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How to get the maximum insurance compensation if you are a car accident victim

Many of us have been victims of a car accident before, be it minor rear-end collision or a major crash. Fear for our lives and our health is always the first priority, but after surviving a car crash, we still have to face the injuries and the losses we incurred as a result. So, naturally, we turn to insurance companies to get fair compensation.

However, in New Zealand, car insurance isn’t compulsory so there’s always a chance that the person who hit you doesn’t have insurance; this is why it’s important that you have comprehensive insurance and that you also know your rights.

If you’re a car accident victim, here’s how to fight for the compensation that is due to you.

Know your rights and what you deserve

The way insurance companies make profits, as is the case with any business, is if they make more than they spend. So, naturally, giving you a large payout isn’t really something they favour. That is why you should know more about what to do in case of an accident, so as to maximize your compensation and avoid doing anything that could give the insurance company an excuse not to pay you enough, or at all.

Insurance companies work on a concept of ‘blame’ and they will attempt to apportion blame in order to calculate a payout. You may be judged not to at fault, partially at fault or completely at fault, depending on the circumstances leading up to the crash. For example, if someone runs into the back of you, they would usually be at fault, but if they have a dashcam that proves you swerved in front of them and braked unnecessarily (‘brake testing‘), then they might be considered to be at fault.

Count your losses

The first thing you need to know is what the damage is and what it is costing you. Experienced car accident lawyers at the Serious Injury Law Group recommend that you account for all your losses before you claim. This includes physical injuries, psychological trauma, damage to your vehicle, medical bills, time off your job, and much more as the case may be. Then, you should conduct research to know the actual cost of these losses.

Of course, in New Zealand, we have the Accident Compensation Corporation which pays out for medical bills and goes a long way to stave off the litigious environment that exists in other countries like the USA, but it’s good to quantify your losses.

Keep calm and stay focused

At the time of the accident, it is understandable that you would be disoriented and confused. However, to get the compensation you deserve, it is important that you keep your cool. You can give your claim a lot of weight if you follow these steps:

  • Call the police immediately, and don’t leave the place of the accident until they arrive
  • In the meantime, take pictures of the vehicle and of your injuries, if you have any. You need to take photos from all angles. It also helps if you can draw a sketch of the scene with a description of what happens. If you can get a witness to agree with what you’ve drawn and sign it, that can hold some weight; remember that memories fade quickly and facts and details are misremembered more frequently as time goes on
  • If there were any independent witnesses who aren’t going to wait for the police, take their contacts as you may need their statements later
  • Make sure that a police report is made, and that it includes a clear detailing of your statement
  • You may sustain an injury and not know about it until a day or two. So, when you talk to the police or the doctor, don’t deny being injured, say that you are not sure if you have any injuries
  • Go to a hospital, even if you feel fine, you may be hurt but don’t feel it because of the adrenaline, and get a medical report on your condition. You may have a concussion
  • Notify the insurance company as soon as possible, preferably within 24 hours of the accident
  • It’s preferable to run your statement by a lawyer before you give it to an insurance company.

Insurance claims can be a confusing and exhausting procedure, but know that many of the excuses, insurance companies use for not paying you what you deserve can be argued against, and you probably won’t hear them if you have proper legal representation during the negotiations.

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Darren is a member of the Institute of Advanced Motorists and the NZ Motoring Writers' Guild

Posted in Advice
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