Car insurance is supposed to protect you from the unexpected. Yet for many people, gaining access to these benefits when they need them can be a difficult task. Knowing exactly what to do after an auto accident can help your claim go much more smoothly. Here are 5 simple steps for dealing with an insurance company after a car accident.
Report the accident
Ensuring that the accident is properly reported should always be a top priority. In addition to reporting the accident to local police or highway patrol, you should also be sure to make contact with your car insurance company. Many policies require all losses to be reported within a certain time frame.
Always be sure that you completely understand your coverage prior to giving an official (written or recorded) statement. Keep in mind that you are not required to allow your insurance company to record your conversation. When in doubt, consider calling an insurance dispute attorney right away.
When your speak to an insurer, always remember to take detailed notes about the conversation. Write down pertinent facts such as:
- Full name/agent number of person you speak with
- Phone number that you dialed
- Position or job title of the person you speak with
- What they say to you
- The name of their supervisor
- Any details you provided them about the accident
If you have multiple insurance policies, take some time to read each one thoroughly. You may be able to make a claim under one of these policies as well. An existing homeowners or credit card policy may extend their coverage to other areas.
Seek medical attention
Even if you do not believe you are injured, it is still a good idea to seek medical attention after an auto accident. Often times, injuries may not be immediately obvious. If you do not seek medical attention now, the insurer may be unwilling to cover your medical expenses later.
While seeking treatment, remember to take detailed notes about your diagnosis. If possible, ask the physician or emergency medical personnel for copies of any notes that they take. These may help you with your claim later.
Preserve the scene
Take pictures of the accident if you are able to using a camera or camera phone. Make sure that the pictures include the damage caused to your vehicle as well as the condition of other vehicles involved. The pictures should capture things like driving conditions and any injuries that were identified at the scene. If you do not have a camera phone, it may be a good idea to keep a disposable camera in your glove compartment in case of an accident.
If there are any witnesses at the scene, be sure to take down their full name, number and address. Your insurer may request this information from you later.
Track your expenses
From repair costs to medical bills, accident-related expenses can mount quickly. Keep detailed expense records from the day of the accident until the moment you receive the settlement from the insurance company. This may include any expenses related to:
- Pursuing the claim – Things like transportation expenses or the cost to hire an independent estimator should be included.
- Recovery costs – Beyond medical expenses, things like medical supplies or home care costs should be included. If any family members took time off of work or traveled to care for you, these expenses should be recorded also.
It may be helpful to use a journal or spreadsheet to track all of this information. If you are unsure of what other expenses may be included, contact an experienced accident lawyer for assistance.
Settle your claim
Based on the cost to repair or replace your vehicle, the insurance company will provide an appraisal of your losses. Be mindful that you do not have to immediately accept this offer. Insurance companies will typically offer as little as they can get away with. If you feel that this amount does not adequately represent your losses, your next call should be to a car accident lawyer.