Making an auto insurance claim can be stressful, especially if you’ve never done it before. Your car may be damaged, you may have injuries, and you likely have a lot of questions about what happens next. Fortunately, by understanding the claims process and being prepared, you can navigate it more smoothly.
The First 24 Hours
If possible, report your claim to your insurance provider within 24 hours of the incident. Quick reporting can speed up processing times and shows the insurance company you are organized and on top of the situation. Provide as many details as you can about how the accident happened, other parties involved, witnesses, injuries sustained, etc. Take lots of photos of the damage to all vehicles and the accident scene from multiple angles. These will be very helpful for the insurer’s investigation.
Getting Your Vehicle Appraised
You will need to get your vehicle inspected and appraised so your insurance company understands the extent of the damage. Tow your car to an approved repair shop your insurer works with or ask the claims adjuster to send an appraiser. Point out all damage you see, even non-accident related wear and tear, so it’s fully documented. If you believe the appraisal underestimates the damage or necessary repairs, you can request a more thorough inspection.
Deciding on Repairs or Total Loss
For minor damage, your insurer will likely opt to repair your car. For major damage where repairs exceed ~75% of the car’s pre-accident value, they may deem it a total loss. If you have a total loss, you can either allow your insurer to keep the salvage vehicle and get its actual cash value, or in some states you can retain the vehicle and get the ACV minus salvage value.
If you or your passengers sustained any injuries in the accident, even minor ones, make sure they are checked out by a doctor ASAP and the visits are well-documented. Get copies of all medical records and bills to submit to your health insurance first, then send remaining out-of-pocket expenses to your car insurer. This helps them better evaluate injury claims from the accident. Stay in close contact with your claims adjuster throughout treatment.
Insurance companies must determine fault (which driver caused the accident) based on available evidence and local laws in order to decide whose policy will pay. Be cooperative as your insurer gathers police reports, conducts interviews with involved parties, researches traffic laws/patterns, etc., but don’t admit fault or speculate. Provide your recollection of events and objective facts only. If fault is disputed, your insurer will likely wait for an official police report assigning fault before processing your claim further.
Settling the Claim
Once your insurer has all necessary information on vehicle damage, injuries, and fault, they will extend a settlement offer. Thoroughly review this with your claims adjuster to ensure you understand what is covered and how they calculated the amount. Make sure it includes the proper vehicle value, complete cost of repairs, medical expenses minus health insurance payments, rental reimbursement if applicable, etc. If you disagree with anything in the offer, provide documentation supporting a higher amount. Ultimately both sides want to reach an appropriate settlement quickly and avoid legal action.
Appealing a Decision
If your insurance claim or any part of the settlement is denied and you strongly disagree, you can appeal the decision by submitting a written explanation of why you believe the insurer is incorrect along with supporting evidence. Reasons for appeal could include finding additional witnesses/information after the initial decision, comparisons showing your settlement amount is below average, or believing their investigation was insufficient. If the insurer still won’t reconsider, you may be able to take legal action to pursue a larger settlement, but the time and costs must warrant doing so.
I hope you find this overview of the automobile insurance claims process helpful! The key is staying organized, communicating frequently with your insurer, understanding how they evaluate your specific situation, considering all options, and asking questions anytime something is unclear. A smooth claims experience takes cooperation on both sides, but knowing what to expect will give you confidence for navigating each step. Let me know if you need any other tips for dealing with your car insurance company during this time.
Dealing with a car insurance claim can certainly be challenging, especially when your vehicle is damaged, injuries are involved, and there are many questions about fault and compensation. However, by understanding what to expect in the claims process, promptly gathering supporting evidence, cooperating fully with your insurance provider’s investigation, weighing all settlement options, and requesting clarification when needed, you can greatly smooth out the experience. While no one wants to file an insurance claim, being organized and proactive sets you up for the most favorable outcome possible.
The claims process may still be frustrating at times, but doing your part to facilitate efficient review of the details surrounding your case can get you back on the road faster. Compiling documentation, communicating with adjusters, getting repairs completed, and finalizing fair reimbursement will move along more seamlessly when you know the standard procedures. As long as you are thorough, reasonable, and persistent when discrepancies arise, navigating this process can be manageable. With a few deep breaths and focus on constructive progress, you’ll get through this challenging time and be driving your (fixed or replaced) car in no time.