Sometimes accidents are unavoidable, even for the safest drivers. That’s why it is important to understand the process of filing an auto insurance claim following an accident and the necessary documentation that will be required. The process of filing a claim means that you will be asking the insurance company to compensate you for damages that have been sustained after an accident, or intervene on your behalf if you are liable for damages.
If you understand the important steps you should take both before and after an accident, you’ll set the foundation for a smooth claims process. Let these questions be your guide:
When should I file a claim?
1. Your car is damaged and / or you are injured.
If it’s the other driver’s fault: File a claim with the other driver’s insurance company under his or hers driver’s liability policy.
If it’s your fault: File a claim with your insurance company.
If the fault is shared or not clear: File a claim with both insurance companies. Once fault is determined, you’ll get coverage under one or both policies.
Damage not due to a collision: If your car is stolen, vandalized or damaged by weather, file a claim with your insurance company.
The other driver is not insured: Your insurance company will cover the costs if you have uninsured / underinsured motorist coverage.
2. There are minor damages to your vehicle and no injuries have occurred.
If it’s the other driver’s fault: When your losses are covered by the other driver’s liability policy, you don’t pay a deductible. So even if damage is minor, file a claim under that driver’s liability insurance.
If it’s your fault: If you can live with the minor damage, or if the cost of fixing it will be less than your deductible, consider choosing to forgo filing a claim. The small reimbursement after your deductible may amount to less than possible insurance rate increases in the future.
What information will I need?
When you contact your insurance company to file a claim, make sure to provide the following:
- Your full name and policy number
- The start and end date of your policy
- The date and time the accident occurred
- Names, addresses, and phone numbers of all drivers, passengers and witnesses
- Drivers license and license plate numbers for all drivers
Your insurance company may require you to complete further statement / documentation detailing the events of the accident including weather conditions, time of day, etc. Be sure to also note any personal injury that occurred and take photos when possible.
What steps should I take to file a claim?
Knowing the best steps to take following an auto accident will not only ensure a smooth process, but it may also help you get better value for your insurance dollars. Here are the steps you should take when filing an auto insurance claim:
- Call your insurance agent. Make this call as soon as possible following the incident, even if you are out of town and / or someone else caused the accident. Provide all of the information listed above.
- Cooperate with your insurance company. Your insurance company is working on your behalf and it is important to cooperate in the event of an investigation, settlement or defense of any claim. Additionally, be sure to share any legal papers you receive in connection with your loss.
- Hire an auto body shop that provides guarantees and specific timelines. Most insurance policies have limits and deductibles, so it’s best to learn settlement amounts before you sign off on repair costs to avoid unexpected out of pocket expenses. If you don’t know where to take your vehicle to be fixed, your insurance company will provide you with a list of repair shops that are vetted and backed by repair and labor guarantees.
- Keep all records of your expenses. It is important to keep very close track and record of all expenses that have been incurred as a result of the incident. Expenses you incur may be reimbursed under your policy – which includes not only damage to your vehicle, but also medical expenses, lost wages, etc.
- Keep copies of your paperwork. Store all copies of important paperwork, as you may need to provide copies or refer to it later.
If I’m not at fault, will the other driver’s insurance cover my expenses if I am injured?
In most cases, the other driver’s bodily injury liability coverage will cover medical expenses. However, in “no-fault” states, you may be responsible for covering medical expenses through your personal injury protection (PIP) coverage. Uninsured / underinsured motorist coverage will help pay for injuries sustained in an accident with a driver who has no or too little insurance to cover your costs.
When you are injured in a vehicle accident, take these steps to aid your personal injury claim process:
- Take photos of the scene and your injuries
- File a police report and get a copy
- Visit the doctor immediately
- Document everything about your injury including any work time or activities that were missed because of the injury
- Consider hiring an attorney
How do I handle a property damage claim?
If your vehicle has been damaged as a result of an accident or other incident, follow these steps:
- Report the damage to your insurance company immediately. This can oftentimes be done online, by calling your agent during business hours or by calling the company’s claims division
- If another driver was involved, exchange insurance information
- Cooperate with your insurance company when they request information, documentation, and vehicle inspection. If you refuse to cooperate, your claim may be denied
- Prevent the vehicle from sustaining further damage
- Save all receipts and documentation so that you can provide the necessary information to your insurance company
Experiencing a vehicle accident can be a very emotional and stressful situation. You want to align yourself with an insurance company that will not only be compassionate, but will also help you get your life back on track. They are there to represent you and deliver on the promise in the contract to cover your damages. Working closely with your insurance consultant immediately following an incident through to final resolution, will lay the groundwork for a seamless claims process.