If you are like most people, you may have been involved in an auto accident or two in your life, your fault or not. And like most, you think the reimbursement to you for injury or damages is non-negotiable. Not so. There are many actions you can take to receive the maximum amount you deserve in the aftermath of an accident. The insurance company is committed to handing out the minimum amount reimbursement for your claim.
This first line of defense in protecting your rights is to collect evidence and information at the accident scene. Collect names of those involved in the accident, the year, make model of their car including license plates, obtain witnesses, gather insurance info and driver’s licenses. Call the police, but do not rely on the police to file a report, and most certainly do not admit fault. Do not make a recorded statement to an insurance adjuster. Do not say you were not injured.
You do not have to accept the first amount that an insurance company presents to you. Research the value of your car and its repairs by visiting several local mechanics. Kelly Blue Book and Edmunds are reliable online resources to help you calculate the current value of your car if the car is a total loss. Total loss does not mean your car is a smoking heap; rather it means the cost of repairs exceeds as little as 51% of the current value of the car. Claim a higher value for repairs. Unless your car is less than one year old, expect the insurance company to use aftermarket parts. Some companies will consider a 2-year-old car new but anything beyond that will get aftermarket and used parts. You will have to pay extra for new replacement parts.
You do not have to accept the first offer an insurance company offers you! Ask them to justify their first offer. Also, keeping receipts, for example for new tires and other improvements will assist in increasing the declared value of your vehicle. Push for a higher valuation.
New Mexico is an at-fault state, meaning each driver is assigned a percentage responsibility. Clear cut responsibility is assigned to the following accident types:
- Drunk driving
- Texting while driving
- Right of Way issues
- Crossing the middle line
- It gets sticky in less clear-cut situations which is why gathering information at the scene of the accident is so important. Fault is distributed after a determination is made in proportions. For example, at a trial, the jury decides that the total amount of damages is $100,000. You were 80 percent at fault, and your opponent was 20 percent at fault. In this situation, you would be able to recover 20 percent of $100,000, which is $20,000 of damages
Keep in mind the insurance company does not want to go to court on these accidents, so a little higher value for your vehicle or its repairs is an attractive alternative to legal proceedings. You do not need to rush. Especially when bodily injury is involved you may find that seeking legal representation is the way to go. Prince, Schmidt, Korte and Baca is here to help you should you need legal assistance.