For most people, conversations with auto insurance companies surround monthly premiums, quotes, and coverage. Only after a collision do these conversations become more substantive. Suddenly, the chats about price comparisons and quotes feel like poor preparation for negotiating an accident settlement. Without much experience handling such conversations, though, many people give over to the insurance company, trusting them to have their best interests in mind.

While it would be nice to trust the companies that insure our cars, the primary goal of these corporations is to earn profits for their shareholders. In many cases, the successful payout of a car accident claim is seen as a loss for the company. Claims adjusters will do all they can to minimize the payments they’re willing to make after a wreck.

So how should you deal with the insurance company after you’ve been involved in a wreck? Follow these steps to make sure you’re getting the car accident settlement you deserve.

Talk to Both Insurance Companies

After you’ve collected the insurance information from the other driver involved in your crash, you may feel tempted to only alert their insurance company about the incident. After all, looping in your own insurer may result in increased monthly premiums. While it’s indeed a possibility, the risk of keeping your insurance company in the dark isn’t worth the potential savings on your monthly payment.

By informing both companies of your crash, you get everyone on the same page about your damages. Whether or not you’re at fault, it’s a good idea to tell your insurance company about the incident. Even if the accident isn’t your fault, you’ll need to keep your insurer in the loop in order to use much of the coverage for which you pay.

Need a tow from the scene of the accident? You’ll need to call your insurance company. Is the other driver’s insurance company slow to handle your claim? Collision insurance coverage is likely offered by your insurer. Medical expense insurance coverage, or med pay, may also be an option – but none of these are available unless you alert your insurance company to the incident.

Watch What You Say

To report a claim, you may be asked to give a recorded statement about the accident. As you do so, be extremely careful in your phrasing. Insurance companies look for any reason to deny a claim, and they’ll be parsing your words to look for a chance to minimize your settlement. If fault can be disputed, you may want to hire an experienced personal injury attorney to represent you in these conversations with the insurance company.

Regardless of who is to blame for an accident, being open and honest about your accident is always a good idea. With that said, if you sustained serious injuries and are concerned about the settlement you’ll receive, an attorney can ensure you’re not inadvertently sabotaging your own claim. Since many accident lawyers work on contingency, initial consultations are free. It’s worth having a conversation with a professional about what to say – and what not to say – to the insurance company.

Collect Evidence

At the scene of a car accident, it can be hard to think clearly. Your body may be in shock, and your mind may be racing a million miles a minute. While it may be difficult to even remember to exchange insurance information with the other driver in such a moment, try to compartmentalize and focus on collecting as much evidence as possible. Snap photos of the damage to your vehicle, the traffic signs nearby, and of any injuries you might have sustained. If witnesses saw the collision occur, ask them to go on the record about what they saw and shoot a quick video of their account.

In the days and weeks following the crash, this mission to collect evidence shouldn’t stop. Seek out copies of the accident report from the police and gather records of any doctors appointments you had to address your injuries. Share these with the insurance company to bolster your claim. Even personal records like diary entries can prove valuable when calculating the worth of your settlement.

Advocate for Yourself

The insurance company is not your ally, so you’ll need to step up to the plate and advocate for yourself whenever possible. You may find the insurance company dragging their feet when it comes to paying you what you deserve. Remember that the squeaky wheel gets the grease, and following up on the progress of your claim every few days will likely net you results faster than patiently waiting.

If you feel you’re not being heard by the insurance company or are frustrated with their lowball offers, it may be time to hire a lawyer. Experienced negotiators, attorneys can play hardball with adjusters who are eager to close up your claim. Knowing you have someone representing your best interests can be a real relief, especially when you have injuries to recuperate from and don’t want to spend the time handling your own claim.

No matter which tact you take with the insurance company, knowledge is power. By arming yourself with facts about how much your claim is worth, you’ll be better situated to negotiate your settlement and stand your ground. Not sure where to begin your research? Lawsuit Info Center is a treasure trove of information. Use our car accident settlement calculator for an idea of how much your claim could be worth.