If you were in a car accident that resulted in bodily injuries, property damage or both, the party at fault for causing the collision will be financially responsible. In Georgia, a fault-based insurance system holds the driver who caused the collision liable for damages.
After you file an insurance claim against an at-fault driver, the insurance company will conduct an investigation to determine fault before offering a settlement. Knowing what to expect from the investigation process can help you protect your rights.
An Insurance Claims Adjuster Contacts You
First, the auto insurance provider will assign someone called an insurance claims adjuster to your case. The claims adjuster is in charge of reviewing your submitted claim, analyzing the available evidence, recommending whether to accept or reject the claim, and determining its value. The most important thing to know is that the insurance claims adjuster is not on your side.
Insurance claims adjusters are typically assigned to a few different cases each month. In general, you will know more about your car accident than the adjuster. The adjuster will contact you soon after your accident to ask questions about the crash and gather information. The adjuster will look for a summary of the crash, including the date, time and a brief description. The adjuster may also ask for photographs or evidence gathered, as well as your police report number.
Be careful when speaking to a claims adjuster. The claims adjuster’s main goal during an investigation is to find reasons to deny or reduce your financial benefits to save the insurance company money. Do not admit fault, agree to give the adjuster a recorded statement or give away too much information. If you don’t feel comfortable discussing your crash with an insurance adjuster, you can hire a car accident attorney to do so for you.
The Adjuster Analyzes Evidence
Then, the insurance claims adjuster will analyze the information and evidence surrounding your car accident claim. The claims adjuster will assess the evidence you submitted with your claim as well as conduct his or her own investigation to gather more information.
An insurance claims adjuster or investigator may look at the following types of evidence:
- Police Traffic Accident Report
- Eyewitness statements
- Physical evidence (including an in-person vehicle inspection)
- Photographs and video footage
- Medical bills
The claims adjuster will use this evidence, in addition to the information acquired during interviews with those involved in the car accident, to determine fault. Most car accident investigations in Georgia are completed within 15 days. If the insurance company needs longer to investigate, it can request an extension with an acceptable reason.
A Note About Medical Records Release Authorization Forms
During a car accident investigation, you may receive a request from the insurance company for your authorization to release medical records. Do not sign this document before bringing it to an attorney. Medical authorization requests often grant access to your full medical history, not only the records related to the crash. This is a tactic used to search for a reason to deny your claim, such as a pre-existing injury. A lawyer can protect you by explaining what to sign and what not to sign.
The Adjuster Makes a Preliminary Decision About Your Claim
Once the claims adjuster completes the investigation, he or she will make a preliminary decision on whether to accept or reject your claim. The adjuster will submit this recommendation to the insurance company, along with a suggested payment amount.
If your claim is rejected, you may have grounds to file a car accident lawsuit with the courts instead. If your claim is accepted, your lawyer will have the chance to negotiate the amount offered until you obtain a fair settlement.
A car accident attorney can help you prove your claim and obtain an adequate amount for your injuries and losses. An attorney can also make sure an insurance company and its claims adjuster do not take advantage of you during the legal process.