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Filing an Automobile Insurance Claim

No one likes to think about the prospect of having to go through a car accident. Most of us would prefer to block out such thoughts, preferring instead to pretend a serious accident could never happen to us. But accidents do happen every day. Not only do you need to be prepared by carrying adequate auto insurance coverage, but also by understanding how to respond when an accident happens. Understanding the process of filing an insurance claim can make all the difference in the way your insurer responds to the situation on your behalf.

Call Law Enforcement Immediately

If you are able to do so, call the authorities as soon as you can safely make the phone call. If there is a serious injury involved, call 911 right away. If there is no emergency, call the police to report the accident. Do not skip this important step. Even if you feel that the accident was relatively minor, be sure to get the police involved so you can obtain a police report. You will need this later on in the process. The importance of getting a police report cannot be overstated.

While you are waiting for law enforcement officials to arrive, exchange contact information with anyone else who may have been involved in the accident. Get phone numbers, license plate numbers, and insurance information and give yours out as well. While you are at it, try to obtain contact information from any eyewitnesses who remain on the scene of the accident after the fact. Gather as much information as you possibly can to corroborate your recollection of what happened. This is particularly important in tort states and in comparative negligence states, when the assignment of liability is critical to insurance company payouts for damages.

When police arrive on the scene, make sure to give them every bit of information you can regarding the accident and your recollections of what happened. Police officers are trained to put together detailed accounts of accidents, so be patient and answer all their questions. The more information you can give them, the better it will reflect on you when the accident report is completed. Also inquire as to the specifics of how you will need to go about getting a copy of the report when it is completed. You have a right to a copy, and having one in hand will strengthen your case if the other driver is found liable, and prepare you for what is to come if you are found at fault.

Contact Your Auto Insurance Provider

If you have time while you are waiting for the police to arrive, contact your auto insurance provider to open a claim while you are waiting. If you do not have time beforehand, be sure to call them as soon as you are finished speaking to police. It is best to open a claim while you are still at the scene of the accident and the details are fresh in your mind. You want to open a claim with your own insurer regardless of fault in the accident, because as your insurance representative, your provider will work to protect your interests as the investigation gets underway. Later in the process your insurer and the one representing the other driver may have to hash out the details of who ends up paying for what. This work is part of what you pay for with your coverage premium. Get a hold of your auto insurance company as soon as possible so you can let them know what has happened and let them get going on your claim.

While you are at it, you will need to prepare to speak to the other drivers auto insurance carrier. Depending on the situation, you may elect to contact them, or wait for them to get a hold of you. If the other driver was clearly at fault in the accident, you certainly will need to contact that driver's carrier to let them know you are planning to pursue a claim. In any case, you will most certainly be required to give your version of what happened leading up to the accident for the other driver's insurance representative. In some cases, you (or your insurance provider or legal representative) may end up having to negotiate with the other party or go to court if they do not have insurance or if their coverage is insufficient to cover all costs.

Prepare Yourself for What's Coming

With the foreknowledge that you will have to talk to the other driver's insurance company-and that you may have to give an account of what happened several times or more over the course of time-you will want to write down a detailed account of all your recollections at your first opportunity. In the event of a lawsuit, it will be critical that any and all accounts you have given to match up with one another. Any bit of inconsistency can be exploited against you, even if you were truly not to blame for the accident in the first place.

As soon as you possibly can, you will need to arrange for an adjuster to survey the damage to your vehicle. In many cases this can be set up when you first contact the insurance company while you are at the scene of the accident. In any case, do it as soon as possible to get the ball rolling on the financial end of your claim. The adjuster representing your auto insurance company will take a close look at the vehicle to come to a conclusion regarding the cost of restoring it (or replacing it if it is to be totaled). In most cases, you will be issued a check for the damage less deductible after the adjuster is through. This is, of course, assuming you have collision insurance.

When the insurance company adjuster has completed his or her assessment of the damages, the process is not necessarily over. If you disagree with the adjuster's assessment, there is recourse you can pursue to register your disagreement and attempt to change the outcome. Arbitration is available if you don't agree with the adjuster's findings. The process can take quite a bit of time to work through, but usually the provider will compensate you for the amount the adjuster comes up with in his or her assessment of the damage while the dispute is being resolved.

A car accident is in itself a serious enough situation. Not being prepared to respond to the situation after the fact can make a serious situation into a catastrophe. There are some very basic steps every driver should follow after a car accident to get the auto insurance claim process started. Whether or not you were at fault in the accident, you need to be sure your insurance company is working on your behalf, giving you the kind of coverage you have been paying for as their customer. Do not neglect getting the police involved, be sure to gather all pertinent information at the scene of the accident, and prepare yourself for the process to come by keeping track of all the vital information related to the accident.



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