Written by Elise Brittan, www.car-insurance.org
The first question that pops into your mind after a car accident is “Is everyone alright?” If the answer is yes then the second question will probably be “Now what do I do?” That’s when it’s time to make an auto insurance claim. With over 220 million cars traveling U.S. roadways the chances that you’re going to bump into one of them – or the chance that one of them is going to bump into you – are pretty high. Fortunately, most car accidents are minor and don’t involve personal injury, but even in a fender-bender the physical damage to your vehicle can be costly. In fact, according to the National Association of Independent Insurers, 63 cents of every dollar paid out in claims is used to repair auto damage.
Everyone knows they should exchange contact and insurance information when there’s an auto accident, but not everyone thinks to get the names and contact information of those who witnessed the incident. If the accident is minor or there are no injuries, you may also think it’s not necessary to call the police. But eye witnesses and police reports can make all the difference in an auto claim. Failing to document proof of the incident could be the second bad accident of your day.
Call Your Agent
No matter who’s at fault, contact your agent and apprise her of the situation; if possible, call before you leave the site of the accident. Look for the number on your insurance card. Not only will she advise you on what to do next, but her expertise will help calm you down after the unnerving experience of being in an accident. A good agent will walk you through each step that’s necessary to get your car fixed and medical bills paid. If the other party is responsible for the incident, call their insurance company too. Speaking with an agent officially starts the process of “filing a claim.” From this point forward, keep all receipts and documents that relate to expenses you incur due to the accident.
Meet with the Adjuster
Depending on who was at fault, an adjuster from your insurance company or the other party’s company will come out to take a look at your car and estimate the amount of damage that was done. He may also speak with witnesses, review the police report and perform other investigatory tasks. At this time any medical bills or other costs related to the accident will also be reviewed and the adjuster will offer you a payout. If you feel the estimate is low, you’ll have an opportunity to dispute it. Resolving a dispute can take several weeks to several months, depending on the laws in your state and how complicated your case is.