The Dos and Don’ts of Making a Detroit and Michigan Car Insurance Claim
So you get into a fender bender or a serious car wreck in Michigan. You have damage to your car and you don’t feel so good yourself. The car gets towed. You then go to the urgent care or hospital because you feel injured. What is the next thing you need to do? It is the dreaded phone call to your auto insurance company to make a claim.
The phone call can seem overwhelming. It seems intimidating. But it doesn’t have to be. I’ll explain why you need to make an insurance claim following a Michigan car accident, how to make the claim and what to tell the insurance representative on the other end of the call to ensure things turn out in your favor.
What is an Insurance Claim?
First, a little background is needed. An insurance claim is notice to an insurance company that an incident involving a motor vehicle they covered occurred. The actual word “claim” is a term of art in the insurance industry. Without a claim, there can be no recovery. And without a recovery there is no car repairs, payment of Michigan no-fault benefits or compensation for your injuries.
So if you are involved in a car accident and you want to get something in return, such as the car repaired or money for your injuries, a claim must be made with the insurance company.
How Do I File an Insurance Claim?
The easiest way to make a claim is to call your insurance agent. Let them know what happened in detail. Explain to them how the accident happened and what injuries you have. The insurance agent can then contact the insurance company for you and make a claim.
If you don’t have an insurance agent, simply call the insurance company yourself. Tell the person on the other end that you were involved in a car accident and you need to speak to a representative. Often, the insurance company will say they are busy and can’t provide a claim number at that time. Don’t take no for an answer. Demand that you speak with someone and get a claim number from the insurance carrier before you get off the phone.
When a claim is made, the insurance company will assign a specific number. That is called a claim number. This is very important. The claim number is like your health insurance number or passcode. Without it, the insurance company will have a hard time getting your claim processed. Keep track of your claim number. Every claim gets a claim number.
Once a claim is made, typically the insurance company will assign an insurance representative to handle your claim. Sometimes these folks are called insurance adjusters or claims handlers. Be nice to these people. There is no point in yelling or getting nasty with them. They take calls from people in difficult situations every single day. They will be less likely to assist you if you are not respectful to them.
On the other hand, it is important to be stern with the insurance adjuster handling your case. Communicate your expectations to them. Ask the adjuster what information and documentation he or she needs so the claim can move forward. Get this information to them as quickly as possible.
What Types of Car Insurance Claims Are There in Michigan?
There are many different types of insurance claims in Detroit and Michigan. It all depends on what happened and what is needs to be fixed. These claims include:
- PIP Claim (No-Fault Claim)
- Uninsured motorist (UM)
- Underinsured motorist (UIM)
- Property damage claim (PD)
I will explain what these mean in more detail below. But it goes without saying that insurance can be confusing. That’s why it is important to contact a Michigan car accident lawyer or a Michigan car accident law firm that knows how to deal with insurance companies and has a track record of success.
What Do I Say to the Insurance Adjuster When Making the Claim?
First, it’s important to know which insurance company you are talking to. It is okay to talk to your own carrier about the accident. In fact, this is the only way to get your car fixed and no-fault claim open.
However, if the insurance company for the other vehicle calls you, do not talk to them. Instead, contact a Michigan car accident lawyer first to get advice on what your rights are and the options you have.
Once you confirm you are speaking to a representative from your own auto insurance company, it’s important to tell the insurance adjuster what happened. Tell them how the accident occurred. If you are injured, make sure you tell them you are injured and explain the pain you are feeling in detail.
But it is important to remember that in general Insurance companies want to minimize your claim. This is because it is their goal to pay out as little as possible. Don’t let them do this.
Which Auto Insurance Company Pays the Claim?
This all depends on the type of claim you are making. Michigan is a no-fault state. This means under the Michigan No-Fault Act, you are responsible for insuring your own car for certain things. Under the law, the other driver is limited in what they have to pay, even if they are the cause of the crash.
In Michigan, your own auto insurance company will pay your medical bills from the accident. Medical expenses are paid by the PIP coverage purchased under the policy. PIP coverage is mandatory. This means every auto insurance policy has it. The amount of medical coverage you have depends on what was purchased. Most policies have a minimum amount of $250,000. However, some policies have more all the way up to unlimited PIP coverage.
If a person uses up all the PIP coverage, and there are still ongoing medical expenses from the crash, the other driver’s insurance company must pay for these expenses. However, this only occurs if the other driver was at-fault or negligent in causing the crash.
What about pain and suffering caused by an accident? The at-fault vehicle’s insurance company is responsible for paying this. There are specific rules in Michigan to obtain pain and suffering, emotional distress and other “non-economic” damages from a car crash. That is why it is important to contact an experienced Michigan auto accident lawyer so you don’t get taken advantage of.
Who Pays for Vehicle Repairs and Vehicle Damage?
