If you've just been involved in a car accident or a collision of some kind, it's likely that filing a car insurance claim will be one of the last things that immediately comes to mind. Every driver in the United States is required by law to carry valid car insurance for the vehicle that he or she is operating, and any incidents or accidents must subsequently be reported to the insurance companies that have provided insurance coverage to the operators of any vehicles involved. The insurance companies will then review the incident and determine who is at fault for the damages caused to one or multiple cars. The party who is at fault will then be required to cover the costs of the repairs for all of the damaged vehicles, and this party will work in tandem with the providing insurance company in order to meet these requirements. Certain states have a no fault policy where insurance companies do not review the details of an accident for signs of which driver is to be found at fault. Rather, they work with the owner of each car individually to repair that person's vehicle. Read on for a step by step guide to filing an insurance claim successfully.
Step 1 -- Survey the Scene and Collect the Necessary Information from Any Other Drivers Involved
Before you concern yourself with filing an insurance claim or any of the steps toward filing that claim, you should first check the scene of the accident to be sure that everyone is okay and uninjured. If any person requires medical attention, phone 911 or emergency services in your area immediately. Having done that or having surveyed the scene and determined that no injuries occurred, you are then prepared to begin the process of collecting insurance information.
You'll need to have your insurance coverage card handy. This document should be kept in your vehicle at all times. On a piece of paper that you keep in the car or in another secure place, write down the name of any other driver that was involved in the accident. For each of these drivers, you should take note of their type of vehicle and model year, the color of the car, the number of other passengers in the car, the general amount of damage to the vehicle and where the damage occurred, and, most importantly, their insurance providing company and their policy number. Also collect their license plate number as well for identification purposes.
Step 2 -- Contact Your Insurance Company to File a Claim
Within the next 48 hours and preferably as soon as possible, you'll need to contact your insurance company to report the damages and the accident. Look for contact information on your policy card. Have the information that you collected at the scene of the incident handy so that you can inform your insurance provider of it when you speak with a representative.
Step 3 -- Inform the DMV and the Police of the Accident, if Necessary
Depending upon the extent of the damage, the type of the accident and the state or jurisdiction in which the accident took place, you may also need to report the incident to the local police or to the DMV as well. Look on the DMV website in your area for further information about which circumstances mandate that you report an accident. Typically, you'll need to report accidents to the DMV if the damage that occurred is over a certain amount of money. You should report an accident to the police as soon as possible if any person was injured.
Step 4 -- Have Your Vehicle Inspected for Damage
The insurance company will want to know how much it will cost to repair your vehicle. They may require you to visit a particular auto body estimate shop in order to have an inspector assess the damage and provide an estimate of the costs of the damage. You'll need to explain the circumstances of the incident to this inspector as well. After surveying your vehicle, he or she will come up with an estimate of the cost of the damages and the repairs, including labor.
This is a portion of the insurance claim process during which many people feel that they are being taken advantage of. If you feel that the inspector is unfairly estimating the costs of repairing the damage to your vehicle, take photos and other evidence of your car at the time of the inspection so that you can make a case with your insurance company to argue otherwise. You may be able to have the vehicle inspected by another representative as well.
Step 5 -- Speak with the Claims Adjustor
The insurance company will next have a claims adjustor representative contact you to ask further questions about the incident. The purpose of this is to determine the exact cause of the accident and, typically, to find who is at fault. Answer all questions honestly and openly, and be sure to ask any questions that you feel that you are unsure of during this point of the process.
Step 6 -- Following Insurance Approval, Have the Vehicle Repaired
Once the company has assessed the incident and has given approval, you may have your vehicle repaired. Some states allow insurance companies to suggest or require certain companies to work with for your automotive repairs; other states make this practice illegal. In order to be sure that you aren't being pressured into working with any particular auto body shop, take the time to familiarize yourself with your state's laws in this regard.
Step 7 -- Communicate with the Insurance Company for Reimbursement
Some companies will allow you to communicate directly with them for reimbursement of the portion of the repair cost that they will cover. Other companies will work directly with the auto body repair shop in order to determine how much the true cost of the repairs was. Whatever the case, be in touch with your insurance company to ensure that you're properly reimbursed for what they owe you to cover all or some of the repairs for your vehicle.