2008 Insurance Guide
insurance
20 things to know about auto insurance

19. Press for what you need. Adjusters are human. "And like referees, they might make a bad call once in a while," says Hungelmann.

It's more effective to keep your temper in check and work your way up the food chain. If a claim is denied or if you think the amount the company offered is not enough, get the adjuster to put the reasons in writing. Compare the explanation the company gives with what's written in your policy.

Your smartest move is to have your agent intercede on your behalf.

"Normally, if the agent goes to bat for the customer, they can get it resolved," says Hungelmann.

You can also talk to the manager of the claims department and ask to have the matter reviewed, or even file a complaint with the state insurance department.

If the claim question involves property value, you might consider using your policy's appraisal clause, says Hungelmann. You and the insurance company each hire one person to work out an agreement. (For instance, a consumer disputing the value of a totaled car could hire someone familiar with car values, like a local dealer.)

If the two appointed representatives can't reach an agreement, together they select one neutral third party (called an "umpire") to make the decision.

"I've used the appeals clause a handful of times myself in this business," says Hungelmann. "It's pretty helpful."

You can also take a shortcut with the appeals clause. You and the company agree on an umpire, who will make the call alone. "It saves you a bunch of money and a lot of time," says Hungelmann.

20. If you switch, notify your old company. Tell your old company in writing that you've obtained new insurance and are canceling your old auto policy. (Check the fine print beforehand to be sure that the new policy picks up immediately without any gap.)

If your old company goofs and reports to the state that you are driving without insurance, some states begin steps to suspend your driver's license. If you get a warning letter from the state, address the situation immediately. Otherwise, your next routine traffic stop could be anything but routine.

Dana Dratch is a freelance writer in Roswell, Ga.

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