Many people never realize it, but the most important part of getting their car insurance claim paid for happens before they ever pick up the phone to call their insurance company. It’s easy to say that car insurance claims are a pain. It’s much harder to accept that the reason most car insurance claims are a hassle is because the drivers involved in the accident didn’t know what they needed to do before they got a claims adjuster involved.
The first thing that you as a driver need to do when you’re involved in an accident (after making sure everyone’s okay and the necessary emergency teams are called in, of course) is get the name, address and insurance information of the other driver(s) involved in the accident. Whatever you do, NEVER accept their request to deal with the matter privately rather than getting your insurance companies involved. They’re trying to keep their insurance premiums from going up because of a car insurance claim, but if you walk away from the scene of the accident without any kind of insurance in your hand there’s a 50/50 chance that you’re never going to see the money you need to get your repairs done.
The next thing you need to do is seek medical attention for yourself, your passengers and anyone else involved. Encourage the other driver(s) to do the same. If you don’t feel you need to go to the emergency room that’s fine (sitting around in the waiting room for hours on end can be more torturous than the accident was in the first place if you’ve just got a mild case of whiplash from a fender bender) but make an appointment to see your doctor the next day. You never know what’s going to pop up a day or two after the accident (or even weeks down the road, when the bruises and swelling are gone and you still feel terrible) and you don’t want the medical portion of your car insurance claim to get swept under a rug because you waited to see a doctor and now there’s a lawyer claiming the accident had nothing to do with your injuries.
Make sure you file an accident report within 24 to 48 hours of your accident, when the details are still fresh in your mind, to firmly establish proof of the accident and the culpability of the parties involved with your insurer. If your accident was bad enough to draw officers to the scene they’ve probably already filed an accident report for you (although it never hurts to call and check) but if you were rear ended on a back country road and the two of you just exchanged insurance information and went on your merry way it’s going to be up to you to make sure there’s an accident report on file to support your car insurance claim.
NOW it’s time to contact your insurer. When you file a car insurance claim your provider is going to hook you up with one of their trained claims representatives. They’ll be the ones to help you get the damages on your car appraised (they should already have a trusted network of providers they rely on to do those appraisals without padding their bill) and walk you through the process of getting your car insurance claim paid as quickly, efficiently and painlessly as possible so you can get back on the road.