How to File a Car Accident Claim
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UPDATED: Jul 16, 2021
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When you need to file a car accident claim claim, being familiar with the process will help you recover the insurance money you deserve. Whether you were the driver or the passenger, it is important that you know how to file a car accident claim before you speak with your insurance company.
Filing a Car Accident Claim
To begin the car accident claim process, you will have to report the claim by calling the insurance company to let them know that an accident has occurred. The insurance company will ask for some initial information about details of the accident before they proceed with the claim. Be very careful during your first phone call reporting the car accident! You do not want to say anything that can jeopardize your claim later, so just stick to the facts about what happened without adding any additional thoughts or opinions.
TIP:Even if there was no obvious injury, if there is a remote possibility that there could be a medical bill later, let the insurance company know this up front. This will allow them to make the necessary notation in the file to expect possible medical bills later as well as send you the proper related forms. Start keeping track of all your expenses (i.e. mileage to the doctor, prescription cost, time missed from work, etc.)
After you’ve contacted the company about a car accident claim and filled out the necessary paperwork, an accident claims adjuster will be assigned to investigate your case. The adjuster will review your car insurance policy to see what coverage and deductibles you have, and evaluate the type and extent of damage and/or injuries that resulted from the accident.
Simple Auto Accident Claims
In cases where there is no question about what happened (e.g.: you backed into a tree, were not injured and had $100 worth of damage to your vehicle), the adjuster may simply have you get an estimate for the cost of repairing the car to send to them before they pay you the cost of repairs minus your deductible. Keep a few things in mind:
- Some companies have participating body shops – although you are not required to get you car fixed there, if used, you can usually get your estimate for the damages to your vehicle and receive the check for repairs right there on the spot. Ask about participating body shops if it is not mentioned.
- If you have one visit to the doctor – if you have one visit to the hospital or doctor and know that you will not be returning, your claims adjuster might offer to pay that one bill on the spot and ask you to sign a release form. This form will state that you are not entitled to anything else due to the injury of this accident. You should probably not agree to close out the car accident claim after just one doctor visit. Be patient and make sure you injury is not more serious before accepting any settlement.
Complex or Difficult Car Accident Claims
For difficult car accident claims where fault is at issue, there are serious injuries, several vehicles were involved, or unusual circumstances surrounded the accident (bad weather, construction, etc.) the insurance claim process can be a little more involved. The adjuster will generally contact those involved in the accident, including drivers, passengers, witnesses, and possibly the police officer who came to the scene to get accurate details of what really happened. The claims adjuster may conduct interviews, obtain recorded statements, research traffic laws where the accident occurred, and review photos of damage and hospital records to collect additional information. You have to complete a certain amount of paperwork and may have to meet with an adjuster in this scenario.
TIP:If you are interviewed, be VERY CAREFUL about what you say and what words you use. In the event of a dispute, your claims adjuster or an attorney for the insurance company will pick your statement apart. Consult with a car accident attorney if you have any questions about how to respond to questions from your claims adjuster.
How long your car accident claim takes to settle depends on the facts of the case. Generally speaking, easy claims can be settled in a matter of weeks, if not days. Difficult cases may, and generally do, take much longer – especially when fault is at issue. Don’t sit back and wait! Once you’ve submitted a claim, check in with your adjuster from time to time, either by phone or email, to see what progress has been made on your claim. Claims adjusters usually have hundreds of claims to settle in their case load;don’t let yours fall to the bottom of the pile.
TIP:If you are asked to sign any paperwork during the auto insurance claim process, READ THE DOCUMENT, and consult an attorney with any questions before you agree to anything.
Documents to Have When Filing an Auto Accident Claim
Before you think about settling a car accident claim, you should collect all of the documentation you need to prove your claim. The adjuster will ask for copies of all your medical bills, a medical report from your physician, documentation from your employer if you lost time at work, and proof of all other expenses. You may have been asked to sign a medical authorization form in the beginning of the claim. This will allow the company to obtain any an all medical bills or records related to your injury. Make sure you advise the adjuster of any time missed from work, mileage back and for to the doctor, prescription cost, if you had to hire a baby sister to watch the kids during physical therapy. Any and all expenses that you have tracked should be itemized, supported by receipts, and listed for the adjuster.
Tips to Help You File a Car Accident Claim
The process of following an auto claim to the end can be a little unnerving. So be sure to follow some simple tips:
- Remember that the insurance company saves money by paying less than the full amount you claim, and that the adjuster can use any little mistake you make to deny part of your insurance. When working with the adjuster remember to stick to the facts about the accident and avoid making any statements or comments that can jeopardize the value of your claim.
- Make sure you understand your rights before you sign anything. Signing away your rights could change the final outcome of your claim.
- Once you have all your documentation together and you’ve provided requested information to the insurance company, you will want to assess the value of your claim. Take your time in this assessment, but make sure you are aware of any deadlines that your car insurance company requires.
- If you are confident that your claim is worth a certain amount, learn how to write an accident claim demand letter to the insurance company which summarizes all your losses and asks for a lump sum amount to settle your auto accident claim.
- DO NOT accept a claim settlement agreement and release your right to pursue additional damages unless you are absolutely sure that your car insurance claim settlement is fair and that no other damages will arise.
It is important that you keep in mind that the entire auto claim process can be handled by an attorney. If you are thinking about hiring an attorney to settle your car accident claim, talk to him or her first. If you have retained an attorney, let the initial report of the accident be done by his/her office. If anyone from the insurance company should contact you directly, let them know immediately that you are represented by an attorney. At that point, they should cease any and all conversation with you and instead contact your attorney for anything that might be needed.
If you do take on the claims process alone, be aware of your limitations. If you are unsure about any part of your claim or your settlement amount, reach out to an attorney before you sign anything. Click here to find an attorney prepared to help you navigate the auto insurance claim process.
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