If you don’t know how to file a car insurance claim then the process can seem nearly overwhelming, especially if you do not prepare to follow the proper procedures. Every car insurance company is a little bit different, however the basics are fairly standardized whether you have a personal agent or are working with an online insurance company.
While there are potentially a number of steps that you will need to follow, they can all be broken down into three basic phases – what to do at the scene, filing the actual claim, and getting the repairs take care of.
At the Scene
As soon as you get into an accident, time is of the essence. The first step is calling the police. If there are no apparent injuries, then do not call 911, but rather the direct non-emergency line. Immediately after you contact the police and let them know about the situation, you should get in touch with your insurance company. It doesn’t matter if you are dealing with a local agent or need to contact a hot-line, you should let them know what the situation is.
Even if you believe were are at fault for the accident, it is not recommended that you express this. Let the facts, witnesses, and authorities determine responsibility for the collision. The last thing you want is to be given fault for an accident because you accepted responsibility before all the facts were known. At-fault accidents can significantly increase your insurance rates.
Gather The Necessary Information
Once everyone has been contacted, you should begin collecting information. In most states, the police will provide you with the information of the person who you were in an accident with, although there is no harm in collecting it before the police arrive. You should also immediately write down the basic scenario in which the accident occurred. This will ensure that your story remains constant through the entire process.
Another thing to keep in mind is that in many jurisdictions, police officers will try to avoid taking an accident report if the damage appears to be under $500. Regardless, you need to insist on an accident report. If they refuse, then you should at least be able to get an incident report. This is incredibly important because it gives you a record created by a an independent third-party.
Filing The Actual Claim
In general, you will want to file the claim as quickly as possible. The first step is to contact your insurance company. Some people believe that if the accident was not their fault then they should file the claim with the other persons insurance company. While there is some merit to this, the problem is that the other persons insurance company is not looking out for your best interest, whereas your insurance company is.
Once you’ve filed your claim, your next step is likely to be talking with the claims adjuster. In some cases, this step may not occur if your insurance company has repair shops that they work with directly. If this is the case, then you can simply drop off your car and your insurance company will pay the repair shop directly, assuming that your car is not considered a “total loss”.
If the accident was not your fault then there’s a good chance that the other driver’s insurance company will contact you directly. In general, they will ask you for details about the accident and may want a recorded statement by phone. Make sure that you refer back to the details you wrote down at the scene in order to ensure that your statement does not change because the other insurance company will likely be recording it and looking for any inconsistencies.
If you are injured and not at fault in the collision, it is advisable to consult with an experienced personal injury attorney regarding your claim.
Getting The Repairs
Once your claim is filed, the next step is actually getting the repairs taking care of. If you are using the insurance companies network of auto repair shops, then you simply need to drop it off. The insurance company will then pay the repair shop directly and should take care of rental car expenses depending on the facts of the accident and your coverage. If you are using your own repair shop then you will likely have to pay the initial bill and then submit the expense report in order to get reimbursed.
If for some reason, you do not get fully reimbursed then you can choose to take additional dispute resolution actions. If you are dealing solely with your own insurance company, then they likely have a dispute resolution process in place. If you are dealing with the other drivers insurance company, then you may need to take additional legal action.