How to prepare for a car insurance claim
When you take out a new car insurance policy, it’s important to familiarise yourself with the claims process so you know how to go about using your policy if needed. Being involved in a car accident or having your car stolen can be a stressful time, so knowing how the claims process works beforehand can make the ordeal easier to deal with.
This review will explore how to prepare for your car insurance claim and the steps to take immediately following the event to ensure the claims process runs as smoothly as possible.
The first step, before you even take out a policy, is to familiarize yourself with its benefits, terms and conditions. This is all in the terms and conditions that accompanies insurance policies. This document lays out what you can claim and the conditions for appropriate claims.
Once you have a policy and clear benefits and limitations, you should have a good idea of when you can make a claim and what you are entitled to, in addition to how it will affect your future premiums and no-claim discount. It’s important to thoroughly read the terms of any car insurance policy before buying.
Carry pre-filled forms
To be prepared for the worst, it could be a good idea to carry some pre-filled forms in your car wherever you go. There are a lot of details to exchange in the event of an accident, and having these handy makes it considerably easier. Try printing out forms you can give to other drivers, and witnesses, for them to quickly fill in.
- Time, date and location of the incident
- Contact number
- Vehicle registration
- License number
- Details of their insurer and policy
- A brief description of what happened
This can be supplemented by picture and video evidence, taken with your phone at the scene, to make sure both insurers have all they need to successfully process your claim.
Don’t panic, and follow these steps.
- Call 911 for life-threatening emergencies or injuries. Make sure no one is in any immediate danger or needs first aid. If the accident was serious or resulted in injuries, you may be required to call the police depending on where in the US you are.
- Minimize further damage. For example, you can move a damaged car off the road if it’s safe.
- Exchange details with the other driver, including all the information on the pre-filled forms. Where possible, try to include any other details you feel are relevant, such as the make, color and model of the vehicles involved. Take photos and videos if needed, and recording other relevant details.
- Exchange details with any witnesses to the accident if applicable. You can hand them the same forms, and simply ask them to provide their names, contact numbers and a brief description of what happened.
- Collect information. Make sure you have all the information you need, as far as is safe and reasonably possible, before leaving the scene.
- Notify the police if needed. In the event of a theft or malicious damage claim, you must notify the police as soon as possible and obtain a police report to accompany your claim.
- Do not admit liability at any point, regardless of whether or not you were at fault. The issue of blame will be by the insurers and the authorities.
- Do not offer to settle the incident or claim unless you have obtained the written consent of your insurer.
- Do not negotiate for the damages or repair costs, and do not authorize any repairs until your insurer has has been informed, unless it is absolutely necessary.
Depending on your insurer, there may be different ways that you can place a car insurance claim.
- Online. Insurers will often let you fill out claims forms and submit them online at their websites. Some might specify claims team email addresses for you to get in touch with.
- By phone. You call your insurer to make a claim, or to inform them that something has happened and you will be making a claim. Sometimes you may be able to provide the relevant information, such as the name of the other driver and their registration number, over the phone, while material like photos will need another method.
- Using an app. Some insurers offer claims apps that can help you automatically navigate the procedures. These can be particularly useful by letting you upload photos or videos to your insurer through the app.
- In the mail or in person. If you think you’ll want to do this, it may be worth specifically looking for such providers, as not all insurers will offer this option. You will generally still need to provide the same information.
All the information you provide to your insurer is important, and often you cannot make a successful claim without it. For their purposes, however, insurers may be particularly interested in the details of the incident and the details of the other driver and their insurer.
This is because insurers will typically attempt to recover costs from the at-fault party’s insurers, when applicable, including the cost of damage, replacement rental car hire following an accident and other expenses. This, along with making sure you and your car are getting all the benefits your policy entitles you to, such as free repairs, free towing, emergency glass replacements and similar, are a significant part of what an insurer does.
The steps taken by insurers when processing claims can include:
- Recovery actions on your behalf. For example, if you’ve been injured in a car accident and the other driver was at fault, then your insurer can get in touch with the other driver’s insurance company on your behalf.
- Contacting the other drivers and witnesses. Insurers will often take investigative actions to confirm the details of what happened and help establish who was at fault, if anyone.
- Providing services. If you are eligible for emergency accommodation or a rental car under the terms of your policy, for example, part of your insurer’s claims process might be to book you a hotel room or rental car. The same goes for car repairs, towing and other services.
If you do not follow the terms and conditions of your insurance policy, then insurers may reject your claims. Watch out for:
- Benefits. A common trap is to assume that a policy covers something when it doesn’t. For example, you will probably need a comprehensive car insurance policy if you want to claim certain variety of types of damage, and cannot assume that you are covered for anything in specific.
- Exclusions. These are conditions where the policy will not pay out. Exclusions will typically apply for driving under the influence and otherwise being reckless behind the wheel, but there may be more specific ones such as exclusions for accidents that occur within a certain distance of your home, or beyond a certain amount.
