Consumers who encounter problems settling car insurance claims have several options available to them if negotiations with the insurance company break down. Alternatives include mediation, arbitration and, as a last resort, a lawsuit. Both mediation and arbitration involve an impartial third party. In mediation, the mediator works with the injured party and the insurance company to negotiate a settlement. In arbitration, the arbitrator listens to both sides and then decides which side prevails. Some car insurance companies, including one's own, can be very difficult to work with. Consumers may want to retain an attorney who specializes in car insurance claims to put their claim together. An attorney will be required if a lawsuit is to be filed.
When dealing with their own insurance company, a person has the option of going over the adjuster's head to a supervisor if he is unhappy with the adjuster's decision. If satisfaction is not received at this point, the person can file a complaint with the state insurance commissioner. It is time to consider mediation, arbitration or a lawsuit when these options have been exhausted. Before deciding which option to choose, consumers need to read their car insurance policy to see what is allowed. Some states do not allow arbitration. A number of car insurance policies only allow for a single arbitrator and others allow three - one selected by each side and the third selected by those two arbitrators. Some policies may not allow for mediation. The policy should also state who pays mediation and arbitration expenses.
A thoroughly documented claim will help a person's case immensely. If the car insurance claim involves only damage to a vehicle, the person should have pictures of the damage and bills to repair the damage. If the insurance company has totaled the vehicle, a person needs information on the cost of replacing it with a comparable vehicle. If the person has been injured in the accident, the amount of documentation needed increases. The additional documentation should include pictures of the injury, including bruises and scars. Medical records will be needed to confirm the injuries; treatment bills also are important, as injury awards consider treatment costs. A person may want to have his health care provider write a report about the long-term prognosis and future costs of treating the injury.
Claim awards are generally limited to the amount of car insurance coverage chosen by the policyholder. If a person sustains serious injuries, and the at-fault policy is not big enough to compensate for the injuries, the injured party may recover under his own policy if under- or uninsured motorists coverage is available.
Ultimately, several actions can be taken if car insurance claims are taking to long to be settled.