If you’ve ever been involved in a traffic crash and your vehicle was damaged, you know how difficult it can sometimes be to receive the reimbursement for auto repairs that you need from an automobile insurance company.

What steps should you take after a traffic crash? Will you need an attorney’s help? How do you successfully negotiate a property damage claim with an auto insurance company? Can a car accident law firm in New Orleans, LA help?

HOW ARE LOUISIANA DRIVERS COMPENSATED AFTER ACCIDENTS?

Auto insurance in this state is “at-fault” rather than “no-fault” insurance, so drivers in Louisiana are compensated after accidents based on the details of their auto insurance policies and their degree or percentage of fault for an accident.

In Louisiana, if you sustain a personal injury in a traffic accident, and if the other driver was at-fault, put your case immediately in the hands of an experienced New Orleans personal injury attorney.

lawyers negotiating settlements

Your attorney can negotiate with the at-fault driver’s insurance company to acquire compensation for your accident-related medical costs and lost wages.

WHAT’S THE BEST WAY TO HANDLE A CLAIM FOR PROPERTY DAMAGE?

Your health and your future are priorities, so you cannot take chances. If you are injured by an at-fault driver in Louisiana, you must be advised and represented by a qualified accident lawyer, and you’ll need that lawyer’s help as quickly as possible.

However, when no injuries are suffered in a vehicle collision, an attorney usually isn’t needed. In most cases, for most drivers, negotiating your own property damage claim will be easier and more expedient.

Property damages are not necessarily restricted to vehicle damage. If an at-fault driver causes an accident that destroys property items in your vehicle – anything from computers to tools to golf clubs – you have the right to be reimbursed for your losses.

HOW SHOULD YOU PREPARE FOR A PROPERTY DAMAGE NEGOTIATION?

Before you negotiate a claim for property damage with an at-fault driver’s automobile insurance company, take these measures and adhere to these recommendations:

  • At the accident scene, summon the police at once. Learn when the written accident report will be available and learn how to obtain a copy. The accident report from the police will provide the details and facts that any damage claim or legal action will be based on.
  • Exchange insurance and contact details with the other motorist. If eyewitnesses saw the crash, try to get their names and contact details. Take photos of the damage and accident scene – photos and/or eyewitnesses may be the only way to prove you weren’t at fault.
  • Contact your own automobile insurance company in at least 24 hours but do not offer any details and do not make a formal statement. Simply inform the company that you’ve been involved in a collision, where the crash occurred, and when.
  • Obtain a medical examination within 24 hours to ensure that you haven’t sustained a hard-to-detect injury or a latent personal injury. A medical exam is imperative.

medical documents

When you’re in command of the facts – and you have the documents to prove those facts – you’re in a much better position to negotiate for the settlement you need.

HOW SHOULD YOU HANDLE THE NEGOTIATION PROCESS?

When you talk with anyone who is representing an auto insurance company, be polite, friendly – and firm. Most insurance adjusters, managers, and agents in Louisiana work hard and do their best to deliver ethical, professional service.

You’ll be negotiating with a claims adjuster who negotiates settlements on the insurance company’s behalf. An adjuster investigates accidents, assesses the coverage, and makes settlement offers.

insurance adjusters

Engaging in some give-and-take over the amount of the property damage settlement is fine – just don’t take an offer for less than you need. Most property damage claims involve several telephone discussions and usually one meeting with a claims adjuster.

WHAT DOES A SUCCESSFUL PROPERTY DAMAGE NEGOTIATION REQUIRE?

Don’t be intimidated, hurried, or stressed. Here are some tips for a successful negotiation:

  • Determine what you need for vehicle repairs and other damages. Have support for your claim; repair estimates, receipts for previous repairs, and before-and-after pics can help. A first settlement offer is typically a “lowball” offer. Don’t settle for less than you need.
  • Stick strictly to the facts. Any exaggeration or embellishment regarding what happened could make you ineligible to receive compensation, and you might even be charged with insurance fraud.
  • Take comprehensive notes whenever you speak with a claims adjuster about your claim for property damage. Jot down the time, the date, the name of the person you speak with, that person’s exact title and phone number, and a brief summary of what was discussed.

HOW LONG DOES IT TAKE TO NEGOTIATE A DAMAGE CLAIM?

When an insurance firm can’t convince you to settle for less than your property damage claim is worth, the company might use other tactics – delays and excuses, for example – thinking that you may eventually just give up.

new orleans courthouse

Fortunately, that’s rare in this state. Unless the insurance firm operates in “bad faith,” a claim for property damage can almost always be settled in under eight weeks. In fact, in some cases, a claim for property damage can be settled in a week. Here are some additional tips:

  • Find out if you are facing any deadlines and complete the paperwork promptly.
  • Don’t cash a check from an insurance company unless it’s for the amount you need.
  • Don’t accept excuses, delays, brush-offs, or disrespect.
  • Don’t be bullied or intimidated. Negotiating your damage settlement is your right.

WHAT IF YOU’VE BEEN INJURED?

Your health could be at stake if you’re hurt by a negligent driver. Louisiana personal injury laws are quite complicated, so a personal injury claim must be handled exclusively by an experienced New Orleans personal injury attorney. Don’t even consider negotiating your own injury claim.

An accomplished injury attorney can usually negotiate an out-of-court personal injury settlement on your behalf. Yes, sometimes a personal injury case goes to trial, but most personal injury claims are resolved privately and out-of-court.

If you have any legal questions after a traffic collision, have those questions answered at once. It is usually more expedient to negotiate your own property damage claim, but after any traffic accident in Louisiana, a good accident lawyer’s advice and help is your right.