Reaching an Agreement With Your Insurance Adjuster
Car accidents are traumatic events. Suddenly and unexpectedly you find yourself with a damaged vehicle. Even when there are no serious injuries, it can be stressful to navigate the process of getting your car repaired and back on the road. You probably have many questions. What if I don’t agree with my insurance adjuster? How do I know if I’m being treated fairly? Is my insurance adjuster estimate too low? Dealing with an insurance company can be easier when you know what to expect. Your success in negotiating the repairs or settlement is more likely if you understand how to do your part.
Need to Find Fair Market Value?
Your insurance adjuster may decide that your car is not worth repairing and declare it a total loss. If this occurs, the adjuster will estimate your car’s value and offer you a settlement. To know if the offer is fair, you need to determine what your vehicle is actually worth. The following methods will help you find a fair market value.
- Use Online Sites. Kelley Blue Book and Edmunds are two sites that many people use to determine the value of a car. You will be asked to input specific information regarding your car and its condition. Edmunds will also ask you to enter your vehicle identification number (VIN). You will then see a price range that includes the value of your car in today’s market.
- Get Comps. Insurance companies will often use comparable car sales, referred to as “comps,” to value your vehicle. Because cars vary in price depending upon location, you will need to look for comps locally. Finding cars very similar to your own, including options, condition, and mileage, will give you a good idea of what you would have to pay for your car in today’s market. Finding your own comps is especially valuable if you end up negotiating with your insurance company on a settlement price.
- Ask a Mechanic. A mechanic who has worked on your car may be able to give you a good idea of its worth, especially if you have kept up with maintenance, repairs, and cosmetic fixes.
Once you have determined a fair value for your car, you will know if the offer presented by the insurance adjuster is a good one. You do not have to accept the offer. You may decide to enter into settlement negotiations instead. You also have the option to appeal the decision to total your car, although insurance companies generally use firm data tables and percentages to decide if a car is worth repairing.
Insurance Repair Estimate Too Low?
If your vehicle is repairable, your insurance adjuster will go over the damaged vehicle and estimate the repair cost. The insurance company may also recommend that you use a particular repair shop. You should not feel pressured to accept. You can take your car to any shop that you choose for a repair estimate. Never accept a repair estimate from an insurance adjuster until you have it confirmed by a reputable shop.
If the adjuster’s estimate is lower than the one you’ve received from your own mechanic, present your estimate to your insurance adjuster. If the insurance company believes it is inflated, they may require you to get a second estimate from another location of your choosing. Once you have two or more estimates, the insurance company may agree with one of them, or you may need to enter into negotiations.
Need to Negotiate the Settlement?
Insurance adjusters are trained to negotiate and save money for their companies. Ask the adjuster to explain how the company’s offer was calculated. Always be polite and respectful. Although most adjusters try to deal fairly, you need to be prepared to defend your own position and calculations calmly. If you are negotiating a settlement for a totaled car, you should submit the research that backs up your car’s value, including the comps that you have found in your area.
The adjuster may give you a counter offer. At that point you may decide to accept, compromise, or make your own counter offer. Never sign anything until you are satisfied with what you have received. If you cannot come to an agreement, it may be time to seek legal advice. Bringing in attorneys puts you and the insurance company on a difficult path, however, so both sides should work to avoid that option.
Looking for Additional Help?
Although a car accident is always distressing, the aftermath doesn’t have to be difficult. The keys to success are being prepared and negotiating in a professional manner. Don’t be intimidated by your insurance adjuster, the legal jargon, or various technical insurance terms. Have another person present if it makes you feel more comfortable. Your auto body shop can also help you through the process. Remember that the best possible outcome is for you and your adjuster to reach a mutually acceptable agreement.