How to file a car insurance claim?
Car accidents are more common than most people think and when a car accident happens its easy to feel overwhelmed with feelings of confusion. Hopefully nobody is injured so you can try and focus on simply filing a claim for vehicle damage however if anybody is injured you need to call 911 right away. Filing a car insurance claim has many elements – all of which are very important in helping the claims process move ahead quickly. For most minor accidents (without bodily injury) you should remember these tips.
Understand your coverage before you drive
One of the most common questions in a car accident is “Am I covered?” It’s a very odd question when you think about. Every month you write a big check to a car insurance company and the first thing many drivers still wonder about is if they are covered. Today is a good day to sit down and read your car insurance policy. Most policies are written in simple English and bigger words like comprehensive, GAP insurance or bodily injury are easily defined in most policies. Taking a few moments to read your policy before a car accident happens will help ease your mind about what coverage you have and also provide a chance for you to discuss any missing coverage with your car insurance company.
What kind of Coverage should I look for?
Most drivers have liability, comprehensive and collision coverage. If you’re not familiar with what these types of insurance cover then read our starters guide to car insurance here and double check with your car insurance company about your policy options.
When an Accident Happens
In the event a car accident occurs you want to collect as much information as you can before filing a claim. So many details can be forgotten or “changed” once you leave the scene of an accident its important to take notes – especially if the accident was not your fault. Never trust another driver to tell the truth a couple days later.
Always get a Copy of Insurance ID cards
No matter how many cars are part of the accident always get a copy or write down as much information as you can from the other parties involved. State law requires all drivers to carry proof of coverage so if a driver is unwilling to show their insurance ID card always call the police at the scene of the accident right away.
Take Notes of the Accident and Damage
It’s very common for people to change their stories or have “additional damage” after leaving the scene of an accident to try and get more money from an insurance company. Write down exactly what visible damage you see and how the accident happened. Pay particular attention to:
- Location of the Accident
- Any Street Signs
- Direction of Travel (for all cars including yours)
- Number of Passengers and description of each one (in all vehicles)
- Any visible Damage
- Where the car(s) were struck
- Any witnesses
You almost need to act as your own private investigator and write down as much as you can. Calling the police is mandatory in most states. Even in minor accidents where only a couple hundred dollars in damage is visible calling police to the scene is a very wise move especially if the accident was not your fault. A well document police report can go a long way if the person clearly at-fault decides to change their story when they get home.
Call your Car Insurance Company right away!
Many car insurance companies have adjusters ready to arrive at the scene within minutes so call your car insurance company as soon as possible.
How to get the most out of a car insurance claim?
Fudging damage or trying to claim items which are obviously unreasonable will not only result in a slower claims handling process but also is an attempt at insurance fraud. Never file a false insurance claim. What you want to do however is maximize your claim and this means understanding what options / coverage you have. Ask questions like:
- Miss a couple days work? Ask about loss of income reimbursement
- Need a rental car? Ask about rental car reimbursement
- Want original parts? Don’t settle for re-furbished parts. Make sure you get original parts installed if your car insurance policy allows for it. Many policies allow you to even choose the auto repair shop.
While most drivers simply take the insurance company assessment of damage its very possible to dispute the value of your claim check and ask for more. While the use of a lawyer is the last resort sometimes hiring an independent adjuster can have many benefits.
Where do you file a claim?
This depends on your car insurance company. It’s a wise idea to always have your insurers phone number programmed in your mobile phone so you can file a claim quickly. Many car insurance companies offer online claims submission but calling a toll free number is the most common way.
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