Making a Claim with your Car Insurance Company After an Accident

If you are involved in a car accident, one of the first steps you must take is to contact your car insurance company as soon as possible. Even if the accident results in a simple fender-bender, it is crucial that you report the accident expeditiously, not just to your insurer but also to the other driver’s insurance company. This is a mandatory action no matter which driver was at fault; if you are not at fault, you have to contact the defendant’s insurer, and if you caused the accident, you must report it to your insurance agency.

In most cases involving car accidents, repairing your vehicle will be at the top of your agenda along with getting medical attention. This involves contacting an insurance adjuster who represents either your insurer or a third party. The adjuster’s task is to determine how much the insurer will pay to repair or replace your damaged vehicle, with the objective of keeping the insurance company’s expenses low.

Be aware that the first thing that the adjuster will do is to get a recorded statement from you about the accident. It is important that you don’t make any statements of this type without first consulting an attorney; the adjuster is not only attempting to get your side of the story, but because anything you say is recorded, the insurance company can latch on to any factual slip on your part and use it to its own advantage. Keep in mind that the adjuster is serving the needs of the insurance company; his or her task is to ensure that your claim is settled in terms which favor the company and not you.

Remember that you have the legal right to have your vehicle repaired wherever you desire if the accident was not your fault. The driver who caused the accident is legally responsible to pay for a rental car while your car is being repaired; the rental replacement must be comparable in performance and capacity to the one damaged by the third party.  If this is not possible, the third party has a legal obligation to pay you a particular amount of money for each day that your car is out of commission.

Sometimes it is necessary to get your own insurance company to pay for your car repairs, especially if the third party’s insurer is making the process slow and difficult. In most cases you will have to pay the deductible, but your vehicle will be fixed faster and the other driver’s insurer will reimburse you at a later date. Choosing this route speeds up the pace of your vehicle’s repairs but it only entitles you to a rental car, and then only if you bought a rental replacement option with your car insurance.

If the cost to repair your vehicle exceeds its pre-accident value, your insurance company will not
authorize any more work on fixing it and declare it a total loss. Your insurer “totals” your car and must replace it with a comparable vehicle with similar capacity, features and performance.  Keep in mind that the insurance company makes its determination regarding the car’s value on several factors, including the totaled vehicle’s pre-accident condition, mileage and any repairs made to it before the crash.

If you need assistance starting a claim, consider retaining a lawyer that specializes in car accidents and claims.

Source: http://www.naic.org/documents/consumer_guide_auto.pdf

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