A couple of months ago, my husband and I had the unfortunate experience of being in a car accident. The other driver wasn’t paying attention and rear ended us.
Gratefully, we weren’t hurt beyond some bumps, bruises, and a minor cut. To our dismay, though, our car was a total loss. We had to spend the rest of the month figuring out how to file the insurance claim and hunting for a replacement car.
I’m happy to report that we found a great car using the money from the insurance company.
Now that I’ve been through the experience, I’d like to share some tips and steps on reporting an accident with your auto insurance company. I hope this information speeds up the process for you and relieves you of some of the headaches that I had to deal with!
1. Get Information and Evidence
1. Get the other driver’s insurance information. First, check with everyone to make sure they’re OK. Safety is the first priority. After making sure there are no serious injuries, make sure you get the insurance information from the other driver. This includes getting their name, phone number, and address (verify with their license).
My past experience with getting this information has been relatively cooperative. Most people will work with you. Sometimes, though, you’ll get somebody difficult. Don’t admit fault at the scene, and if you’re in doubt over what you should say, then wait until you speak with your insurance company.
2. Take pictures of all the cars involved. In my case, I had a teenager hit my car, but he told the officer a different story. When the court date arrived, I simply showed the judge the photos which clearly supported my case. The young man got a long talk from his father at the courthouse.
If the other drivers are irate about you snapping photos, then wait for the police officer to be present. They are trained to obtain all of the necessary and to give everyone a copy of contact information as well as vehicle information. Vehicle information includes the following:
- Year, make, and model of the car
- License Plate Number
- Insurance Company
- Insurance Policy Number
3. Check for witnesses. Lastly, depending on the nature of the accident, it may be a good idea to see if you have any witnesses that would speak on your behalf.
2. File a Claim With Your Insurance Company
By now, hopefully you’ve obtained a cheap and affordable auto insurance company. Call them up right away to get started on the claims process. They typically will walk you through the steps. Be prepared to take notes on what they say so that you can reference the conversation later. Depending on your coverage, you may be eligible to use a rental car while the damaged one is assessed or replaced.
Also, insurance companies use adjusters to calculate the cost of repairs and whether or not to declare a vehicle a total loss. While they are coming up with their numbers, you should have a ballpark figure of what your car was worth before the accident to make sure you’re not being shortchanged. Use tools like Kelley Blue Book and Edmunds to get a quote.
Most adjusters are honest, so if you can back up your numbers, they can review and possibly adjust their estimate higher. It never hurts to ask for a fair deal.
3. Decide Whether to Replace or Repair Your Car
If the repairs are more than what the car is worth, then you’re looking at a “total loss.” In the case of a total loss, you can either take a check from the insurance company for what your car was worth prior to the accident, or you can get your car back along with a reduced check that can be used towards repairs. Since cars depreciate in value very quickly (especially those that have been in major car accidents), it’s highly recommended that you use this opportunity to upgrade to a new car. This solution is generally the way to go to get the best return on your insurance money.
If the car is not totaled and you can easily repair your car, this is not a bad option to go. Often, you can get the car repaired for less than the check the insurance company gave you. Also, don’t necessarily go to the repair shop that the company recommends since these shops are often much more expensive than local competitors.
I’ve both replaced my car and repaired my car on two different occasions, and I can tell you that replacing the car is much easier and less stressful.
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