Having even a teeny-tiny car accident can be one of life's least enjoyable moments. However, accidents happen, and sooner or later, we all have the experience of meeting one of our fellow road travelers up close and personal. Using the following seven steps to filing your claim will help you get over this speed bump as smoothly as possible.
They aren’t really accidents. They are more of an incident. Usually they are an incident that you would like to forget.
- Understand your policy before a loss, sit down and carefully read your insurance policy. Call your agent or company if you have any questions about what is or is not covered.
- Make sure everyone is okay and check to see if anyone needs medical attention. Even if your injuries are minor, you may still want to have them checked out at a hospital or with your family doctor. Minor injuries can become major, long-lasting injuries.
- Exchange information when you are involved in an accident, get the other driver's name, address, phone number, insurance carrier, and insurer's phone number. Be prepared to give the same information about yourself to the other driver. You can find insurers’ telephone numbers on the proof-of-insurance cards that should be carried on your person when operating a motor vehicle.
- Identify witnesses and ask witnesses to the accident for their names and phone numbers in case their account of the accident is needed.
- File an accident report and contact local law enforcement officers to have an accident report prepared. If law enforcement is not reachable, accident reports and detailed instructions are available at all police departments, sheriff's offices, your local Department of Motor Vehicles office, and on your local
- Notify your insurer by contacting your insurance company about the accident as soon as possible. An insurance adjuster will review the accident report to determine who caused the accident. If the accident was not your fault, you can have either your insurance company or the at-fault driver's insurance company handle the repair or replacement of your vehicle. If you use the other driver's company, you will not have a claim on your automobile policy and you will not have to pay a deductible.
- Do not release insurers too early. Do not relieve your insurance company of its responsibility until the damages are settled to your satisfaction. For example, have your insurance company handle the claim if the other party's insurance company questions its policyholder’s negligence or offers an unacceptable settlement.
- Consider these settlement factors.
- Bodily injuries: You may be entitled to a monetary settlement for injuries caused by another at fault (liable) party. It can take several days for some injuries to become apparent.
- Damages: The insurance company is responsible to pay for the reasonable cost of repairs to your vehicle. An insurance adjuster will assess the damage. Usually, insurance companies and auto body shops negotiate disagreements about what should be repaired. If you disagree with their conclusions, you have the right to obtain another appraisal at any auto body shop.
- Appraisal clause: Most auto insurance policies include an appraisal clause, which can be used to help settle disputes about physical damage claims between you and your insurance company. (The appraisal clause does not apply for claims you file with the other party's insurance company.) If you cannot reach an agreement with your company, you or your insurer can initiate the appraisal clause. Your appraiser and your insurer's appraiser then select an independent umpire to try to resolve the dispute. Check your policy or ask your agent or insurance company for more information about the appraisal clause.