I Crashed My Car – Now What?
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration reveals that a startling six million auto accidents are reported each year in the U.S. If you were involved in one today, would you know how to go about filing an insurance claim?
Like most people, you might not be 100 percent sure of the process. That’s actually a good thing because it likely indicates you haven’t been in an accident recently. But knowing what steps to take to file a claim and what to expect from the insurance claim process will go a long way to reduce the stress and anxiety associated with an auto accident.
We’ll explain the process in five easy steps, so just in case the unexpected happens, you’ll feel comfortable and confident filing your claim.
Step 1: Contact a representative from your insurance company as soon as reasonably possible.
You’ll find the contact number for your car insurance company right on your insurance ID card. You might want to go ahead and add it to your phone’s contact list. The car insurance company representative who answers your call will ask you several questions about the accident, so gather all the information you have before you pick up the phone and set aside at least 30 minutes for the conversation.
Thanks to cells phones, live online chat, and 24/7 claim-filing hotlines, you might be able to contact your insurance company right from the location of the accident. However, if you’re upset or a police officer is still at the scene collecting information, you should wait. As mentioned, this call may take half an hour, so make sure you have time to dedicate to it.
Even if the accident is the other party’s fault, you should make your car insurance company aware of the accident right away.
Step 2: Review the details of your car insurance policy.
Find a quiet space and review the details of your car insurance policy. For starters, you’ll want to find out the deductibles and limits of your medical payments coverage, property damage liability coverage and collision coverage. You’ll also want to determine if you have rental car coverage.
If you have any questions about your policy, don’t hesitate to call your car insurance company and ask representative for clarification; that’s what they are there for.
Step 3: Speak with the other party’s car insurance company.
Assuming the other party has contacted their car insurance company, it won’t be long before you get a call from them asking you to explain how the accident happened.
Your conversation will be recorded and what you say can have a significant impact on how the claim is handled. Prepare for the call by asking your car insurance provider what statements you should make, and write down what you’ll tell the representative, word for word. Doing so will not only help you feel more confident about the call, but it will also help keep your statement consistent. That’s critical should the claim result in a lawsuit.
Step 4: An adjuster takes a look at the damage to your car.
After you’ve talked with both car insurance companies, an adjuster will arrive to take a look at the damage to your vehicle. He will write up an estimate of what it will cost to repair the damage. If the adjuster finds that your vehicle is totaled, or damaged beyond repair, he will estimate how much it will cost to replace your vehicle. You’ll receive a check for the amount of the repair (or replacement) minus your collision deductible amount.
In some cases, an adjuster won’t have to take a look at your vehicle. Instead, your car insurance company will direct you to a body shop with which they have an agreement and the body shop will write up the damage claim estimate.
Keep in mind that, if the adjuster deems your car is totaled, he will estimate your compensation based on the cash value of your vehicle prior to the accident. In essence, you’ll receive a check to buy a used car comparable to the one you had. If your car insurance policy includes coverage for replacement cost value, then your compensation will cover the cost of buying a similar new vehicle.
Step 5: If you feel your car insurance provider’s damage settlement is too low, ask for arbitration.
When filing an insurance claim, it’s important that you know your rights, and arbitration is an important one. If you think the damage claim offer from your insurance company is too low, you can ask for arbitration to resolve the dispute. Although the arbitration process may take a few weeks, you’ll be paid the settlement amount you were initially offered immediately. Should the dispute be resolved in your favor, you’ll receive a check for any additional funds.
If you’re offered a settlement from the other party’s car insurance company, there’s a good chance you won’t have the option of arbitration. If the disputed amount is considerable, it could be worth the expense of taking legal action. An accident is always a bit unsettling, but knowing how to navigate the insurance claim filing process will give you valuable peace of mind. If you want to be sure your insurance policy will properly protect you in the event of an accident, or if you’ve been involved in an accident and weren’t satisfied with how your claim was handled, give us a call and let us help you find the right answers.
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