The first few hours-and days following a vehicle accident are stuffed with stress and honest confusion for most insured drivers. Many yearn for someone to take over the entire process for them. An insurance claims adjuster employing the right approach can provide a calming effect, the needed expertise and sound advice.
Every insured driver that is involved in an auto accident needs to understand that there are commonly six elements of proof that most insurance carriers review and three stages in the auto insurance claims process:
1. what the insured tells you, the insurance company
2. the other driver’s perception of how the accident occurred
3. what the police report states happened
4. the eye witnesses testimony
5. the physical damage at the scene
6. medical records for the treatment of any related injuries
How your insured handles an auto accident from immediately following the incident, through the First Notice of Loss (FNOL), to the final settlement will be critical in contributing to a quick and fair solution.
Stage 1: At the Accident Scene
The dynamics at the accident scene typically precede the adjuster’s involvement and are more likely to be influenced by the insurance agent or the police. The first step is to report the accident. The insured driver should always call their insurance company from the scene if possible to report the accident even if they think the other party is at fault. This First Notice of Loss (FNOL) will help to establish proper coverage, the extent of damages and liability.
Stage 2: Immediate Follow Up – Gathering the Facts
As soon as possible after the accident the insured best options are to make notes of the time of the incident, the directions each vehicle was traveling, the speed they were traveling and any other details while they are fresh in their mind.
Once reported to the insurance company an adjuster will most likely advise the insured when they will be coming out to see the insured vehicle to assess the damage and the insured should be advised if the insurance carrier you represent has a direct repair program and how it works.
This is the best time to take pictures of the damaged auto from various angles and snap shots of any areas of injury to themselves and their passengers.
Stage 3: Management & Settlement Resolution
To create a smooth workflow from accident to a resolution, make sure to have these items in order:
• Suggest to the insured that they keep a daily journal on injuries, the extent of the pain and any medical treatment that has occurred.
• Keep on top of the insured to track travel expenses to and from all medical appointments and maintaining all medical receipts including any prescriptions, equipment and health insurance co-payments is also wise.
• Documenting any lost time from work related to accident injuries and reminding the insured to share all related documentation, receipts and correspondence with an adjuster is important.
Once you have completed your review of the incident and you are ready to offer a settlement, you should be prepared to detail how you reached the proposed amount, explain what the settlement includes and encourage questions and comments from the insured regarding any missing items or remaining issues.
Finally if you are unable to agree on a settlement, you should advise the insured driver that they have the option of filing for arbitration or filing legal action.
With more than 220 million cars on the road, the odds are that sometime in their driving lifespan an insured driver will be involved in an auto accident. Dealing with the unexpected is an emotional time that produces high anxiety. It is critical during the early aftermath of an auto accident that an insurance adjuster is perceived as an important ally who can provide a calming influence and assist the insured in understanding the stages of the claims process and the proper steps to follow to clear up their confusion and minimize their stress.
Three important tips that will assist an adjuster to be seen as the solution rather than an adversary or part of a seemingly overwhelming problem are:
1. To establish yourself as a calming influence and not the adversary you should exhibit good listening skills, express empathy for the insured’s situation (including emotional stress, medical injuries and assistance in dealing with vehicle repairs) and outline the steps that will lead you and the insured to a resolution.
2. An adjuster who checks to follow up on vehicle repair progress, rental replacements and medical treatments weekly will maintain the best opportunity to achieve amicable closure.
3. Finally, it is particularly important to communicate frequently and thoroughly with the insured all the way through the claim and settlement process to instill confidence in them that you are working toward a fair and reasonable outcome.