Insurance Claims - Auto
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How to make an insurance claim.


Making an auto insurance claim


At the accident scene: call 911 if someone has a life-threatening injury. If there's no emergency, get any needed medical attention and call the police directly. You will need that police report.


Exchange license plate numbers, contact information, including phone numbers and auto insurance information with the other parties. Most states require drivers to have an insurance identification card in the vehicle and it will provide most of the pertinent information.


Ask any witnesses if they will be willing to tell what they saw and get their contact information as well.

Police officers may try to avoid taking an accident report, assuming that the damage is minimal. However,  you can insist on a report.


"Finding fault" is very important.


The majority of states have adopted "comparative negligence." This concept is based on the idea that no one party is necessarily completely at fault, but that fault is just a matter of degree. Your settlement may be reduced based on the degree of fault.


Contact your insurance company as soon as possible. You may call your company right from the scene. Your insurance ID card should provide the number.


Even if the other party is at fault, you should file the claim with your own insurance carrier. Each carrier is obliged to protect the interests of its own insured, making your claim a secondary concern for the other party's carrier.

If the other party is at fault and you do not have collision coverage on your vehicle, you will have to file a claim against the other party's carrier. If the other party doesn't have insurance, you will have to negotiate with the other party directly or go to court.


Itemize every expense involved. At the end of the process, you submit this itemized list to your carrier.


You will get a phone call from the other company asking for your version of events that led to the accident. Especially with an injury claim, check with your insurance carrier to see what statements you need to make to the other insurance carrier.


Write down exactly what you will tell the other carrier beforehand so that your statement will remain consistent. Don't trust your memory.


The adjuster will come out to take a look at the damage to your vehicle and come up with an estimate of what it will take to restore it (or replace it, if it's totaled). Then, the insurance company will cut a check in the amount of the repair, minus any collision deductible amount.


If an insurance company has a direct repair program, the adjuster might not even have to come out. Under such a program, your insurance carrier will refer you to a shop with which they have an agreement. The shop may also be able to make arrangements for a rental vehicle.


If the adjuster says the car is totaled (beyond repair), the adjuster will estimate your compensation on the actual cash value (or depreciated value) of the vehicle before the accident, essentially enabling you to buy a similar used car. If you've bought coverage for replacement cost value, the estimate will cover the cost of buying a similar new vehicle.


If you think your carrier's damage settlement offer is too low, you may ask your carrier for a form of arbitration to resolve the dispute. In most cases, the insurance company will pay you the amount it offered immediately, and you'll get the rest when and if the dispute is resolved in your favor.


If you disagree with an offer from the other party's carrier, you may or may not be offered such dispute resolution. If not and the amount in dispute is significant, it may be worthwhile to take legal action.


Insurance claim after a storm

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