Collision coverage is the insurance that pays for vehicle repairs after a collision or crash that occurs while the vehicle is moving. If you are involved in a crash in Detroit, Flint or anywhere else in Michigan, your own car insurance company pays for the vehicle repairs.
However, before your own insurance carrier fixes your car, the deductible must be paid. If you have broad-form collision, then the deducible will most likely be waived. The insurance company is entitled to do an inspection of the vehicle to evaluate the damage. If the insurance company feels the amount to repair exceeds the value of the car, they can elect to “total” the vehicle. When this happens, they will take possession of the car after paying you the net present cash value of the car.
If another driver caused the crash, that person is only responsible for paying up to $3,000 for the damage done. This is called a mini-tort claim.
Collision coverage is not mandatory. So if you don’t have it, you are stuck with the mini-tort claim against the other driver so long as you did not cause the crash. If you caused the crash and don’t have collision coverage, in general you can’t make a claim for the vehicle repairs with anyone.
My Car Was Stolen or Vandalized – Who Pays for This?
In Michigan, if your car was stolen, vandalized or if it was damaged by a weather event like a hail storm, then your own insurance company will pay. But again, this will only happen what is known as Comprehensive coverage. Like collision coverage, comprehensive is not mandatory. Either you paid for it and have it in your policy, or you don’t.
To make a comprehensive accident claim, call your insurance agent or insurance company. Let them know what happened. It is smart to first make a police report so there is proof no fraud took place. If the claim involves vehicle damage from a wind storm, flood or something falling on the car, take photographs and video. Keep this evidence and share it with the insurance adjuster assigned to handle your claim as proof of the damage.
Who Pays if the Other Driver is Uninsured?
Getting injured in a car accident is already scary. But getting injured by an uninsured driver, or a hit-and-run driver, is even more frustrating. When this happens, you can still make a claim for compensation.
Again, for the payment of medical bills, lost wages, out-of-pockets costs, and other benefits you turn to your own car insurance carrier. This is the PIP claim described above. If you don’t have insurance but live with a relative who does have auto insurance, then in most situations that insurance carrier must pay PIP benefits. Call that insurance company and file a claim with them, even if the vehicle was not involved in the crash.
If you don’t have any auto insurance in the household, then an injured person can file a claim with the Michigan Assigned Claims Plan (MACP). After completing and submitting an Application for Benefits, the MACP will assign an insurance carrier- like Farm Bureau or Allstate – to pay the claim.
A Michigan car crash law firm that handles auto accident cases every day can assist you and walk you through this process.
In situations where the at-fault driver is uninsured, an injured person can still make an Uninsured Motorist (UM) claim for pain and suffering compensation. A UM claim is made against your own auto insurance company, or the auto carrier of the vehicle you occupied when the crash happened.
Like collision coverage, uninsured motorist is not mandatory. Not everybody has it. But given the huge number of people driving around without insurance in Michigan, which is estimated to be more than 25% of Michigan drivers, it is very prudent to purchase uninsured motorist coverage.
An uninsured motorist claim is treated much like a normal negligence case by the insurance carrier. You must prove (1) the uninsured driver was at-fault for causing the crash, (2) you were injured, (3) the injuries are related to the crash, and (4) you sustained a threshold injury.
In Michigan, just because you are in a car wreck that someone else caused does not mean you automatically get money damages. That is why it’s essential to call a knowledgeable auto accident lawyer immediately after a crash. The law firm will ask you certain questions and evaluate if you can bring an uninsured motorist case.
The amount of compensation for an uninsured motorist claim is limited by the amount of coverage available. If the policy only allows for $50,000 in UM coverage, that is all the insurance company must pay, no matter the severity of the injury.
What If The At-Fault Driver Doesn’t Have Enough Insurance to Cover the Injuries?
Sometimes, the at-fault driver or the owner of the at-fault vehicle has insurance, but the insurance coverage is not enough to compensate for the injuries that were caused. In this situation, the at-fault driver is “underinsured.” When this happens, an injured person can again turn to their own insurance company for compensation through Underinsured Motorist (UIM) coverage.
Like uninsured motorist coverage, UIM is not mandatory. Again, it’s something that must be purchased at the time the policy is bought. Not only can the policyholder make a claim for UIM benefits, but their family members typically can as well.
Sometimes, UIM benefits are available to any occupant injured in the car or truck covered by the policy. This is true even if they are not related to the policyholder. Because of this, it is important to call a Michigan underinsured motorist lawyer so he or she can ask questions about the accident, review the insurance policy, and determine whether you are eligible for additional money compensation for your injuries.
Call the Detroit Car Accident Injury Lawyer Experts
If you have any questions about filing an accident claim, give our office a call. Our team of Detroit car accident attorneys are here to answer your questions. The call is free and so is the consultation. Call us today at 1-800-LEE-FREE (1-800-533-3733).