After an accident, you file a claim with the insurance company. Very soon thereafter, someone from the insurance company will contact you to ask about details of the accident. This person is usually called an insurance adjuster. They investigate the claims by gathering information, evidence, statements, records and documents.
But that does not mean they evaluate your case fairly. They will come up with the flimsy arguments on why your case isn't worth as much as it should be.
There is a progression to these interviews. The first interview will usually be brief, with just a few questions. Who was involved, what cars were involved, if the police were called, whether anyone was injured and/or transported to a hospital.
Each interview after that will be more in depth. They'll ask which way the cars were moving, who was driving, who was at fault. They'll build on previous interviews and ask you to clarify things you said before. They will ask for:
If you are going to settle your case on your own, it will be helpful to have all of these things (and any other documents) to help the adjuster evaluate the case. There is no guarantee the adjuster will evaluate it fairly and justly, but this is what you do to help them along.
Damages is just a legal term for how much harm was caused, and therefore how much money is owed to you. There are two separate evaluations here. Damage to all of your property, and damage to you (injuries, physical and mental).
The big one here is damage to your car. You have the right to have your car be put in the exact condition it was pre-accident. The insurance adjuster may ask you to take it to your shop, or send one of their adjusters out. But you have a right to take it to any shop you like. If the estimates are far apart, that will have to be resolved somehow. If you like one specific shop, but another shop is willing to do the repairs for less, you may end up owing the difference.
Also, the initial estimate might be incomplete. Once parts are taken off and the repairs begin, hidden damage may be found and therefore additional payments called supplemental payments may be issued.
If you or anyone in your car are injured because of the accident, sometimes a different adjuster will handle this portion of the claim. The process is somewhat similar. Find out how much damage/injury was caused to you, and how much it will cost to compensate you for these injuries.
Much simpler said than done. There are medical bills, lost wages, less earning capacity, pain, suffering, inconvenience, mental distress, fear.
But that is a topic for another article. Or book. Or career.
Just know at this point, the evaluation of your personal injuries, is where you get the biggest fight. Sometimes there is just some ratcheting back and forth. Sometimes you get an epic, years long fight in court which exhausts everyone involved.
Because car damage is car damage. There can still be epic fights there, but usually these claims are resolved more quickly. But when it comes to injuries, insurance companies fight. They can argue the treatment was too much, and too expensive. They'll argue the pain, suffering and inconvenience was much less than you say it was. The mental distress, well that is so easy to fake!
So that is basically how an insurance claims adjuster evaluates car accidents. This is just a simplified summary and the process is much more sophisticated.