If someone hits my car, do I call my insurance or theirs?

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Here's what you need to know...

  • Insurance companies represent their policyholder, even when they don’t pay the claim
  • Under your auto insurance contract, you agree to notify your insurer when you have a loss in order for losses to be covered
  • Speaking directly with the other party’s adjuster could be dangerous and lead to a potential claims denial or at-fault determination
  • If you have an issue with your claim, you should speak with your own adjuster to resolve it instead of the other company’s representative

The scenario is all too common. You get into an accident that’s no fault of your own and takes all of the appropriate steps to gather contact information and file police reports.

After leaving the scene of the accident, you decide to pick up the phone and call the other party’s insurer to file the claim. Unfortunately, even if the other party admitted fault, dialing the other insurer could be your first mistake in the claims process.

Read on and find out more about your duties as a policyholder and why it’s so important to call your insurer regardless of who’s at fault for the loss.

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What is your duty as a policyholder?

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Many people buy insurance to satisfy state laws without even reviewing their rights and responsibilities in the contract. Since personal auto insurance is a financial contract, each party in the contract has their own duties they’ll have to comply with to avoid issues.

While paying premiums for coverage is one of these duties, failing to live up to your other responsibilities could land you in hot water.

As you read through the terms and conditions of an auto insurance policy, you might be bombarded by all of the things you’re expected to do.

Most of your responsibilities are common sense, but there are requirements that you should know about that the everyday person might not know.

Every carrier requires their named insured to notify the company when an event occurs that could potentially lead to a claim.

This could either be an accident or another incident that didn’t even involve a collision. When the carrier must be notified depends upon the language in the contract.

In most contracts, there’s not a specific time frame but a requirement to call the insurer “within a reasonable time.”

In some cases this would be within days and in others, especially where an injury is involved, it may be within weeks.

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What happens if you fail to report your occurrence within a reasonable time?

Failing to fulfill your end of the bargain could have negative and consequences and expensive penalties.

In order for the insurance company to agree to pay for losses, the company needs to see that you’re paying premiums and reporting occurrences that could later arise because of a third party.

Notification requirements protect the insurer from false claims and protect you from having to defend yourself against unfounded claims as well.

Failing to report your occurrence could result in the immediate termination of your policy. This is the worst case scenario because you’ve failed to comply with contractual obligations.

If your carrier doesn’t cancel your policy, you can bet that the carrier will deny a claim filed in the future for the same incident.

This is because you’ve violated the terms you must follow for the insurer to be obligated to payout for the claim.

What you Must Provide When Filing a Claim

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When you call to report a claim, you will be asked for the following pieces of information:

  • Address of the scene where accident occurred
  • Date and time of accident
  • Driving conditions
  • Name, license plate number, insurance policy number of the other party
  • Names of passenger/witnesses
  • Location of damage
  • Where vehicle was towed
  • Police report number or badge number
  • Details of what happened during the occurrence

Contacting Your Insurer Protects You as a Claimant

It’s not only a requirement to report the incident, it’s in your best interest to do so. Many policyholders avoid dialing their claims department at all costs because they don’t want their rates to go up.

Unfortunately, avoidance could cost you a lot of money in the long run. Not only could your claim be denied, you could be found at-fault for a non-fault loss.

Insurance companies represent their clients and not the third-party claimants who call in.

The adjusters who are taking your call are more than happy to speak with you, but the calls are recorded and they’re looking for every opportunity to find holes in your story that could support a reason for them denying the claim.

While companies don’t want you to know it, it’s the adjuster’s job within the industry to find a way to keep the settlement as low as possible.

Since there are ethical concerns around how the insurance adjuster might try and spin what you’ve said, you should only speak about the accident with your own company.

Your adjuster is acting in your best interests at all times so that the claim ends in your favor and so that you’re not at a disadvantage to the insurer.

Arrange Repairs Without Delay

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There’s nothing more frustrating than waiting to hear back about a claim when you need your car to be repaired. If you decide to file the claim through the third-party, it’s possible that you could be left waiting for weeks.

Luckily, you don’t have to wait if you carry the right coverage options on your own policy.

If you carry full coverage on your own policy and you call your insurer, you can start to have your car repaired as soon as you file your claim.

This is because your collision cover will pay initially until your company investigates the claims and determines fault. If the other insurer denies fault, the company will seek recovery in subrogation.

If you’ve filed a claim and you’re not happy with the service your company has provided, it’s time to shop around for a new policy. It’s advised that you wait until the claim has been closed and settled before making any moves.

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