Filing Car Accident Claims with USAA Insurance
USAA limits its customers to veterans, members of the U.S. armed services, and their family members. Contrary to popular misconception, it is a privately held corporation, not a government agency. The U.S. government has no management or ownership role in USAA.
Even though USAA limits its customer base, it is still the eighth-largest auto insurer in Texas and the fifth-largest auto insurer in the U.S. Because of this, USAA collects over $14 billion in auto insurance premiums annually.
You may have to deal with USAA’s claims adjusters if you experience a car accident. Since Texas uses an at-fault auto insurance system, you will have to file a claim with the insurer for the at-fault driver when an accident occurs. If USAA provides the driver’s coverage, it will be responsible for paying your claim.
Here are the things you should know about filing a car accident claim through USAA insurance, along with some hints about ways to maximize your compensation.
USAA’s Claim Process
USAA has some of the highest ratings for claim satisfaction in the auto insurance industry.
In a recent survey, USAA had higher ratings from people who had settled an insurance claim in the past six months than:
- State Farm
USAA streamlines its operations by reducing the number of employees that are involved in its operations. The company relies on direct sales rather than insurance agents. It has also invested heavily in technology to be able to collect claim information and process claims.
Among the large insurers, USAA provides the most detailed information to non-policyholders for filing claims. The company prefers to receive non-policyholder claims online. But for people who don’t have Internet access or whose injuries make it difficult to file claims online, USAA provides a phone number.
Documenting Your Claim
According to USAA, the information that you should provide when filing a claim includes:
The policy number of the driver that caused the accident is useful for USAA as they open a claim file. The name of the policyholder, along with the make and model of the vehicle involved in the accident, will also be required.
USAA asks that you provide the facts surrounding the accident. This would include how, where, and when the accident happened. You should consider having a lawyer help you to write your summary so that you can avoid making any mistakes that could affect your claim.
USAA’s website requests a description of the other vehicles involved in the accident, along with contact information for any other witnesses.
Processing Your Claim
USAA will assign your claim to an adjuster, who is responsible for investigating the claim. Since Texas uses an at-fault insurance system, the adjuster will attempt to determine which driver caused the accident.
As the claims adjuster investigates the claim, they might ask for additional information. Some of the documents that an adjuster might request include:
- Medical records
- Doctor bills
- Therapy bills
- Pharmacy bills
This information will help the adjuster to calculate your damages so that USAA can make an initial settlement offer.
The Recorded Statement
Most insurance companies use a recorded statement to deny or reduce claims. An adjuster collects a recorded statement by calling you and asking questions. The adjuster records the phone call.
This creates a record of any statements that you make about your accident, which can ultimately help or harm your case. Unfortunately, adjusters can also twist innocent statements.
For example, an adjuster might greet you by asking how you are. If you reply, “I’m fine,” the adjuster might use your words to prove that you recovered from your injuries.
Because of this, you should consider having a lawyer sit with you when you give a recorded statement. Alternatively, you might want to consider not giving a recorded statement.
USAA has plenty of information that they can use to investigate your claim without your statement. The adjuster can determine liability and damages from police reports, witness statements, medical records, and paystubs.
Because a recorded statement has a lot of drawbacks and not many benefits, you should consider declining a request for a recorded statement.
The Settlement Negotiations
After the claims adjuster determines that USAA must pay your claim, the adjuster will make a settlement offer. In most cases, the adjuster will make a low initial offer. This low offer serves two purposes.
It Saves USAA Money
USAA is a business. It does not make money by paying claims. It makes money through its financial services and investments.
As USAA collects premiums, it uses them to fund a reserve. USAA invests the rest of the premiums or uses them to fund loans. The return on these investments makes money for USAA.
When USAA pays claims, it has to draw money from the reserve. If the reserve gets too low, USAA moves money from its investments into the reserve. When money is left sitting in the reserve, it does not generate additional funds for USAA.
The adjuster’s job is to draw as little as possible from the reserve. This restraint increases USAA’s profitability.
Adjusters use your needs against you. Adjusters know that you need money to pay for your medical bills. They also know that your injury might prevent you from working. Your desperation can help the adjuster to settle the claim for less than its full value.
It Creates Negotiating Space
Settling an insurance claim is primarily a negotiation. You have something of value — a personal injury claim. The adjuster wants you to release your claim so that you won’t sue USAA or its customer. The adjuster’s job is to find the lowest amount of money that will settle the case.
By making a low initial offer, the adjuster has more room to negotiate. For example, suppose that you have $15,000 in medical bills and lost wages. If the adjuster offers $20,000, the case might settle fast, but from USAA’s perspective, it would be an overpayment.
Instead, if the adjuster offers $8,000, you might counter-offer with $20,000 and finally settle at $16,000. You would feel like you won because USAA doubled its initial offer and covered all your medical bills. But USAA would actually do very well in this circumstance because it would escape by only paying $1,000 in pain and suffering damages on top of your $15,000 in economic damages.
Settling Your Claim
To settle your claim fairly, you need to know its value. You should consider talking to a personal injury lawyer about your claim and its settlement value. That way, you’ll know when USAA has made a fair settlement offer.