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Filing Auto Insurance Claim
Having an Auto Insurance coverage does not save you from car accidents, neither does it give you a right for reckless driving. Almost every motorist has been involved in a major or minor accident or incident at least once during their driving history. Even if you are a very careful driver, odds are that not every traffic encounter will leave you completely unaffected. With more than 220 million cars on roads in the USA, filing an Auto Insurance claim seems rather like a routine procedure than an unpleasant remote probability. Therefore, it is essential to know what to expect and get ready beforehand.
Basically, the claims process for car damage is not complicated. You make a claim, the adjuster estimates the cost for the damage repair and the insurance company sends you a check for the amount estimated. However, before a carrier will pay to cover your damage, it will require five elements of damage or injury proof. They are: 1.) the evidence you give to the insurance company; 2.) the evidence of the other party; 3.) a police report; 4.) witnesses; 5.) physical damage at the scene of the accident.
The basic steps to follow when filing any type of Auto Insurance claim are similar, though it is true that each state has its own regulations governing the claims process and a personal injury claim may require a different level of proof than a car damage claim.
You should carefully read your Auto Insurance policy and understand all its terms before a loss. Be perfectly aware of what is and what is not covered. Before you file a claim you should know how much Liability Insurance you have in case you cause damage to another vehicle or injure other people and what is the deductible for your Collision and Comprehensive coverage. You should also learn whether your state has No-Fault Insurance and what coverage it provides.
When you buy your Auto Insurance policy, you agree to pay the first established amount of any damage as your share of the repair or replacement costs. For those who agree to pay a larger deductible, the insurance company has lower premiums. For instance, if your car damage costs $2,000 to repair and you have agreed to pay a deductible of $250, then you would pay $250 and your insurance company sends you a check for $1,750. Sometimes, if the damage is little, your deductible can be more than the cost of your repairs. In this case you are better off paying the bill yourself and leaving your claim unreported.
Also, consider the fact that when you call your insurance company and file a claim, it is often reflected in your insurance record, which you would rather prefer to keep clean. Therefore, if you don't face much financial difficulty in paying for the damage yourself, you can choose not to file the claim.
The two basic types of claims include loss or damage to your vehicle and a liability claim when you cause an injury to someone or damage to someone else's property.
Most Auto Insurance policies offer coverage of the following kinds:
— Collision (covers damage to your own car)
— Comprehensive (covers the repair of damage to your vehicle caused by theft, fire, natural disasters or vandalism)
— Auto Liability (covers injuries to other people and damage to other people's property)
— Medical Payments (provides for immediate medical attention for you, your passengers and other people involved in the accident)
— Uninsured and Underinsured Motorists (protects you in case you are involved in the accident with someone who does not carry Liability Insurance or is underinsured)
— Additional types of coverage (extra coverage that can be added to your standard policy in forms of endorsements, such as towing and temporary replacement vehicles, etc.)
If your vehicle is involved in an accident or damaged by fire, flood or vandalism, or is stolen, or you caused injury to someone or damaged someone's property and incur liability, here are the basic steps to filing an Auto Insurance claim.
1. At the accident scene check if anyone needs urgent medical attention. If there is an emergency, call 911 and get necessary medical help for anyone who needs it. Don't disregard minor injuries which seem insignificant at first glance. It is always better to check them out at a hospital to be on the safe side.
2. Provide the police with information about the accident. Obtain a copy of the police report. You will need it to support the claim to your insurance company.
3. Exchange information with the other parties involved in the accident: the other driver's name, address, contact information, license plate numbers, and auto insurance information, such as the other driver's insurance carrier, and insurer's phone number. Provide the other driver with the same information about yourself.
4. Look for witnesses of the accident and get their names and phone numbers as well. Sometimes police officers are reluctant to take an accident report, assessing the damage under a typical insurance deductible of $500. In this case you should insist on a report, since you need an independent record of the accident (or incident) in writing. You may ask security or a shop owner to file a report in case the accident occurred in a parking lot, an officer pleads no jurisdiction.
5. Regardless of who is at fault, call your car insurance company or local company representative as soon as possible. Don't wait too long before filling out the paperwork. Many Insurance carriers can establish a limited period of time during which you can file a claim and if you are late, you may be left having to pay out of your own pocket. Ask your insurance company representative or agent what forms or documents are necessary for supporting your claim. You will most likely need a "proof of claim" form, a copy of the police report, and medical and repair bills.
6. Filing a claim is filling out a formal document in which you request benefits to be paid according to the Auto Insurance policy terms. Claim-filing service is normally available round-the-clock and you can call it any time an accident happens using the number on your insurance ID card. Keep a copy of your claim and other papers associated with it in case you need to refer to it later.
7. You should ask your insurance company representative or agent about a time limit for filing claims, submitting additional information and resolving claims disputes. Also, ask whether your policy pays for a rental car while your car is being repaired. Do not release your insurance company until all the procedures are clear and over and you get your reimbursement.
8. If the other party is at fault for the accident, you can choose to have either your insurance company or the at-fault driver's insurance company handle the insured case. You may still file a claim with your insurance company and then tell the other party's insurance company that you put in a claim for the compensation that your insurer will not pay. This may include your collision deductible, time off work, the rental car and diminished value issues, etc. Filing the insurance claim with your company regardless of who is at fault means you have your company fight on your side if dispute occurs. If you use the other driver's insurance company, you will not have a claim on your policy and won't have to pay a deductible.
9. Auto accidents often raise disputes between insurance companies and the chances are that you will get a phone call from the other insurance company willing to hear your personal account of the events. It is important to prepare for this conversation and then document it and put down the name of the agent who called. Bear in mind that the other company will have your exact words at their disposal, therefore be very precise and truthful. You are advised to write down everything you intend to tell the other carrier beforehand.
10. Once your insurance claim is approved, your insurance company will send a claims adjuster to take a look at the damage and start the settlement process. The adjuster investigates the claim and comes up with an estimate of the repair or replacement costs. Then the adjuster recommends the insurance company whether to accept the claim and pay the full amount requested, make a partial payment, or refuse the claim altogether.
11. An insurance company may have a direct repair program and have an agreement with a shop for the damage repair. The damage claim estimate may be done by the shop itself and not by the claims adjuster. The check can be sent right to the shop to start the repair works. If you need a rental car for this period, the shop may also make proper arrangements.
12. You might consider your carrier's damage settlement offer too low. In this case you can be offered dispute resolution. Normally the insurance company pays you the amount established right away. If the dispute is resolved in your favor, you will get the rest of the reimbursement. If you disagree with an offer from the other party's insurance carrier and not offered dispute resolution, it may be worthwhile to file a lawsuit.