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Settling your insurance claim

Most people are aware of what happens when they fail to pay their auto insurance on time. Their policies get canceled, any claims are denied, flags get put on their drivers' licenses and the reinstatement fees and fines start to accrue.

In other words, nothing good comes from letting your auto insurance coverage lapse. But on the other side of the coin, what deterrents do insurance companies face for delaying claims?

Other than potentially losing some disgruntled customers, they face few to none when they leave claimants dangling for weeks or months waiting for a check. Employing some of the below strategies for settling a claim may hasten the process.

Be assertive

Here, the old adage, "the squeaky wheel gets the grease" truly applies. You can be sure that your claim is just one of many in the agent's inbox. There's no need to pepper the claims manager with emails and phone calls, but it's perfectly acceptable to check in weekly or even more frequently as settlement negotiations ensue.

The idea is to keep your claim in the agent's focus, with the goal of settlement in reach.

Don't settle too quickly

Don't let the agent know you're desperate to resolve your claim. Then, they may pull out all stops to settle. They might overnight you a check and settlement documents to sign.

Beware of this. They know that you need that check — that's why there are so few zeroes on it. They're also rolling the dice on your not knowing the true value of your claim.

If your vehicle was totaled, will that check allow you to replace it with the same or a comparable vehicle? What about the time spent off of work? Were you fairly compensated for that loss? How about your pain and suffering?

All of those losses are calculable. Your settlement offer should reflect that amount. At least, it should be in the ballpark for negotiations.

Understand how insurance companies work

Even if you filed a claim with your own insurance company, that company isn't truly working for you. It's working for the shareholders, and that means having a firm bottom line and high profits. Insurance claims agents strive to settle all claims for the minimum amount possible.

Understanding that insurance companies are for-profit businesses allows you not to take it personally when they low-ball your claim. Instead, counter with your own reasonable offer that's in the ballpark of where you need to be.

Your agent can assist you

After you understand how the insurance company operates, you can still use your agent to your advantage when settling your insurance claim. Agents can look into why a claim is taking too long to settle, for instance.

It's always helpful for claimants to learn all they can about their claims' true values to optimize their settlement amounts.

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