If you suffer a personal injury in an incident such as a car accident that you did not cause, your attorney may be able to seek compensation on your behalf from the at-fault party’s liability insurance company.
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The time it takes to settle things like a car insurance claim varies from case to case. Ideally, insurance companies would respond quickly and pay all valid claims immediately. Unfortunately, insurance companies rarely operate that way.
Below, we explain the claims process, steps you and your attorney can take to speed it up, and what you can do if an insurance company or your adjuster doesn’t respond to your demand letter in a timely manner.
sending a demand letter to the insurance adjuster
The process of seeking payment from the at-fault party’s insurance policy typically begins with the submission of a demand letter by your personal injury attorney. (This is what makes this claim process different from the process of filing a claim with your own insurance company, which typically begins with filing a claim directly with your insurer through their website.)
demand letters serve to notify insurance companies of a possible legal claim for damages against an individual, company or organization to whom the company has issued liability insurance.
In the case of a car accident, the letters usually provide important information to the auto insurance company about a damage claim, such as:
- what happened to cause an injury
- why the company’s policyholder is at fault and must pay damages
- a description of the client’s injuries
- an estimate of the financial losses the client suffered as a result of the event, such as medical bills and lost wages
- an estimate of the non-economic losses suffered by the client, such as pain and suffering, loss of consortium, and reduced quality of life
- follow up with phone calls;
- send an email;
- go to the insurance company’s website to “chat” with a representative, if applicable; or
- contact the adjuster’s supervisor (the supervisor’s contact information can usually be found on the company’s website along with the adjuster’s information).
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Attorneys can send the demand letter directly to the company, to the at-fault party directly, to the attorney for the at-fault party, or to some combination of these parties.
when to expect a response to a demand letter and how long does it take for an insurance company to respond?
Upon receipt of a demand letter, an insurance company will assign an adjuster to handle it. An in-house adjuster’s job is to review claims and decide if the insurer should pay them instead of an insurance agent who sells and maintains insurance policies.
Usually, under the terms of the insurance policy and/or by state law, the adjuster must complete an initial review and submit a response within a reasonable period of time, generally on the order of 30 days.
This is the point in the process where, if things work as they should, the insurance company should recognize the policyholder’s legal liability and pay the claim immediately.
Unfortunately, as we said before, things often don’t work that way.
You see, insurance companies and the adjusters who work for them have strong incentives not to pay the full value of a liability claim, and not to do so quickly.
first, because you’re not their customer, so they have little reason to go easy on you. second, because insurance companies make money by retaining it, not paying it out. the less they can pay you and the longer they can make you wait, the more money they will make.
So instead of paying a claim quickly and in full, liability insurance claims adjusters often delay.
They can do this by simply not responding until the last minute, requesting additional information (which they often don’t even need), or making low-cost or partial settlement offers.
These tactics have a common dual purpose: to delay payment for as long as possible and to try to make the claim “disappear” for as little money as possible.
how to speed up response time
You and your attorney cannot force an insurance company to respond to a demand letter, but you can take some steps to speed up the response time. for example:
Based on experience with cases like yours, your attorney can make sure to include all pertinent information with a demand letter to minimize the chance that the carrier will delay requesting more details about your claim.
The letter may request a response within a specified time limit, after which your attorney will initiate legal action against the guilty party.
Your attorney can follow up by phone or email with the adjuster to start a dialogue about the claim.
When appropriate, your attorney can file a personal injury lawsuit against the policyholder or, in the case of a car accident, against the at-fault driver to show the insurance company that you mean business.
how long does it take to get a visit from an adjuster?
Sometimes the claims adjuster may want to meet with you in person to assess your claim, your injuries, and the damages that have occurred.
When submitting a demand letter, you must be contacted by phone within 1-3 days to schedule a meeting up to 2 days after that.
When scheduling this meeting, ideally the adjuster will deal with your attorney; however, sometimes the adjuster will try to bypass his attorney and call you directly. don’t start a conversation with an insurance adjuster if you can avoid it. try to make sure that all conversations, even the simplest ones about scheduling a meeting, go through your attorney.
why insist on keeping your attorney between you and the adjuster?
because insurance adjusters are trained in interview techniques designed to get claimants to say something that could undermine the value of a claim. Even in a simple scheduling call, an adjuster might try to introduce a few questions designed to trick you out of your legal and financial rights.
Insisting that your personal injury attorney deal with the adjuster as much as possible minimizes your risk of falling for these tactics.
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If there comes a time when you need to meet with the adjuster in person, your attorney can also prepare you and, if necessary, attend the meeting with you to get you out of harm’s way.
what to do if your insurance adjuster is unresponsive
sometimes your attorney sends the demand letter and the adjuster just doesn’t respond.
In that circumstance, you and your attorney know nothing. There could be a simple explanation for the non-response, such as the adjuster is out of work or gone on vacation, or the demand letter was lost in the insurance company’s shuffle. Or, your claim may require additional work and time to process due to the severity of your injuries or damages.
Finally, the delay could reflect a ploy by the insurance company to prolong the process, hoping you’ll give up or get impatient enough to accept a minimum settlement offer.
then, you need to figure out what is what. however, as mentioned above, that’s not something you personally should handle if you can help it, as it could put your rights at risk.
Let your attorney take care of an insurance adjuster instead:
Try to be patient and confident in this part of the process. the insurer must respond at some point, or face possible legal complications. Your attorney can guide you through this process and identify if the adjuster may be negotiating in bad faith.
how long does it take to receive a settlement?
Ultimately, the goal of filing a lawsuit with a liability insurance company is to convince the company to pay a claim, without having to take the claim to trial. The agreement between the injured person and the at-fault party (represented by a defense attorney and the insurance company) is called a settlement.
In the typical settlement, the injured party (you) gets money from the at-fault party’s insurer, in exchange for releasing the at-fault party (and that party’s insurer) from any future liability related to the claim.
It can take as little as 7-8 days, and as long as 30+ days, to reach a settlement in cases involving only property damage once negotiations begin between your personal injury attorney and the adjuster.
In personal injury claims, the time it takes to receive a settlement may be longer as the extent of your injuries and the full cost of your medical expenses are determined.
let miley’s legal group help you with an unresponsive insurance company
After you are injured in an accident caused by someone else’s negligent or reckless conduct, you want to get the money you deserve as soon as possible.
You deserve a fair settlement to cover your medical treatment, property damage, lost wages, and any other damages you experience as a result of your accident.
The most reliable way to efficiently achieve a favorable outcome is to trust an experienced accident attorney to handle the claim process on your behalf.
Contact Miley’s Law Group today for a free consultation to discuss the details of your accident case. Our experienced West Virginia law firm knows firsthand the tactics insurance companies use to profit and how to win the compensation you deserve in a timely manner.