Whether it’s a minor fender-bender or a major crash, a car accident can leave you shaken. Once you recover from the shock, it’s time to file an auto insurance claim. The process might seem overwhelming. You might wonder where to start, what your insurance company needs to know and whether you need to file a police report.
These are all common questions and concerns. Use these tips to better understand the process — and ensure you have the protection you need if you do have an accident.
Assuming you’re uninjured after an accident, it’s important to immediately jot down as many details as possible. Having this information during the claims process will speed things up. Don’t try to memorize details — grab a pen and paper or take notes on your smartphone.
Here’s what you need to get for all cars and drivers involved:
- Driver and passenger names
- License plate numbers
- Insurance information
- Make and model of vehicles
- Contact information for any witnesses
- Location of the accident
- The name and badge number of any responding police officers
Capture photos of the scene. Get different angles, any skid marks or street signs. They may be useful during the claims process to determine who is at fault. Some auto insurance companies even offer the ability to upload photos from your phone when you file a claim.
Call the Police
Having an officer on the scene ensures any critical information you might overlook is collected. This information is later assembled into an accident report, which is also helpful when filing your claim. Be sure to cooperate with the police and try to avoid admitting fault or blaming others while at the scene. It’s best to state the facts and let the police objectively decide what happened.
Start the Claims Process
Next, it’s time to file your claim. Depending on your insurance company, you may be able to do this online. You’ll be assigned a claim representative who will help you through the process and answer any questions you have along the way.
How to Protect Your Pocketbook
Before an accident, you might think of car insurance only in terms of pricing. But the cheapest policy is likely to have bare-bones coverage, which means you might be on the hook for major expenses after an accident. Instead, think of auto insurance like this: How can you get the most bang for your buck?
When weighing your options, questions:
- What’s your financial situation? Assess your budget and assets to see how much insurance you need, and can afford. If someone’s injured in an accident or you get sued, your assets could be at risk. Having enough insurance is essential to protecting your finances.
- What kind of driver are you? Depending on your driving habits, you might qualify for discounts. And of course, safe drivers tend to save more on insurance.
- How much can you pay after an accident? The higher your deductible, the lower your premium. But remember, you’ll have to pay your deductible out of pocket if you have an accident, so choose the deductible that makes the most sense for your budget.
It’s no secret that claims are stressful. But with these tips, you’ll be prepared if the unexpected happens and you need to file a claim.
Author Bio: Eric Brandt has more than 25 years’ experience in the insurance industry. Eric currently serves as Chief Customer Advocate for Esurance where he leads the customer experience, including claims fulfillment. Prior to joining Esurance, Eric led customer-centered transformations in the areas of claims, risk management and relationship management for carriers offering personal lines, commercial lines, and employee benefits protection.
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