- Your obligations. Getting approved repairs and waiting to settle damage with other parties are two common obligations you will encounter in car insurance policies. Not following these can be used as valid grounds to decline a claim.
In all cases, reading your contract is an effective first step to making sure you know your responsibilities and exclusions. Contacting your insurance provider as soon as you are able might also be a good idea because it can let you ask specific questions and get some assistance on the scene.
Here are a few things to remember to help make your claims process go more smoothly:
- Be honest. You may think that withholding any negative marks on your record will help you save on your car insurance. But car insurance companies share information and will find out about any past claims and your driving record. Failure to disclose relevant details could lead to your claims being reduced or rejected, even if you’ve paid your premiums.
- Keep a record. When you’re involved in any incident that may lead to a claim, keep as many records of the incident as you can. Obtain the details (name, contact information, driver’s licence number, registration, insurance policy details) of all other drivers involved in the incident, and make sure to get details from witnesses as well. Take photos of the accident scene if it’s safe to do so, and record information about the make, model and damage of the other vehicles involved.
- Don’t admit guilt. Don’t attempt to settle a claim on the roadside by yourself, and do not admit any fault. Provide as much information as you can and let the insurance companies work out who is to blame.
- Contact your insurer. If you’ve been involved in an accident, report it to your insurer as soon as you can. Once everyone is safe and you’ve contacted the police or ambulance, contact your insurer.
How do I make my insurance affordable after a claim?
If you’ve had an accident and made a claim, your premiums are likely going to increase. To keep this from getting out of hand in the future, here are some things to consider.
- Decide if you really need to make a claim.
You might want to get quotes from mechanics before calling the insurance company. If it can be fixed for less than the deductible, making a claim might not be worth it. And even if making a claim saves you money in the short term, it can be worth holding off to avoid higher long-term premiums later on.
- You might have to adjust your coverage.
If you’ve had a car accident and your new premiums are breaking the bank, there are a few quick ways to potentially bump the price down. Raising your deductible, reducing your limits or dropping extras can lower the price while letting you keep essential coverage.
- Maximize discounts.
Your no-claims discount is gone for now, but there are still plenty of other car insurance discounts you could qualify for. Look for low-mileage discounts if you aren’t on the road much, multi-policy discounts from other insurers, membership discounts or defensive driving and road safety training courses that are recognized by insurance companies.
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I’ve had an accident, what do I do?
Having an action plan on hand when making a claim
Once you’ve been involved in an accident, you’ll have to make a claim. To increase the likelihood of the process going smoothly, keep the following tips in mind:
- Stay at the scene of the accident but don’t admit you were to blame. You should also take down the names, contact information and registration numbers of the other people involved in the accident. You should also get hold of and record the number of the police report, if it applies.
- Before you make the claim consider all the consequences that might arise as a result. You should also make sure that you’re fully aware of any excess obligations you might have. Also check if your insurance company offers a no claim bonus.
- When deciding to make a claim, you must give the insurance company all the information pertaining to your accident as clearly and as quickly as possible.
- Fill out a formal claim form if necessary. If available, provide as many supporting documents as possible and make sure that the insurance company acknowledges that your claim was received. Next, you’ll have to answer any questions that are relevant for the assessment of your claim and, to ensure everything goes smoothly and you get an answer as quickly as possible, make sure you stay up to date with how your claim is progressing.
If you have to make a claim to your insurance company, you expect to be compensated. But in the event that you’re not, you can dispute a claim to try to get what you deserve. Always document all communication you’ve made with the insurance company and pay attention to timelines. Being prepared is key to getting what you need. It’s also important to become familiar with the state laws and get an independent appraisal. To dispute your claim, do the following:
- Contact the insurer. Talk to the insurer about your concerns and try to work out a solution you’re both happy with. If an agent doesn’t solve your issue, speak with a supervisor. It’s also a good idea to follow up with a letter, restating your concerns.
- Make a complaint to the state. When you’re unhappy with the way an insurance company has handled a situation, you can go over their heads by contacting the Department of Insurance. The process varies by state, but you should always respond quickly when they ask you to provide information.
- Mediation. Before you decide on taking the insurance company to court, they may want to try getting a mediator — a third party who will help both of you decide on a fair solution.
- Get a lawyer. It may be a good idea to talk to a lawyer about your claim to get some legal advice. They can help you bring the case to small-claims court and bring a “bad faith” claim against an insurance company.
If you are not happy with how your insurer has handled your claim, you can escalate your claim. Start by following up again with your insurance provider before taking on extra costs from arbitration with a third party appraiser, mediator or lawyer. Going to small claims court should be your last resort.
- Insurer customer support
- Independent appraiser
- State insurance department
Making an insurance claim after an accident can seem scary and overwhelming. Being prepared will help make the process seem less daunting, by understanding your coverage and knowing the best steps to take after an accident. Your insurer will work with you to make sure your claim is paid out so you can get back on the road.
Talk to your insurance provider about your coverage and the best way to make a car insurance claim. Learn more about car insurance coverage and compare insurance providers that can offer you more comprehensive coverage, an easier claims process and better customer service.