Experiencing a car accident is scary and overwhelming (Check out the four lessons I learned rolling my SUV) But dealing with car insurance to process an accident claim doesn’t have to be. Knowing what to expect when filing an auto insurance claim will help to make the entire process less unnerving.
First, make sure you are protected with the correct automobile insurance (click here for examples of automobile liability insurance). Although you never know when you will need car insurance, not having it in an accident is the ultimate stressor. And in most states it is required by law to cover insurance on your vehicle.
According to John Eager of the National Association of Independent Insurers, sixty-three cents of every dollar in insurance claims is paid for a car’s physical damage. However, an insurance company requires proof before they will pay on a claim. The information they require can come from verbal accounts by you and the other party in the accident, eye witness testimony, the police report, and the vehicle’s physical damage.
At the scene of an accident
Call 911 if the accident is an emergency and medical attention is needed. If no one in the vehicles needs an ambulance calling 911 is not necessary. However, you still need to call the police to file a police report as this is a major component the insurance company looks at to process a claim.
Exchange information with the other parties involved, including license plate numbers, auto insurance information, and all relevant contact information.
Make sure you stick around for the police report. If the police does not want to file an accident report, insist on at least an incident report so you have an official written record of what happened. According to J. D. Howard of the Insurance Consumer Advocate Network, insurance companies are “obliged” to believe the story of their policyholder. The only way to dispute what another party tells their insurance company about an accident is with written documentation. A police report is your best weapon when it comes to the truth.
Determining which party is at fault for the accident is very important. This is another important reason to have a police report. According to Howard, your insurance company cannot raise your car insurance rates due to an accident that was not your fault. However, regardless of which driver was at fault, both Howard and Eager agree you should file a claim with your own insurance carrier. Each insurance is obligated to protect the interests of its customer, so your insurance company will make your concerns more of a priority than the other driver’s insurance.
Contact your insurance company immediately using the claim number on your insurance card. Follow the telephone prompts to file a claim and a customer service representative will assist you to gather all of the information needed to start the claim process.
The representative handling your claim will schedule a time for an adjuster to come out to evaluate the damage to your car. This is done wherever your car happens to be. If your insurance company has agreements with a certain repair shop, the repair shop can assist with the damage claim, start the repairs, and have a repair check sent to them all in one, smooth step.
When I hit the front end of my car against a guardrail in rainy weather, my adjuster met me the next day in my work parking lot. I never even left the office; I just advised the adjuster of my typical parking spot. The adjuster cruised by and called me later with the amount of funds she believed would cover the damage assessed to my vehicle.
Delivery of funds
Once an evaluation has been made, the adjuster will contact you to let you know how much money you will receive for your repairs, minus any deductible. Some insurance companies will want estimates of the cost of repairs. This is a good idea for your own piece of mind as well so you know when you do receive your insurance check that it will cover the entire cost of the repairs your vehicle needs.
Getting into an accident is no fun, but dealing with your car insurance company doesn’t have to be a hassle. Knowing what to expect when filing a car insurance claim makes the experience after an accident less stressful so you can fix your car and get on with the important things in your life.