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D. Gilson is a writer and author of essays, poetry, and scholarship that explore the relationship between popular culture, literature, sexuality, and memoir. His latest book is Jesus Freak, with Will Stockton, part of Bloomsbury’s 33 1/3 Series. His other books include I Will Say This Exactly One Time and Crush. His first chapbook...

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Jeffrey Johnson is a legal writer with a focus on personal injury. He has worked on personal injury and sovereign immunity litigation in addition to experience in family, estate, and criminal law. He earned a J.D. from the University of Baltimore...

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UPDATED: Oct 23, 2019

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Imagine you’ve just crashed your car into a tree. It was practically brand new, only a month old, and now it’s a crumpled pile of metal. Your neck hurts, and the expensive stereo system you installed is now ruined. You’re not sure how to begin the claims process for the damages and medical treatments associated with the accident, but you trust that your insurer will help get you through it.

Filing a Claim with a Bad Policy

After the dust settles and your insurer begins assessing the claim, you’re told that your car’s market value will be determined by comparing similar models and sale prices of vehicles up to one year old, not just “brand new” one-month old vehicles. In addition to not being properly reimbursed for the true value of your vehicle, your insurance company is going to ignore your vehicle modifications, flat-out refusing to pay for them. And to top it off, your insurer tells you that their medical review department believes you should be recovered in two weeks, and they’ll be denying payment for further treatment beyond that, even though your neck is still sore.

What gives? This sounds like a nightmare scenario, but if you buy a sub-par insurance policy, you might find yourself in difficult territory in the event of an accident. Some insurers write their policies in a way that gives them all the power in determining what your vehicle is worth, what will and won’t be covered (like your custom car modifications), and how much medical treatment you’ll receive and from which doctors. Even worse, a difficult insurance policy might limit you to suing your insurer in court if you don’t like how they’re handling the claim.

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Filing a Claim with a Good Policy

A good insurance policy will make it easy for you to get the service, reimbursement, and treatment you need to get back to where you were before the accident, without having to fight for everything. Consumer-friendly policies offer options for independent mediation if you don’t agree with the handling of a claim. Additionally, a good insurer will hire an independent expert to assess your car’s value based on truly comparable vehicles in the local market, rather than relying on its own private expert who only follows the company’s guidelines.

Bad policies also mask their shortcomings behind complicated clauses and exclusions, assuming that most consumers won’t take a closer look at their terms. This guide will provide the info and tools you need to tell the difference between a good, consumer-friendly policy, and a difficult one that will leave you in the dust.

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