Being hurt in a car accident is an extremely stressful experience. You’re entitled to compensation if you’ve been injured in a car accident as a driver, passenger, pedestrian, or cyclist—but you have to go through the insurance claims process to get the compensation you deserve.
Dealing with insurance companies after a car accident adds to the stress of the situation. You’re not on a level playing field with the insurance company. The claims examiner and insurance adjuster are not on your side, though they may seem kind and reasonable (especially at first). Here is what you need to know to protect yourself and your rights after suffering injury in a motor vehicle accident.
What Compensation Is Available?
In Ontario, personal injury compensation for car accidents involves accident benefit claims, tort claims, or both:
Anyone injured in a car accident is entitled to apply for accident benefits through his or her own insurer based on Ontario’s no-fault auto insurance system, regardless of who caused the accident. No-fault accident benefit claims cover many out-of-pocket expenses, including medical treatment and rehabilitation costs, compensation for lost income, and reasonable expenses such as caregiver expenses and housekeeping expenses.
If another person’s fault or negligence caused the car accident, the injured person can also make a tort claim to recover damages such as pain and suffering, loss of enjoyment of life, lost wages, lost opportunities, and medical expenses. This type of personal injury lawsuit is paid out by the at-fault person’s insurance company.
Because there are two potential sources of compensation, two insurance companies are involved in most car accident claims. That means dealing with representatives of your own insurance company and representatives of the at-fault person’s insurance company.
First Steps in Submitting a Claim to An Auto Insurance Company
You must make a report to the insurance company within seven days of the car accident. Failing to report within a reasonable amount of time can result in your claim being denied.
Once your claim is filed, you will be contacted by a claims adjuster. They’ll ask you to complete and submit forms detailing your injuries and damages. You’ll need to provide details of your injuries and treatment plans from your healthcare provider. The claims adjuster will encourage you to speak freely and share as much information as possible.
Insurance adjusters and claims examiners may seem friendly and helpful—especially early in the claims process—but make no mistake: their goal is to close your claim as quickly as possible, for as little money as possible. All insurance adjusters and claims examiners work for the insurance company, and the insurance company is in the business of making money. They do this by denying claims, delaying claims, and making low-ball settlement offers—even to their own injured clients.
Top Tips for Dealing With Insurance Companies After A Car Accident
Plain and simple, the insurance company and its employees are looking out for what’s best for their business, not your best interests. Here are tips to protect yourself and your legal rights:
Document as much as you can. That includes photos/videos of the accident scene and your injuries, police reports, witness contact information, notes about your symptoms/restrictions/pain/limitations, and records of all communications with the insurance company. Preserving evidence and records of conversations will strengthen your claim for compensation and protect you if anything is later disputed by the insurance company.
Speak to an experienced car accident lawyer ASAP. It’s important to seek professional legal advice to determine your rights and obligations before anything is said or done that may jeopardize your claim. Insurance companies aren’t usually forthcoming about all the accident benefits or types of damages available to you. Our personal injury lawyers can explain all of your legal options, provide you with an opinion on what your claim is worth, and help maximize your claim. Hiring a lawyer levels the playing field for you and ensures that you will receive the full compensation required by law.
Remember that what you say (or don’t say) can hurt you. Insurance company employees are trained to take statements and convince you to give up more information than needed. That information can then be used against you to deny or reduce your claim. The adjuster will also ask you to describe the nature and extent of your injuries and then try to limit your claim to what you listed. You might accidentally forget to mention something, your injury may be more extensive than you initially realize, or your injuries/symptoms may worsen after the accident. It is acceptable to say that you are waiting to hear from your doctor and decline further comment in the early stages. You are also within your legal rights to decline to provide a statement without your lawyer present.
Be wary of signing documents from the insurance company. You will likely be provided with forms, authorization, and consents. Signing these types of documents may limit, restrict, or waive your legal rights. You will likely be asked to provide a written or recorded statement. If you provide one, it can be used against you to prevent you from pursuing the full value of your claim. Always have an experienced car accident lawyer review any documents or statements before you sign.
Get Trusted Advice from Our Team of Personal Injury Lawyers
Insurance companies often want to rush through the process to get away with paying out as little as possible. We strongly believe that the injured person needs their own independent representation through a personal injury lawyer.
If you or a loved one has been injured in a car, ATV, motorcycle, bicycle, pedestrian, or snowmobile accident, contact the personal injury lawyers at Feifel Gualazzi. We specialize in car accident claims, and we’ll help you determine how much you are entitled to claim as compensation for your injuries and losses.
At Feifel Gualazzi, our personal injury lawyers will help you navigate the insurance process and get you the settlement you deserve. We serve residents of Sault Ste. Marie and the surrounding Algoma District.