurance company at the earliest opportunity. Generally, the insurance companies settle the accidental claims according to the reports of surveyor stating the extent of damage to the vehicle and if you are satisfied with the claim offered to you, then all is well.
But what happens if the offered claim is not according to your estimation? No offense to India, I love my country whatever happens, but it’s a sad fact that fighting for the rightful insurance claim has become something of normal here. So much so that after suffering from the car accident, the worries do not stop for the car owner, they just begin in the form of long battles against the insurance company and third parties. Here is a step to step guide on how you should go about the whole claiming-of-insurance process for your vehicle and understanding how the insurance companies work.
Get started: The first thing you have to do is report to your vehicle insurance claims department within the duration as stated in the insurance agreement. Also, it may sound weird but if possible, take pictures of the accident scene and your damaged vehicle. Jotting down every detail of the accident including your injuries during the accident and the names and statements of witnesses is the best thing to ensure that you are on the right track. If it is a minor one and no third party claims are involved, you can take the vehicle yourself to the garage.
Estimate a claim with support of documents: Next, fill up the form of the auto insurance claim and do not forget to mention the claim amount you think you are entitled to. Gather all the relevant documents such as FIR (First Information Report) if the accident involved a third party, hospital or medical bills, and estimation of repairs by the workshop. Getting ready in prior will help you gain a beneficial lead on the insurance company and show them that you are more than prepared to get your claim.
Comprehensive auto insurance policy: Before dealing with your insurance claim, the company will analyze your insurance policy very thoroughly to see if there are any deductibles, or any limits that can have an effect on your claim. As you might already know, there are two kinds of car accident policies; Act only risk (Motor Policy A) which covers the damage done to the vehicle of third party, and secondly the Comprehensive insurance policy (Motor Policy B) which covers the damages sustained by your own vehicle. Not to mention, the latter is considered a wise option always.
Assessment of the claim by Surveyor or Adjuster: After the above analysis by the insurance company, the accident site is physically visited by the surveyor (generally in the cases where the claim is bigger). He or she may also get in touch with the witnesses and police complaint registered by you to make the final decision on the amount of claim. If it is a small claim and the vehicle is already in the garage, the surveyor may take assessment from there.
Have a fair idea of your claim: Only a few people know that insurance companies have to use an independent surveyor to assess the amount of claim in case it exceeds INR20,000. Using the adjusters or surveyors of their own is fine if the claim is up to INR20,000 but if it crosses the threshold, it becomes illegal for the company to not use the services of an independent adjuster. You shall read the Insurance Act to get the basic idea which also states that it is necessary to submit the assessment report within 30 days of survey.
What if the claim is complicated? During the claims, if the surveyor finds there are no disputes regarding the damages, medical treatment, and repairs, the claim will be settled based on the estimated quote for repairs provided by the dealer workshop. But in case there is a tricky situation involving the liability amount, extent of coverage or the claim you are getting, the best way to go is negotiate with the surveyor or adjuster. Just to be on the safer side, keep a record of your dealings with the surveyor and your insurance agent in writing.
Do not let your claim drag for too long: After resolving everything, the insurance companies go on to settle the claim according to the surveyor’s assessment. Now, if you think you are not getting your due, it is advisable to consult an experienced lawyer with knowledge of vehicle accident claims about the further proceedings. Then either the surveyor may get back to you with a more agreeable offer or remaining rigid in his negotiations. If the latter happens, it means you are at an impasse. Find out on what grounds your claim is being denied; limited coverage of policy, differences in the opinions regarding repair costs, etc.
Take it to the higher authorities: If neither the surveyor nor the insurance agency is agreeing on your terms and you believe in your claim religiously, then it is recommended that you seek a vehicle accident claims lawyer to further get a reasonable advice whether or not your claim is right and logical. You can also do it on your own and further continue the written communication with the insurance company yourself. But if nothing works out, you shall sue the insurance company on the grounds of Bad Faith. As it is, most of times the insurance agreement states about an Appraisal Clause according to which only an arbitrator can resolve the dispute outside of court.