An auto insurance policy is a safety net that’s there to ease the financial blow after a car accident, theft or Mother Nature does her worst. But you have to file an auto insurance claim before that safety net will spring into action.
Filing a claim can seem a little overwhelming if you’ve never done it before. When your vehicle sustains damage, instead of freaking out follow these steps to get through the claim process.
Step 1. Call Your Insurance Company Immediately
Before you can drive legally, you need to make sure you’re covered by an insurance agency. If you’re not sure where to start, you can check out price comparison sites like this one to find an insurance company that works for you.
As soon as the dust has settled and necessary medical aid has been rendered, call your auto insurance company. Let them know there’s been a car accident, theft or damage and provide a general rundown of what happened. Your car insurance company can provide guidance on how your insurance coverage works and what information is needed moving forward.
Step 2. Take Pictures
If possible, take pictures of the scene and the damage. Photos can help you establish the cause of the accident, who was at fault and the extent of the damage. Some insurance providers even allow you to get estimates by uploading pictures of the damage to an app.
Step 3. Get a Copy of the Police Report
A police officer should be called if you get in an accident with another vehicle, there’s a theft or vandalism occurs. The officer will write a police report. It’s in your best interest to get a copy of the police report for further documentation of what occurred and who’s at fault.
Step 4. File the Claim
You’ll need to start the process ASAP since many insurance companies have time limits for filing a claim. The exact process varies from insurer to insurer, but filing a claim usually involves submitting a form and providing specific information, including:
- Other driver’s name and insurance policy information (if another driver was involved)
- Copy of the police report
- Photos of the vehicle damage
- Photos of property damage outside of the vehicle
- Details about accident related injuries
Once you file the claim an insurance adjuster will be assigned to the case. Your insurance adjuster will examine the vehicle and property damage, investigate who’s at fault and decide how much you’ll receive for repair coverage. If there’s a personal injury claim the adjuster will investigate that as well.
When it’s determined the other driver was at-fault for the car accident, their insurance policy will cover your repair costs and medical expenses. Ask your insurance company for help filing a third-party damage claim with the other insurer so you don’t get the runaround.
Step 5. Get a Repair Estimate
Depending on how the insurance company handles claims, you may need to take the vehicle to a designated repair shop to get an estimate for the repair costs. Once the car insurance company receives the estimate report from the repair shop the work can be done. You should be able to take to vehicle to the repair shop of your choosing and move on with life.
However, if you don’t agree with the estimated repair value you can request that the insurance agent send you the full report and explain how the payout was determined. If there’s a dispute that holds up the repairs or the at-fault driver is underinsured you may have to proceed with the claim through your own insurer. Your insurer can then use a process called subrogation to get reimbursed by the other insurance company.
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