Settling the Claim
The other driver’s insurance company may ask you to sign a release to settle your claim that says you will not file additional claims related to the same accident. Get a letter from your doctor estimating the cost and length of your future medical treatment to determine if your settlement is fair. Don’t sign a release until you are satisfied with the total settlement.
You might want to consult an attorney before accepting a settlement. Texas law gives you two years after an accident to either settle your claim or file a lawsuit.
Texas law prohibits insurance companies from delaying payment of a claim to pressure you to sign a release. If you believe an insurance company is delaying payment to pressure you, file a complaint with TDI.
If the other driver denies fault, his or her insurance company may refuse to pay your claim. Independent witnesses could make a difference in getting the company to pay. It’s important to get names, addresses, and telephone numbers of any witnesses to the accident. Make sure the insurance company knows about the witnesses. If the company continues to refuse to pay the claim, you can file a claim against your own insurance or you may have to go to court to resolve the issue.
Ask your agent or your company’s underwriting department how a claim might affect your rates on renewal. A company cannot refuse to renew your policy solely because you had one accident in a 12-month period that was not your fault. However, if the accident affected your driving record, your company may consider it in determining your rates, whether you filed a claim for the accident or not.
Getting Your Car Repaired
Your insurance company will either have an adjuster inspect your car and give you a repair estimate, or it will ask that you provide repair estimates from mechanics and auto body shops.
Insurance companies will pay for repairs or replacement only up to the car’s actual cash value. Actual cash value is the amount your car would be worth if it weren’t damaged.
If you and your insurance company can’t agree on the amount of your settlement, you can demand an appraisal. Appraisal allows you and the company to hire separate damage appraisers. The two appraisers choose a third appraiser to act as an umpire. The appraisers review your claim, and the umpire rules on any disagreements. The appraisal decision is binding on the amount of the damage. If there is a dispute about what is covered, you can pursue a settlement of the coverage issue after the appraisal. You must pay for your appraiser and half of the umpire’s costs.
Appraisal is available only in disputes between you and your insurance company. It is not available if the other driver was at fault and you disagree with his or her company’s offer.
Some companies may give you a list of preferred shops once you begin to repair your car, but they cannot require you to use a particular repair shop. For collision and comprehensive claims, your company is obligated to pay only for parts of like kind and quality to those that were damaged.