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Not all car insurance is the same, especially when it comes to settling claims. Having a car insurance company that offers a great premium does you no good if they’re not there when you need them, meaning that they do not handle claims well or are reluctant to pay. While ratings are generally subjective and it’s hard to say for sure which car insurance company is the best, there are some generally accepted ways to find the best.
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It would seem that customer satisfaction surveys would probably be the best way to determine whether a given insurance company handles claims well. An article in Fox Business rated USAA as the top insurance company based on customer reviews, but claims only makes up one fifth of that score. Of course, with 98% of customers saying that they would renew with USAA, it’s probably a safe bet that they’re handling claims well.
Some companies that are included in the top five based on customer review are Auto Owner’s Insurance, The Hartford, State Farm, and 21st Century. All have more than 90% of customers claiming that they will renew.
Auto Insurance Claim Processing
Auto insurance claims are handled by insurance claims adjusters who assess the damage caused by an auto accident. This allows the insurance company to reimburse you fairly, meaning that you don’t gain or lose money because of the accident. The idea of no financial change as a result of an accident is called indemnification, and this is one o the main ideas behind all different kinds of insurance, including auto insurance. You might find yourself dealing with claims adjusters from your own insurance company or someone else’s, depending on who is at fault for the accident.
The claims adjuster usually works well with auto body repair shops in the area and can give you a recommendation on where to get your car fixed. According to an article on WiseGeek.com, some insurance companies may require you to see specific mechanics and others will not. The adjuster will inspect the vehicle and determine the repair cost.
If you have full coverage, you might have to pay the deductible to the body shop that does the repairs and the insurance will cover the rest. If the cost of repairs exceeds the value of the car, the car will be considered to be totaled and you will get a cash settlement for the value of the car.
Other types of coverage will only pay for the damage to the car if their particular situations apply. For instance, uninsured motorist coverage will pay for damage to your car if another driver is at fault and they don’t have insurance.
When You Have an Accident
If you are in an accident, the California DMV recommends that you should immediately move your vehicle off the street as long as nobody has been seriously injured or killed. The next thing you should do when you have an accident is call the police.
Police can get you emergency medical attention if you need it and help to keep you safe until your vehicle can be towed or safely driven away from the scene. Another reason to call the police is that most states require you to by law. Police also can provide you with an accident report, which will help your insurance company to process a claim.
After the police, your next call should be to your insurance agent. Your insurance agent will be able to get the claims process started and, if you have coverage for a rental car or towing, help you to get things back in order after an accident. If the police or the insurance agent does not help you, your next calls should be to a towing company to take the car and someone to give you a ride, assuming your vehicle cannot be driven.
How Long Does it Take to Process and Auto Insurance Claim
How long it takes to settle an auto insurance claim depends first upon whether or not there is a personal injury claim involved. If someone is seeking damages for an injury caused by an accident, they will often wait until their treatment is well underway before even filing a claim.
The insurance company and their lawyers then scrutinize that claim for a long time. The claim could even result in a court case. The result is that auto insurance claims with injuries could take several months or even years to resolve.
The process of getting damages to your vehicle fixed through an auto insurance claim can take as little as a week or as much as several months, but the average seems to be about two weeks. The claims take longer when your claim is against another driver’s insurance and they need time to verify or disprove whether or not their driver was at fault and try to negotiate the cheapest possible repairs.
Claims tend to be resolved more quickly if you are dealing with your own insurance company, since they have a vested interest in keeping you happy.
How You Can Make Auto Insurance Claims Process Go More Smoothly
The state of Maine lists on their website a few tips for making your insurance claim go more smoothly. One suggestion is to read your policy so that you fully understand what is covered and what is not. The site also recommends making a note of every contact you have involving a claim. Include the date and the name of the person you spoke or corresponded with so that it’s easy to keep track of and verify what has already been resolved.
Another thing that could make a claim go more smoothly would be making sure your vehicle paperwork is up to date and has your current information on it, including your driver’s license, registration, and insurance card. If another driver is at fault in an accident, calling the claims number for that driver’s insurance company might also speed up the process. For getting your own car fixed, it’s very important to make it accessible to the insurance claims adjusters.
Why an Auto Insurance Claim Might Be Denied
There are some special circumstances where an auto insurance company will not pay for damages to an insured vehicle. Obviously, failing to pay your insurance premiums will give your insurance an easy excuse not to pay for a claim. Beyond that, there are other circumstances where an insurance company may choose not to pay a claim.
An article on MSN Money gives several possible exclusions to policies that might lead to an insurance company not paying. Three key exclusions listed in the article that could result in a claim denial are:
- Intentional damage
- Lending your car to someone else
- Using your car as a livery vehicle to transport people for pay
Certain types of insurance do not cover certain types of loss. For instance, if you have collision insurance, it will not cover theft or vandalism. A comprehensive insurance policy will cover most situations for your own vehicle, but even those do not account for everything. Liability insurance will cover someone else’s vehicle repairs if you cause an accident that damages their vehicle, but it will do nothing for yours.
The other situation that will greatly affect whether an insurance company will pay a claim is the matter of fault. Depending on whether you live in a no fault state, insurance may not pay for your vehicles damages if you are at fault in an accident.
If You Have Too Many Auto Insurance Claims
The first effect of filing multiple car insurance claims is that your insurance premiums will rise. According to an article on Investopedia, an accident that is your fault could cause a rate hike possibly as high as 20 to 40%.
Minor accident claims or accidents that are not your fault may not result in a rate hike at all.
Another obvious disadvantage of having multiple accidents and filing multiple claims is that you will end up paying a deductible each time. Of course, if you file too many claims in a short period of time, your insurance company may also choose not to renew your policy, forcing you to try to find insurance with a company that specializes in dealing with drivers with multiple accidents, which is often an expensive proposition. With all this in mind, it might be wise for a driver to resist filing a claim for minor accidents, especially those where the cost of repair is close to the cost of the deductible anyway.
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