Going Through the Auto Insurance Claim Process for the First Time

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Things to Remember...

  • The Insurance Information Institute reports that approximately 336,000 customers filed a car insurance claim in 2010
  • The Rocky Mountain Insurance Information Association provides the proper steps for you to follow when filing an automobile insurance claim
  • The Internet option is much easier because they tend to communicate via email

If you are going through the auto insurance claim process for the first time, do not feel overwhelmed. This happens to almost everyone at some point during his or her lifetime.

The Insurance Information Institute reports that approximately 336,000 customers filed a car insurance claim in 2010. This represents about 6 percent of the population of American drivers.

Although the types vary, from liability to collision and comprehensive, it is clear to see that you are not alone.

There are specifics you need to understand to ensure that you handle your part of the claims process correctly. Once you have the knowledge, you can set your mind at ease.

The Rocky Mountain Insurance Information Association provides the proper steps for you to follow when filing an automobile insurance claim. Proper preparation is a given, so it is not included.

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Do Not Delay Filing your Claim

Make sure you file a police report because your auto insurance provider will more than likely want a copy. They send this data to the claims adjuster whose responsibility includes assessing fault. If there are witnesses at the scene, be sure to ask them if they will give the officer a statement.

Your car insurance company has experts who can guide you. Their job is to see everything through to completion and get you back on the road again. If your vehicle suffers extensive damage, prepare for difficult news.

The first important step is that you do not delay the procedure. Although it may take time from your busy schedule, you should complete the task sooner rather than later.

Never feel afraid to report the accident to your car insurance company. They are your advocates and work with you, not against you.

Many customers fear rate increases and decide to skip the claims process. They choose to bear the burden of paying for the damage themselves.

Of course, this is always an option if the damage is limited. In fact, many encourage this if your deductible is more than the cost of the repairs.

However, if you encounter other issues, like injuries or property damage, you need your auto insurance protection. This is why you pay your premiums.

In addition, there is no guarantee that your rates will automatically increase. It is better to take advantage of the coverage you have and wait for the results.

If you do encounter a rate increase during the renewal period, you can always switch car insurance carriers.

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Decide How to File the Claim

In today’s high-paced world, there are other options besides filing a claim in person. You can call your agent or company representative. You can also take advantage of their website and enter the information via the Internet.

Every large auto insurance company has a website for this purpose. You simply complete their form and wait for someone to contact you with the details. Many customers prefer this method because they work at their own pace.

When you discuss the accident over the telephone, you may feel obliged to move at the representative’s speed.

Since they process claims all day long, they are used to the steps. However, as an individual, you may want to take your time to make sure you do not make any mistakes or say the wrong thing.

If you choose the telephone, make sure you have a pen and pad for notes. They will give you a lot of information and it is to your benefit that you record the specifics. The Internet option is much easier because they tend to communicate via email.

After the initial contact, they send most of your documents to your email address. This is a great way to keep everything in one location.

You can also print out all of the forms and papers for your records. You can also send everything by fax or email, which means you keep all of the originals in your personal files.

Schedule a Meeting with an Inspector

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Your auto insurance company will most likely provide you with a few names and addresses of collision centers in your local area. If you can still drive your car, go there as soon as possible.

If your vehicle is not in great shape, you probably towed it somewhere.

The inspector can arrive at the location and take the necessary photos to send to your car insurance company.

If you drive to the inspection location, be prepared to spend about 15 to 20 minutes. They record the Vehicle Identification Number or VIN for verification purposes. Then they start snapping pictures.

You will sign various forms and documents for their records and receive your own copy. Once complete, you should receive a phone call or email from your car insurance company. They explain the next step towards completing your claim.

Talk to the Claims Adjuster

The next part is usually where the adjuster enters the scenario. The Bureau of Statistics defines a claims adjuster as someone who examines and investigates losses. Their main purpose is to inspect damage to evaluate a claim.

They can complete any research required to arrive at a justified conclusion. They review the photos and any statements from witnesses and send their report to your car insurance examiner.

The car insurance examiner is responsible for approving the claim based on the data the claims adjuster forwards.

Since you already reported to the inspector, they also have the photos and appraise the damage in monetary costs. They also include this in their report so the claims examiner understands the amount required to repair the damage.

Only when the insured does not agree with the claims adjuster and claims examiner does an issue arise. At this point, you must refer to your policy. Arbitration is usually the way they resolve disputes.

This can take anywhere from two weeks to six months. Depending on the terms of your policy, you may receive a portion of the settlement or none at all.

As long as you agree on the payment amount, your car insurance company moves along to the next step, which is fixing your car. In addition, if you require medical payments or other compensation, you receive this too.

Get Your Car Repaired

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You should receive the green light from your car insurance company for vehicle repair. This is when you pay your deductible. Your car insurance company will not submit payment for any repairs until they receive verification from the shop that you paid your portion first.

It is also important to note that some auto insurance providers require you to use specific shops. If you choose to go elsewhere, your insurance policy may become void. To make sure you do not create a huge mistake, ask many questions.

There is also the question of the parts they use. Many accidents require repairs to the engine. This is especially true if your car collides with an approaching object.

If you have engine damage, your repair shop must not ignore the federal laws as they relate to emission control. The Environmental Protection Agency has very strict rules regarding this type of violation.

Since the early 1990s, they have worked towards enforcing the Clean Air Act. The repair shop must utilize the most comparable parts to ensure that your vehicle is within the federal regulations.

This means they should order their replacement parts from the Specialty Equipment Market Association (SEMA). They guarantee that the EPA regulates all of their aftermarket parts.

It is your responsibility to question the repair shop your car insurance company recommends.

If they do not have these parts in their inventory, contact your provider. You are the person who drives this vehicle and if problems arise in the future, they hold you accountable, not the repair shop.

Keep Track of all Expenses and Follow Up

It is very important that you track your expenses in full and include everything. If you have personal injuries, you need to document all of your doctor’s appointments. Every time you pay an amount from your own pocket, you should have an accompanying receipt.

If your car insurance coverage includes rental car reimbursement, you should definitely keep a file.The majority of the time you may need to forward proof to your auto insurance company.

Finally, the major expenditures will likely surround your lost wages if you spend time from work recovering. Your medical or personal injury protection coverage helps in this area. However, just like rental car reimbursement, they will want details.

You also need to follow up with your car insurance company until they close the claim. This may mean sending weekly emails or telephone calls. Once you receive written notification, you know their part is over.

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