There are eight steps you need to follow in order to fill out an accident claim for your car. While the process can be daunting, it can go rather fast once you get the ball rolling.
Step One: Always call the police (in some cases an E.A.R.P. — Emergency Accident Reporting Plan — may be in effect. When these are in effect and no injuries are sustained, you will need to follow the reporting rules of an accident within 24 hours of it happening to your local police station for an accident report) to get an accident report. Your insurance company will require it. It’s for both drivers and passengers safety in the event something beyond the damage to your cars happens.
Step Two: Exchange Information. There are three things you should always exchange: license plate numbers, car insurance information, and driver’s license information. All insurance claim forms will require at least the insurance and plate information. Some may require the DL number. Also, get a home phone number of the driver involved in the accident.
Step Three: Witness Information. While you can get the information from witnesses yourself, when the police are needed at the scene of an accident they often will do that and that information can be found in the police report.
NOTE: Police may not want to come to fill out any report that happens in a parking lot due to jurisdictions, but insist on an incident report for an accident so you can send it in with your claim.
TIP: If your car is stolen from a parking lot, be sure to call it in as stolen because any damage done to your car while it is in the criminal’s hands can be sent into your insurance company.
Step Four: Contact your Insurance Promptly. Depending on your insurance company and the time of day, you may get prompter service if they have 24- hour claim adjusters. Your insurance card should have their toll-free number located somewhere on the card. The number is usually on the back with the instructions on how to file. You can also find out what other information you may need to fill out the claim form and send it in.
NOTE: In cases of incidents happening in a parking lot, the business you are visiting often won’t help you with information or as a part of paying for damages. The same goes for the owner of the lot and buildings. They often have no-pay clauses written into their policies for accidents and incidents in the parking lot.
Step Five: Other Person at Fault. You should let the other driver know you will be contacting their insurance company to pay for anything your insurance doesn’t cover. You can also file a claim with both carriers when the other person is at fault.
TIP: Itemize all the expenses that occurred during (towing costs and/or cab fare home) and after (any doctor expenses and repairs to the car) to send into both companies.
Step Six: Insurance Company Calls. Depending on whether you filled with one or both insurance companies, you will get a call from yours for them to ask for your version over the phone even though they have the police report and other information you have sent in. It’s just part of the process to get the most information while processing your claim. So, don’t panic.
Step Seven: The Adjuster. Even though I mentioned the adjuster in an earlier step, One will normally be sent out for physical information such as photos and his portion of filling out a part of a report that is needed from him for the claim.
NOTE: The adjuster does the estimate on the repairs needed. In a case where your vehicle is totaled an estimate of the actual cash value will come through him. For repairs, most insurance companies require you to use one of their shops for repairs.
Step Eight: Dealing with Disputes. If you feel you are being low-balled, you can ask your insurance company to form an arbitration to resolve the dispute. This may take two weeks up to a month and a half to get settled. However, you may not be offered the arbitration and other recourse may be needed.