Whether minor or serious, one of the most important steps that vehicle owners need to take following an accident is to file the necessary paperwork with their insurance provider. Understanding the proper way to file a car accident claim is a key step in ensuring that you are remunerated for the money owed to you by your insurance provider. Regardless of whether you were the driver of the vehicle or a passenger in the vehicle, correctly submitting a reimbursement claim is essential to ensuring that you will get the money you deserve.
Before You Call
The process of filing an accident claim starts when you telephone your insurance provider to inform them that you have been in an accident. It is imperative that you understand the process that is about to unfold before you make that call or else you could potentially jeopardize your claim right from the outset.
A representative of your insurance provider is going to ask you a number of preliminary questions when you call to inform them that you have been in an accident. The critical element to remember is that you should offer as little detail as possible, providing only verifiable, known facts while refraining from offering any opinions or commentary. Even if you are pressed for more details, your preliminary report should be as simple and straightforward as possible.
If you have sustained an injury, or even suspect that you may have sustained an injury, it is imperative that you inform your insurance provider about this during your initial phone call. Your insurance provider will respond to your first phone call by sending you a number of forms to complete and they need to know from the outset whether to also send you medical forms.
If and when you do seek medical attention for injuries sustained in the accident, be sure to document these as thoroughly as possible. Besides your hospital or doctor’s bill, carefully document other incurred expenses such as the cost of prescriptions, time missed from work, and travel-related costs (mileage, bus, taxi, etc) spent on seeking medical attention.
The Claims Adjuster
Following your initial phone call to report the accident, your insurance provider will then assign your case to a claims adjuster. The role of the claims adjuster is to investigate your accident as well as review your current policy to determine the amount and type of coverage you have and how it applies to the accident. The claims adjuster will also be tasked with calculating your deductibles and evaluating the extent and veracity of any injuries that you sustained in the accident.
Not every accident is a complex affair worthy of an in-depth accident. If you backed into a light post, were not injured, and sustained about $200 in damage to your vehicle, it is likely that your claims adjuster will be able to handle your claim remotely. You will probably get instructed to provide an estimate the expense of having your car repaired and then your adjuster will forward you this amount minus the amount of your deductible.
Always await instructions from your insurance provider before obtaining an estimate. Many insurance companies use a network of participating body shops and will recommend that you obtain your estimate and have repairs performed at one of their in-network body shops.
Whenever there are significant injuries resulting from an accident, expensive damage to one or more vehicles, a controversy over which party is at fault for the accident or unusual circumstances involved, the process of filing an insurance claim is more complex.
The insurance company’s claims adjuster assigned to your case will function much like a police detective, gathering evidence from witnesses, other people involved in the accident, the police, and healthcare providers who treated injuries sustained during the accident. Your insurance company may instruct you to provide some of this information to your claims adjuster.
While the facts of the accident may seem straightforward to you, it is the job of the claims adjuster to protect the interest of the insurance company. Always be extremely careful when speaking to the claims adjuster about the facts and circumstances of the accident. Conflicting or ambiguous statements on your part can, unfortunately, be used against you to completely or partially deny compensation.
Most car accident claims will be resolved in less than a month but difficult cases can take far longer. If you have not received a definitive resolution in your case after one month, it is important that you take pro-active steps. Contact your claims adjuster by telephone or email and inquire as to how your case is progressing.