In the first few seconds following the impact of two or more vehicles in an auto accident, panic usually sets in for everyone involved. Take a few deep breaths and think through what must be done to address the physical health and well-being of every person involved.
Yes, a car accident can affect your car insurance rates but the single most important thing after an accident is that everyone involved is safe and unharmed. Contact the authorities and follow the instructions provided. Then walk through the following steps to participate in your auto insurance claim process.
Scene of the Accident
Immediately following the collision there are some actions that you must take to ensure your own safety and gather some information:
- If you are injured in any way, remain in your vehicle.
- If the cars can be moved under their own power, move the cars from the traffic lanes. Allow the authorities to stop the traffic again to clean up the debris. Leave your car’s warning lights on.
- If you are not injured and can get out of the vehicle safely, get out and check the status of the other people involved in the accident.
- Speak with anyone who might have witnessed the accident and obtain their personal contact information.
- Ask the other driver for his/her personal information including name, address, phone number and driver’s license number. Also gather the insurance information (name of insurance company and the policy number) from the other driver.
- Record vehicle details for the other cars involved including the make, model, color, license plate, and VIN number of every car.
- Take pictures of the damage on the other car and a picture of the license plate if your cell phone is equipped with a camera. Also take some pictures of the damage to your own vehicle.
- When the police arrive, answer their questions to the best of your ability and ask when their report will be available. Inquire about the methods to obtain the report.
- Restrain any verbal comments including any comment about fault even if you might be partially responsible. Allow the authorities to make the decision.
- During the time that you are waiting to be released from the scene, make some detailed notes for yourself concerning the series of events. Write down everything you remember for later reference.
Within 24 Hours
After you return safely to your home, contact your insurance company:
- Provide the information requested by the clerk that answers your call.
After the completion of this first phone call, there are some actions that you must take to be prepared for the call from the claims adjuster:
- Prepare the pictures from the accident scene. Print a full set of the pictures if possible.
- Attempt to find a body shop that can provide an estimate for the cost of repairs necessary to return your car to its pre-accident condition.
- Seek to acquire a copy of the policy report filed by the officers at the accident scene.
- Clearly print the personal contact information gathered from any witnesses of the accident. Provide this information to the claims adjuster.
A claims adjuster will contact you concerning the accident. The claims adjuster’s role is to:
- Gather all pertinent information about the accident.
- Determine if the damage incurred is covered under your auto insurance policy or the other driver’s policy.
- Gather all facts including pictures and the policy report.
- Investigate which driver was at fault in the accident.
- Decide the value of your claim.
- Provide payment directly to you for the repairs that will be performed.
Potential Questions You Will Answer
Once the fault has been determined, one insurance company or the other will take the lead for addressing the claims from both drivers. In a no-fault state, each insurance company will pay for the claim presented by their own policyholder.
Every driver must understand the distinctly different approaches taken by each of two insurance companies that are involved in the process after an auto accident in a state that does not follow the no-fault model.
When you are dealing directly with your own insurance company, the insurance personnel will ask your more questions about your personal well-being. There are policy limits associated with your personal claim that will limit the overall payout for property damage and personal medical care, but the insurance company is interested in paying claims for their own policyholders.
If you must deal with the other insurance company, you will notice a difference in their interest because their goal is to minimize the amount of money you will receive from them. The other insurance company must pay for your medical bills, property damage, lost wages and general damages which include your pain and suffering. This is not true under a no-fault model, but most states do not use a no-fault auto insurance model.
An insurance adjuster from either company will ask similar questions, including:
- What happened in the accident?
- Where did the accident happen?
- Who was driving your car?
- Were there any passengers in your vehicle with you? What is their personal information?
- Was a policeman called to the scene? Did the officer prepare a report?
- What were the makes and models of all the vehicles involved?
- Were the vehicles damaged? How?
- Were there any witnesses to the accident? Do you have their contact information?
- Was the other driver insured?
Making the Best of a Difficult Situation
There is nothing more important than your personal safety following an accident. Prior to exiting the vehicle check to see that other drivers have slowed down and changed the traffic flow around the accident. Stay calm and realize that accidents happen every day. There are people available to help you navigate the insurance claim process.
Author Bio: Alyssa is a self proclaimed “insurance guru” and a freelance writer that loves to make tricky insurance topics easy to understand. She contributes for a car insurance website and is probably the #1 visitor to the Insurance Information Institute’s website. When she is not researching various insurance topics she can usually be found eating her favorite meal of ham and pineapple pizza and root beer (in case you haven’t guessed – she is not a health nut!)
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