By Sean Deavila
Accidents are an unfortunate part of our business, but even in the best of times, dealing with the process and worrying about being fully compensated can be a headache. Luxury ground transportation is generally a 24/7 industry, so having a vehicle out of commission only adds to the frustration. Will you take a financial hit, even if the accident wasn’t the fault of your chauffeur?
You’re not alone with these concerns. Many fleet owners aren’t aware of the potential financial reimbursements they could be receiving and end up “taking a hit” in more ways than one. It is vital to have a good relationship with your insurance provider or broker; a strategic partner will help to keep your company, fleet, and employees safe. However, it is also important to remember that they are a business that balances maximizing profits and minimizing payouts, and you have the right to protect your assets.
In a recent article, the National Association of Insurance Commissioners (NAIC) shared the following statistics:
Top Complaints About Insurance Claims
26% Delays waiting to establish a claim
14% Denial of a claim
14% Unsatisfactory claim settlement
More than half of all complaints logged to the NAIC stem from claims where the settlement offer was not quick, fair, or satisfactory. These numbers demonstrate why it’s so important to understand the common misconceptions and hidden truths that could prevent fair compensation for your organization.
1. Spare Vehicles Do NOT Negate Revenue Loss
Operators often assume that if they had spare vehicles while their vehicle was out of service, then they are not entitled to loss of revenue or use. Untrue. Regardless of whether your fleet size is five or 500, you are entitled to access every vehicle you own to run your business, and insurance, registrations, permits, and other obligations all cost money. When your vehicle is out of service, you are likely losing revenue and are entitled to recovery for the downtime of that vehicle.
2. You Can “Shop” Around
Insurers often promote their in-network body shops or preferred suppliers as your only option, which doesn’t take into account your potential concerns about issues such as quality and repair time. However, you can almost always go to your shop of choice without negative consequences.
3. Auto Insurance Only Covers Physical Damage
Often left unsaid is what the auto insurance policy actually covers. While this is highly dependent on policy limits, state regulations, etc., when a third party causes an accident, you are entitled to be reimbursed for loss of revenue or loss of use as well as diminution of value of the vehicle under the responsible party’s liability insurance. Sometimes other items, such as damaged equipment, towing, signage, and sanitation fees, could be recovered as well.
4. You Don’t Have to Accept the First Offer
You might hear that if you reject the offer, you could get nothing at all. That’s not accurate. You are not obligated to accept a first, second, or any subsequent offer. If you don’t believe you are receiving a fair and full settlement offer, you are entitled to contest it in effort to receive rightful compensation. You may engage a damage recovery firm or counsel to ensure you are fairly reimbursed without consequence.
It’s important to be aware that insurance adjusters are well trained and very good at their job, which involves getting you to accept a settlement quickly and at the lowest valuation. They may cite policy limits, statute of limitations, tort law, etc. However, like any business transaction, you needn’t feel pressured to accept any offer without fair time to thoroughly review and understand what is being presented. If you have questions, ask them. If you need expert advice, seek it. “This is our best offer” should always be viewed with a bit of skepticism. Remember, this is a negotiation. If the facts are in your favor, feel confident standing your ground to receive a full and fair settlement offer.
5. The Police Report Is Not the Only Official Story
There can be many contributing documents that support a disposition of fault. These may include witness statements, pictures of the scene, video, and body shop estimates, to name a few. Work to document everything you can when you’re involved in an accident. Unfortunately, business owners often think that what is shared with police and the insurance carrier cannot be updated. Know that you can always update or amend your statements to reflect your accurate recollections. Accidents are a stressful event; oftentimes, once you have calmed down and reflect back, you will recall additional facts and timelines. This is perfectly acceptable.
Insurance companies may push you to act quickly to close a claim after settling, so be sure to review all documentation you are requested to sign. Equally important: Do not sign a release until you are comfortable that you have been reimbursed fully. If you are unsure, consult with a damage recovery expert before signing anything.
Keep in mind, 25 percent of fleet accidents are caused by the negligence of a third party; you must make it a standard operating process to not “take a hit” when these occur. You have the right to be compensated for all damages and losses incurred to your business and your assets. Therefore, it is imperative to equip yourself with the knowledge, tools, and/or expertise of a damage recovery expert looking out for your best interests. [CD0820]
Sean DeAvila is Chief Revenue Officer for Alternative Claims Management. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.