Many people don’t realize that the auto insurance claim process starts
right away at the scene of the car accident. The driver and others like
the police will gather information and start collecting evidence. In fact,
when handled properly from the start, it makes the process easier.
Steps to Take Immediately after an Accident
One of the most critical elements in an auto insurance claim is establishing
fault. So it’s important to contact the police and make sure they
complete a report.
Drivers should also collect witness information, gather physical evidence
if possible and take photographs of the vehicles, injuries and accident
scene. Accident scenes can be chaotic, as those involved experience a
myriad of emotions.
When communicating with the other driver or with police, it is important to:
- remain calm;
- seek medical attention for anyone who has been hurt;
don’t admit or suggest fault; and
- state only the basic facts of which you’re sure.
Another important element is establishing the physical harm suffered as
a result of the accident. If an individual refuses to receive medical
treatment but later claims an injury, it can bring some challenges. Even
if medical care is not necessary at the scene, it’s vital to get
checked out by a doctor as soon as possible.
Reporting an Accident to the Insurance Company
The next part of the auto insurance claims process is contacting the insurance
company to notify it of the accident. Although the other driver might
have been at fault and it’s against that driver’s insurance
policy that you will file a claim, it’s important to contact one’s
own insurer, too. Depending on coverage on their own policy, some claimants
pursue a first-party claim to recover the full extent of their damages.
An agent may ask for:
- a description of what happened;
- the severity of damage to the vehicle;
- if there were any injuries;
- accident location;
names of witnesses; and/or
- other relevant information.
The insurance companies may send an adjuster to look at the vehicle in
order to determine if it’s fixable and provide an estimate on damages.
This can also help establish the type of accident and, therefore, may
indicate who was at fault.
Meanwhile, it’s important to collect all documentation related to
the accident. This should include estimates to repair the vehicle, medical
records and bills, proof of lost income and anything else that may factor
into recoverable damages. This will prepare claimants for talking to the
other driver’s insurance representatives to negotiate a fair settlement.
Seek Legal Assistance When Dealing with Insurance Adjusters
Keep in mind that each claim is different. For instance, someone might
have been injured and after a few weeks of treatment has fully recovered.
But others with more severe injuries may face months of treatment, physical
therapy or rehabilitation. Or it could be determined that the person is
permanently disabled and unable to work. Therefore, the type of information
required by the insurance company may vary.
At some point the insurance agent may attempt to reach a settlement. When
someone else was at fault, it’s important to understand that the
driver’s insurance company would like to settle for as little as
possible. So many insurance companies fail to offer a fair initial settlement
to injured drivers.
Although some claimants can handle negotiations without legal representation,
in cases where injuries and damages are significant, it’s usually
a good idea to consult with an attorney.