GEICO is a car insurance company that is probably best known for its television commercials with a talking gecko lizard. GEICO originally started as an insurer for federal government employees and their families, but it eventually expanded its offerings to the general public. What you may not know is that GEICO is currently the second largest auto insurer in the country behind State Farm. Given GEICO’s status as the second largest auto insurer in the country, you may find yourself dealing with GEICO if you are involved in a Georgia car accident. You may even have GEICO car insurance yourself. If you were in an accident and one of the drivers has GEICO, there are some important things you should know. Most importantly, you should know that GEICO is likely not looking out for your best interests. Instead, GEICO will do what it can to save money on your claim. The only way you will have someone on your side who is protecting your rights is if you hire a personal injury attorney.
So what should you expect if you find yourself dealing with GEICO after a car accident? Here’s some basic information to help you know what to expect.
Opening a Claim with GEICO
GEICO has an easy to use feature on its website that allows you to open a claim online. The online claims feature is open to anybody who is involved in an accident with a GEICO policyholder. You can also call GEICO’s claims phone number at 1-800-861-8380.
Whether you open the claim online or on the phone, you will be asked a series of questions about your car accident. If you do not know all the answers, do not worry. The claims representative just wants to know the information you have. After your claim is set up you will be given a claim number. This claim number will be used whenever you call to check on your claim or discuss it. You can also use the claim number to monitor the status of your claim online.
GEICO’s Investigation of Your Claim
GEICO’s investigation of your claim will start as soon as the claim is opened. One of the most important questions GEICO will want to answer is who was at fault for causing the accident. To determine liability, GEICO will get a copy of the police report to see what the responding police officer’s investigation revealed, whether any citations were issued, and whether any witnesses were interviewed. The GEICO adjuster may also interview witnesses.
After it has completed its investigation, GEICO will determine who was at fault. It may determine that two or more drivers were at fault and assign percentages of fault. If you were one of the drivers, it may determine you were at least partially to blame. Under Georgia law, an injured person can recover damages for an accident as long as he or she is less than 50% at fault. If the injured person was 50% or more to blame then the injured person cannot recover damages. This is known as comparative fault. GEICO may use its comparative fault determination to reduce what it has to pay you for your property damage or bodily injury claim.
If you are dealing with GEICO as the other driver’s insurer, please remember that you should never give a recorded statement to the other driver’s insurance company. GEICO will try to use any recorded statement you give to get you to say something it can later hold against you. However, if you are the one with GEICO, you may need to give a recorded statement because your insurance policy likely says you have a duty to cooperate with your insurance company.
Property Damage Claims with GEICO
One of the first steps after your claim is opened with GEICO will be to get your property damage taken care of. Whether your car is repairable or totaled, you will need a rental car while your regular vehicle is unavailable. Your own insurance policy, whether it was with GEICO or some other insurer, may have rental car coverage that pays for your rental care while your vehicle is being repaired. Regardless of what your coverage is, the other driver’s insurance should be responsible for paying for your rental car if he or she was responsible for causing the accident.
After GEICO assesses the damage to your vehicle it will determine whether it can be fixed or whether it needs to be totaled. Your vehicle may end up being totaled if the cost to repair it, plus the cost of paying for your rental car and your diminished value claim, is close to or more than the amount GEICO could pay just to replace it.
If your vehicle is repaired then you may be entitled to diminished value. A diminished value claim is based on the fact that your car is generally worth less if it is damaged in an accident. The amount of a diminished value claim depends on a number of factors, including the make and model of the car, its condition, the car’s mileage, and the amount of damage.
Personal Injury Claims with GEICO
A personal injury claim with GEICO should not be handled alone. You need a personal injury attorney if you are injured in a car accident, whether you are dealing with GEICO or some other insurance company. Insurance companies are not in the business of looking out for injured people’s interests and paying them full value on their claims. To the contrary, insurance companies will do everything they can to pay you less than what you are entitled to receive. GEICO is no different.
Your car accident claim with GEICO should include all of the damages you are entitled to claim. Your damages will likely include both economic and non-economic damages. Economic damages include medical bills and lost wages, as well as any other out of pocket expenses. GEICO will be responsible for paying the full amount of your medical bills, regardless of whether they have been paid my health insurance or through some other source. GEICO, however, may try to challenge the amount of your medical expenses and argue that the amount your doctors charged is not “reasonable and customary.”
For your lost wages, you are entitled to claim your missed time from work. If you had to use sick leave, vacation days, or PTO time, or if you had disability coverage, you can still claim lost wages. The amount of your lost wage claim will be the number of hours or days missed multiplied by your wage rate.
While economic damages are normally capable of a precise measurement, non-economic damages are not. The types of damages include pain and suffering, mental and emotional distress, bodily disfigurement, and diminished capacity to labor. These damages are inherently subjective and depend on a number of factors. These factors include the types of injuries you sustained, the medical treatment you received, how long your injuries and pain lasted, whether you were disabled for a period of time, and your physical and mental condition before the accident.
Car insurance companies are notorious for undervaluing non-economic damages and trying to offer $1,000 or less when the claim may be worth thousands or tens of thousands of dollars more. So how are you supposed to know what your non-economic damages claim is worth when the insurance company is offering pennies on the dollar? The short answer is you likely won’t know because you don’t have the knowledge, training, and experience to make this determination. Only an experienced personal injury attorney can help you make this determination.
You should never settle a personal injury claim before you are done receiving medical treatment. After you are done with treatment, and have hopefully recovered from your injuries, your personal injury claim with GEICO can enter the settlement negotiations phase. This phase normally begins when the injured person sends a settlement demand to the insurance company. After the adjuster evaluates the demand he or she will either pay it or make a counteroffer.
If the settlement negotiations lead to a settlement then GEICO will require you sign a release that releases GEICO and its policyholder from any and all further liability. The language in a release is important. The type of release you sign and the language that should be in the release depends on a number of factors. This is one of the many reasons why you need a personal injury attorney representing you.
If you are dealing with GEICO as your own insurance company then it is important for you to know your GEICO policy may provide benefits for your personal injury claim. You may have uninsured motorist coverage. If you do, then this coverage can be used if the at-fault driver either has no insurance or not enough insurance to pay all of your damages. Your GEICO policy may also have medical payments coverage, which can be used to help pay your medical bills, regardless of who was at fault.
If you find yourself dealing with GEICO or some other car insurance company after an accident, you need a personal injury attorney on your side who can advocate for you. Contact The Champion Firm, P.C., for a free consultation about your accident case.