As if getting involved in a car accident were not inconvenient enough, the process of filing an auto insurance claim can add strain to an already-stressful situation, especially when you don’t know where to begin. But there’s help. The following informs you of the basic processes of filing an insurance claim, regardless of whether you’re at fault or not.
What Is an Auto Insurance Claim?
In a nutshell, an auto insurance claim is a formal request you forward to your auto insurance company, asking them to compensate for damages sustained by you or your vehicle in the event that you get involved in an accident. Conversely, it’s also a request you file when asking the insurance company to intervene or represent you when you’re found at fault in a vehicle accident.
According to data site ValuePenguin, the average cost of car insurance in the US is $941.65 per year (2018 data). That’s around $79 a month. This varies depending on what state you live in. A standard car insurance coverage includes bodily injury, personal injury protection, property damage, collision, loss due to theft or any other damages not caused by collision, and sometimes, underinsured motorist coverage.
Different states have different mandates for their basic car insurance policies. Additional coverage may also incur additional charges.
Before you file a claim, it helps to understand your coverage first: what you will be paid for or what you will have to pay. It helps to always keep your auto insurance documents inside your car.
What to Do When Involved in an Accident
- Breathe. Don’t panic. Check if you are harmed, and if you have passengers, check if they are okay as well. In case there’s a need to call for medical assistance, do so immediately.
- Secure your personal possessions.
- Turn on your hazard lights, or if possible, install a warning device on the roadside.
- Before you step out of the vehicle, see to it that the surroundings are safe.
- Take photos of the scene, especially the conditions of the vehicle, plate information, etc.
- Exchange information with the other party.
- Notify the authority.
- Present your driver’s ID and vehicle information.
- Get a police report.
- Call a towing service if the situation requires it.
When Should I File a Claim?
File a claim as soon as the incident occurs. You should be able to find your auto insurance agent’s contact number or the company’s telephone number on your insurance card. Always keep your card portable and handy. Otherwise, in the absence of your card, you can find the required information in your actual policy paper trail or documents or even online.
Your state dictates the laws on how long you’re allowed to file a claim from the time of the accident. Some states allow for a filing of claims for personal injuries within two years while property damages can usually be filed within three years.
Still, the most sensible thing to do is to file your claim immediately. Call your insurance company to start the process of claiming. Your company will then ask you to forward all the necessary documents to initiate the process. They will also recommend some accredited repair shops to take care of your vehicle.
Although requirements differ from one insurance company to another, here are what they’ll most ask you to forward.
- A filled-out claim form.
- A documentation of the accident scene.
- Your police report or, in the case of a self-accident, a notarized affidavit.
- An estimate of the cost of repair to be provided by the recommended repair shop.
- A photocopy of your motor driving license.
- A photocopy of your vehicle’s certificate of registration.
- A photocopy of your car’s motor vehicle registration renewal.
Basic Process of Filing a Claim
- Once your insurance company is notified of the claim request, the case will now be assigned to a professional who will start to work on it.
- The professional assigned will contact you to meet and discuss the entirety of your coverage and how it applies to your current situation.
- The professional will then proceed to evaluate the claim by doing a vehicle inspection, examining the evidence of injury claims, etc.
- Initial payment is given.
- If all documents are forwarded and processed, all necessary payments will then be forwarded for the resolution of the case.
- After your needs are met based on the policy terms, the case can now be closed.
Road accidents happen all the time regardless of whether they were a consequence of carelessness or elements beyond the driver’s control. Knowing what to do when involved in this stressful situation helps you keep your calm and direct your energy to resolve the problem at hand.
Still, the best way to avoid these mishaps is to exercise extra caution. Here are some handy reminders and tips for keeping safe on the road.
- Always beware of blind spots. Follow road signs; use your wipers. Always check twice, and use your lights.
- Pull into traffic slowly.
- Always keep one hand on the wheel.
- Equip your vehicle with safety accessories like a tire safety monitor or long-range sensors. A fender flare is also helpful in keeping your car body clean while protecting other motorists from the dirt or debris from your car’s tires.
- Don’t keep maintenance and vehicle updates for later.
- Look backward when backing out.
- Never ever tailgate.
- Always respect other drivers.
SherylJanuary 3, 2019
I loved how you wrote about the actions to take if involved in a car accident. Usually, everything starts, continues, and ends in an argument with another driver and throwing guilt at one another. People really need to pull themselves together if something like this happens.
KarlJanuary 4, 2019
You can file a claim within 3 years? Who will wait for such a long time?
AmyJanuary 6, 2019
Karl, I guess it depends on the circumstances of a particular accident. It says later in the article that it’s best if you file one asap.
AmyJanuary 6, 2019
Also, Daniela, thanks for such an informative post! You’ve even included the documents needed, this is very useful!
Daniela BucateleJanuary 7, 2019
Amy, you’re very welcome. Make sure to check on the papers list and other details with your insurance company, though. There might be some differences as to the state regulations or a particular company policy. And drive safe!