How to Dispute a Car Insurance Claim

Disputing a car insurance claim requires you to get a second opinion on the price to repair your vehicle. You should be patient and resist cashing any checks that you plan on disputing.

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Zaneta Wood, Ed.S. has over 15 years of experience in research and technical writing bringing a keen understanding of data analysis and information synthesis to reach a wide variety of audiences. She studied adult education and instructional technology at Appalachian State University as well as technical and professional communication at East Carolina University. Zaneta has prepared technical p...

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Joel Ohman is the CEO of a private equity backed digital media company. He is a CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER™, author, angel investor, and serial entrepreneur who loves creating new things, whether books or businesses. He has also previously served as the founder and resident CFP® of a national insurance agency, Real Time Health Quotes. He has an MBA from the University of South Florida. Jo...

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Reviewed by Joel Ohman
Founder & CFP®

UPDATED: Jan 24, 2021

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Here's what you need to know...

  • Contact a lawyer or mediator and have them negotiate on your behalf
  • The adjuster is going to look at your vehicle, compare the damage to a preset criteria, and then offer you the lowest amount they can to get your repairs done
  • If you are disputing a claim, you need to be patient
  • You can negotiate your accident claim if needed

When you have an accident, and you don’t agree with your insurance claim then you have the option to negotiate with the insurance company for a better payout. You can do this yourself, or you can contact a lawyer or mediator and have them negotiate on your behalf.

If you have a reasonable and provable claim, then there is a very strong possibility that the insurance company will pay you the claim that you are asking.

If however, they don’t believe that you have a valid claim, then they will not change their offer, and you may end up having to go to court.

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How does an adjuster determine what my car insurance claim should be?

The first thing that you will need to understand is that anyone can train to become an adjuster. These aren’t men and women who are trained mechanics or body shop workers; they work off a set of criteria determined by the insurance company to determine the value of your vehicle.

In many cases, they will start with the total market value of your vehicle. They will use sources such as Kelly Blue Book to determine the overall value of your vehicle. Then they will use the insurance company criteria to determine what equates to a totaled vehicle and what equates to specific damage.

Many times the insurance company will ask you to use a specific mechanic to get the repairs done on your vehicle. That is because the claim quote they give you is based on the cost from that specific mechanic.

You are free to use whomever you want, and if they cost less than your claim total, then you can pocket the money. If they cost more, then the money comes out of your pocket.

The adjuster is going to look at your vehicle, compare the damage to preset criteria, and then offer you the lowest amount they can to get your repairs done. Typically, they will speak to a mechanic as well. If your vehicle is determined to be totaled, they will offer you the lowest value possible for your vehicle.

The bottom line is that the insurance company is in the business of making money.

They will pay your claim, and they can even be reasonable, but sometimes you have to speak up to ensure that you get the money that you deserve.

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What happens if you disagree with the car insurance adjuster?

What you need to do is get a second opinion for your vehicle. If you take your vehicle to a mechanic recommended by the insurance company, they may not be willing to offer you a different opinion than the adjuster’s because they don’t want to lose the business the insurance company provides.

In this case, you will want to go to a new mechanic.

Now, it is important to note that you may end up paying money out of pocket to get your car looked at by someone else.

Some mechanics will offer their services for free, but if they know you are getting an opinion from the insurance company and there is a possibility that you aren’t going to use them for the repairs, then they may charge you for their time.

If you have any paperwork stating the value of your vehicle before the accident, you are going to want to provide that as well.

For example, if your car is a registered classic vehicle, then its value will be higher than the standard retail value.

You will also want to provide all evidence of improvements and upkeep for the vehicle. A 2010 Dodge Caravan in pristine condition has a higher dollar value than a 2010 Dodge Caravan that has never had an oil change, for example.

The insurance company wrote me a check — should I cash it if I am disputing the amount?

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It can be tempting to cash a check to help cover some of your costs while you are waiting for a resolution to your case, but you shouldn’t do this!

In most states, when you cash the check from the insurance company, you are stating that you accept the claim amount. While you can still take your case to court, it is much harder to win once you have accepted the money from the insurance company!

If you are disputing a claim, you need to be patient. It may be a while before you get this thing resolved and in the end, you might need the help of a lawyer as well.

The key is knowing what your car is worth and getting quotes to ensure that the cost of the repairs or replacement isn’t being underestimated.

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