When filing an insurance claim, you want to receive your fair share. Having an insurance policy can help you get back on your feet after a car accident or a catastrophe, and in many cases, it’s a legal requirement. However, many remain skeptical of insurance companies.
People believe that these companies want to cut costs on policyholders, and unfortunately, in some cases, this is true. This is where insurance appraisers come into play.
Basically, an insurance appraiser is responsible for estimating the value or cost of an insured item. Because this is usually an impartial agent, they can help you obtain a decent settlement. However, as we’ll see, a “decent” settlement isn’t always a “fair” settlement.
So, let’s take a closer look at what exactly an appraiser does and how relying on them can both help and hurt you.
Main Duties of an Insurance Appraiser
Insurance appraisers deal with a lot of paperwork and they handle many important tasks. In addition to reviewing countless files and processing paperwork, they also have to get out in the field quite often. Chiefly, the appraisers work on car insurance claims, so let’s see what they do:
Examine Vehicles to Determine Damage
Firstly, after a major car accident, you should, of course, call 911. Once you’ve dealt with the police department or emergency services, you should try to gather all the relevant records. Request the police and medical reports (if there are any) and gather insurance/contact information from the other drivers. Once you’ve done that, call your insurance agent.
The insurance company will send for an appraiser or you can hire one yourself. The first thing an appraiser will do is examine your vehicle thoroughly. They will inspect all the damage that occurred in the accident.
Keep in mind that the appraiser only looks at the damage caused by the accident. If you’re in need of an oil change, for example, the appraiser won’t look into it.
Determine Salvage Value
If the car is declared a “total loss”, then the insurance appraiser would need to determine the car’s salvage value. This happens when the total cost of repairs would be higher than the actual cash value of the car.
To have adequate coverage for the total loss, you’d need to possess either property damage liability (PD), comprehensive, or collision insurance. With PD, the other driver must be at fault for the accident. On the other hand, with collision insurance, it doesn’t matter who was at fault.
The meaning of total loss varies between states. Certain states have a Total Loss Threshold or TLT. Here, the damage needs to exceed a certain percentage of the car’s actual value. In Miami, Florida, for example, the value of repairs needs to exceed 80% of the value of the car for it to be considered a total loss.
Other states rely on a Total Loss Formula, TLF. When the cost of repairs plus the salvage value are higher than the cash value, it’s a total loss. In either case, the appraiser will determine the value and report it to the insurance company.
Estimate Parts and Labor to Repair Damage
An insurance appraiser is responsible for estimating the cost of the entire repair. Chiefly this includes the cost of the damaged parts and the cost of labor to repair them.
Appraisers use the standard automotive labor and parts cost manuals to determine the amount of money needed. This information helps the insurance companies determine the compensation you’ll eventually receive.
This task is easier said than done, however, since it requires a lot of research and calculations. Not to mention that appraisers often need to consult with other professionals to determine the exact costs.
Review Estimates with Auto Shops
Once insurers have estimated the costs, they must consult with auto shops. This allows them to review the repair cost estimates and secure an agreement on the cost of repairs.
Most importantly, this ensures you won’t need to cover any additional costs yourself. Once an agreement is reached between appraisers and auto shops, you can rest easy knowing the insurance company will cover the whole cost.
Additionally, this protects insurance providers against fraud. Since the cost of the repairs is predetermined, they’ll know exactly how much compensation to provide.
Cooperate with Other Insurance Appraisers
Often, insurance appraisers need to arrange to have the damage appraised by another professional. This usually happens when there’s a dispute between the insurer and the policyholder.
Insurance companies might employ their own appraiser but policyholders are entitled to their own. Both appraisers must conduct thorough inspections. In this situation, each appraiser has to examine the vehicle, determine the salvage value, and estimate the repair costs.
After that, if the appraisers agree, the insurance company must pay the amount agreed upon. In case they disagree, they must choose an unbiased umpire or settle the case with a judge.
Take Pictures of the Vehicles
It is very important for pictures of the vehicle to be taken after an accident. Policyholders are advised to take them as well since pictures provide proof of damages. However, keep in mind that it’s necessary for the pictures to have a date stamp on them.
It’s usually the appraisers who take the pictures, however. When an insurance company employs its own appraiser, many policyholders feel the need to hire their own as well. Both of the appraisers assess the damages and take photographic evidence.
Appraisers will often come to the scene of the accident for this. It’s absolutely essential that you stay at the scene of the accident at least until the police allow you to go. As a matter of fact, depending on the state where you live, you could be arrested or fined for leaving the accident site.
Otherwise, appraisers might ask for the vehicle to be sent to them so that they can collect the photographic evidence.
Listed above are just a few main tasks of an insurance appraiser. As mentioned, appraisers also deal with a lot of paperwork and everything they do is well documented. They send reports, prepare insurance forms, ensure the claims are not fraudulent, and much more.
Hire a Personal Injury Attorney
Insurance appraisers should be unbiased. However, if they’re hired by the insurance company, they’ll do what they can to lower costs. That’s why it’s in your best interest to hire a personal injury attorney. If you settle with an insurance company, then you might not get your fair share, and an attorney will make sure that you do.
They Assess Damages
Most people consider only the immediate effects of damages. A personal injury attorney can help you more accurately assess the real and long-term effects of injuries. If there’s a loss in earning capacity if the victim’s been left disabled, for example, then an attorney can help you secure a better settlement.
Personal injury attorneys can also conduct professional investigations, thus filling in the gaps that appraisers might have overlooked. Likewise, attorneys have a large circle of other professionals around them that can help assess all the damages and losses accurately.
Many insurance companies want to get rid of cases as quickly as possible. This means they want to minimize the payout. As such, the first offer that they deliver to the policyholder is often unfair.
In fact, accepting their first offer is almost always a mistake. Personal injury attorneys can help you negotiate the payout and eventually secure a better deal. They let you know what the fair amount is and they’ll help you obtain it.
Represent Cases in Court
Going against insurance companies in court is a scary deal. Most of the cases are settled outside of court even before a lawsuit is filed. However, if the insurer denies your claim, sometimes the only choice is to go to court.
Complex legal processes are made easy when you have a professional on your side. Personal injury attorneys will make sure that you come out on the other side with a fair settlement.
When it comes to minor accidents and fender benders, the assistance of an attorney might not be necessary. However, if you experience problems with an insurer or suffer injuries, it’s in your best interest to contact a personal injury attorney.
Companies likeThe Ward Law Group can help you settle any unfair claims and ensure that you get what you deserve.
Many insurance companies will try to get rid of your case quickly and with minimal losses for them. Attorneys, on the other hand, have only your best interests in mind. To maximize your insurance claim, enlist the advice of a seasoned legal team. Contact The Ward Law Group today!