You are in an accident...Likely a small amount of anxiety and panic have set in. What do you do next? Who do you call? What info will they need?
It's ok. First, remember that accidents happen and that's what you have insurance for. Below we outline some basic steps to keep you safe and get your claim filed successfully with your insurance company.
If you are in an accident...
- Get to safety. The most important thing is to find a safe place to move your car off the road (if you can). Don't forget to turn on your hazards/flashers and turn the engine off.
- Check for injuries. Next, check yourself and your passengers for injuries. If serious injuries occur, try not to move yourself or those seriously injured.
- Call 9-1-1 to report the accident. Even if no one is injured (e.g. a minor fender-bender), the officer will need to file an official accident report and document the scene. You may need this paperwork for your insurance claim.
- Wait in a safe place. If you can't move your car off the road, then make sure you wait for help away from traffic in a safe location. Remove yourself and passengers and get to a safe sidewalk, median, or parking lot nearby.
- Exchange info. Skip this step, if you were not in a wreck with another vehicle. While you wait or after the police arrive (whichever you feel comfortable doing), you can exchange information with the person you are in an accident with. Take pictures/notes with your phone and be prepared to share this info with them as well about yourself:
- Full name and contact information
- Their insurance provider and policy number
- Their driver's license and license plate number
- Make, model, year, and color of vehicle
- Location of accident and any notes you want made about how it occured
- Document. Take some pictures of the accident yourself. Get various angles and make sure you document the damage for all cars and property involved.
- Accident report. When the officer arrives, ask them for a copy of the accident report or where you can obtain one.
- Call your insurance. It's best to call your insurance agency while still on the scene. This will ensure that you gather all the information they need for the claim to go smoothly; they can also guide you on how to deal with the other driver's insurance, if they were at fault. The number is often on the insurance card or can easily be 'googled' using the name of the company.
- Ask what they need to document the accident.
- Ask them about your deductible and how to handle that.
- If you need a rental, ask them if you have rental coverage and how to ensure you are within your coverage range and get setup.
- Ask about timeline. When they need info and when you can expect reimbursements.
- If you need to see a doctor, ask them about medical coverage and processes.
***The key to making a claim go smoothly is to get all of the right documentation and to reach out to your insurance provider ASAP--to know what they need from you to make the process as quick and painless as possible.
After the accident…
After the dust has settled, there are still some follow up steps to get your insurance claim completed. First, unless your insurance policy states otherwise, you are free to take you car to whichever shop you choose. You may want to use Consumer Reports to find a trustworthy shop near you.
While there, a claims adjuster may want to see your car and ask for other information about the wreck to file in the claim and determine repair costs. This will lead to a "settlement" amount--how much your insurance is allotting to you for the repairs/damages. Some insurance companies will pay for the repairs upfront (after you pay your deductible); others may want you to pay the costs and file the receipts for later reimbursement. In considering costs, also know that you are entitled to ask the repair shop to use only "original equipment manufacturer parts" (OEM parts) on your car. Or, they may use less expensive "aftermarket," generic parts. Of note, if you ask for OEM parts, some policies allow them to use recycled OEM parts (versus only new ones).