Like any loving relationship, a healthy liaison with your car insurance company makes it easier to cope when you have to file a claim. These seven tips make the process simpler for you and your insurer.
1. Immediately start a file folder.
Get organized as soon as you know you’ll be filing a claim by starting a file folder for all your records. “Your agent does this, too,” says Kevin Foley, owner of PFT&K Insurance Brokers in New Jersey.
In chronological order, include in the folder any damage estimates, police reports and written summaries of conversations you have about your claim. For conversations, note the date and time, full name of anyone you spoke with, and phone numbers for those people.
2. Always file a police report.
Your insurer would be happiest if you always filed a police report, even if the damage isn’t serious, as liability issues may come into play later, says Rose Marshburn, a personal lines specialist with SIA Group, an insurance agency in North Carolina. She says that if the crash isn’t documented, the other motorist could accuse you of injuring her or her in the accident and want you to pay the medical bills.
3. Cover your bases.
After filing a police report, notify any other local law enforcement that may have jurisdiction in that area, says Tim Dodge, a spokesman for the Independent Insurance Agents & Brokers of New York, a trade organization. For example, if your car is vandalized on a college campus, notify campus security. If you live in a gated community and your car is stolen, notify the community’s security staff.
4. Take plenty of accident photos.
Take photos of the accident scene, including all the vehicles and people involved, says Dan Weedin, an insurance consultant in the Seattle area. In addition to photos, measure and take pictures of any skid marks, which can prove the other driver was speeding. Also, take photos of the other car to show any pre-existing damage that wouldn’t be covered by insurance.
5. Contact your insurer immediately.
Your insurer loves it when you report accidents as soon as possible. “You hurt the company’s ability to properly investigate the claim if you wait too long,” Dodge says.
The amount of time for filing a claim varies from state to state. In New York, you’re given 30 days after an accident to submit a claim.
6. Undergo a post-crash physical exam.
If you’re hurt in a car crash, you may be asked to get a physical exam. “These are paid for by the insurance company,” Dodge says, “and are conducted by physicians of the company's choosing.”
Of course, you won’t need an exam if you weren’t injured.
“However, if you were injured and the other driver is determined to be at fault, their insurance company will want their doctors to have you checked out,” Dodge says.
If you later feel pain that you think is connected to the crash, contact your insurer and the other driver’s insurer. “The other insurer will likely want their own doctors to check you out,” Dodge says.
7. Get the other driver’s insurance information.
“No matter who thinks they are at fault, exchanging accurate information is key,” Weedin says. “Failing to obtain accurate information slows down the entire claims process.”
Obtain a copy of the other driver’s insurance card or write down the following:
- Name, phone number and email address of the other driver.
- Name of the other driver’s insurance company.
- Number for other driver’s policy.
- Name and phone number for other driver’s agent or company.