While a car accident can occur in the blink of an eye, the aftermath of the incident can linger for weeks, months, or even years.
After an accident, you may be left with vehicle damage, medical expenses, and other costs. Particularly if you’re able to prove auto negligence or the other party is at fault, you may be able to get compensation for these expenses; but to do so, you’ll need to see the insurance claims process through to completion.
Submitting an insurance claim after a traumatic accident can be overwhelming but knowing exactly what to do in this situation can help you navigate it with confidence.
Here are seven steps you should follow when filing an auto insurance claim!
1. Determine if you need a police report
Not all incidents require police reports. For accidents that involve very minor damage and no injuries, a police report is not always necessary—though it doesn’t hurt to have one on file.
If someone is injured or if there is significant damage to one or more vehicles, on the other hand, it’s important that you call the authorities and have a police report filed as soon as possible.
Many insurers require that you notify the police within 24 hours of when the accident occurred, so time is of the essence if you hope to submit a claim.
2. Document the incident thoroughly
The more documentation you’re able to provide, the better. However, it’s very difficult to record information once the event has already passed, so it’s critical that you gather as much data as possible immediately after the accident has occurred.
Take photos from all angles, record videos of the scene, and write down important details—such as license plate numbers and conversation notes—that you will need to refer to during the claims process.
3. Exchange contact and insurance information
As you’re speaking with the other parties involved in the car accident, be sure to exchange personal contact information and insurance information.
Ask for the other person’s name, address, and phone number. Then, make sure you take a photo of their auto insurance card—or at the very least, jot down the name of the insurance company and the individual’s policy number.
4. Contact the insurance company
As a rule of thumb, most auto claims should be filed with the at-fault party’s insurance company.
If you’re the one who is at fault, contact your own insurance company. If the other party is at fault, contact their insurance company. It’s also a good idea to keep your insurance company in the loop, regardless. If you’re unsure as to which party is at fault, you will want to contact both insurance companies.
If you live in a no-fault state, you may be required to file the auto claim with your own insurance company—even if you believe another party to be at fault.
5. Ask an agent about what is required
Claim processes can vary from company to company and from state to state. Once you have contacted the insurance company, ask an agent about what specific items are needed in order to submit a claim.
Be sure to also inquire about how long you have to file the claim. As your timeframe will depend on the type of claim and the state in which you live, you may have anywhere between one and 10 years to finalize and submit your claim.
6. Submit your insurance claim
So long as you have all of the necessary information and documentation, submitting a claim should be a relatively straightforward process. For your convenience, companies will typically offer multiple ways by which you can submit an auto insurance claim.
Traditionally, insurance claims have been submitted over the phone or via email. Today, however, companies also allow you to upload documents and submit claims through their online portals.
One of the most popular ways to submit a claim is via a company’s mobile application. This allows you to track your progress and perform tasks from the convenience of your smartphone.
When you’re ready, finalize your claim and submit a completed claims form!
7. Sit back and wait!
With your claim submitted, it’s only a matter of time before you hear back regarding your compensation.
While you’re waiting, however, it’s likely that the insurance company will send their own adjuster to investigate the incident and make an assessment of the damages.
If you’re dealing with the other party’s insurance company, you can expect them to want to downplay the significance of the incident. This is why it’s critical that you provide detailed information and documentation!