In the moments after a car accident, tension and emotions run high. Yet in the days and weeks after the accident, drivers often find themselves in the midst of another stressful experience: the auto insurance claims process.
Here are some steps you can take at the accident scene that will smooth out the claims process -- and what you can expect from the claims process itself.
At the scene
According to tips from Edmunds.com, actions you take immediately after an accident can speed up your claim.
- If it's safe to do so and those involved in the crash have no major injuries, move all vehicles safely as far from moving traffic as possible. This helps prevent additional damage, which can make the claim more complicated.
- Exchange information with other involved drivers, so that you can quickly supply it to your insurance company. But don't admit fault -- that can complicate things if the case goes to court.
- Document the accident with a cell phone camera or other device, making note of road conditions. As time passes, remembering the details of a crash can be difficult. Such information can help your insurance company investigate your claim if your story differs from what the other party is saying.
- Ask police officers at the scene of the crash to file an accident report. Police may want to avoid filing for smaller damages, but you can file a report at your local police station. This bit of paperwork can help speed up the claims process.
GMAC Insurance stresses getting the names of any police officers at the scene and keeping that information (as well as all paperwork pertaining to the accident) organized and on hand so that you can give your insurance company as much information as possible.
If your car is not safe to drive, be sure you know where it gets towed, according to GEICO. Keep all receipts for towing charges and repair bills.
What happens during the claims process?
According to GEICO, one of your insurance company's adjusters will want to see the car. If it's not safe to drive, the adjuster will go to where it was towed. Meanwhile, a liability examiner, an employee of the insurer, will investigate to assess fault and damages.
After filing a claim, drivers can anticipate requests from the liability examiner for information, such as the location of the collision and any documentation of the accident. Drivers also expect the liability examiner to call all involved parties, study the police report and talk to the underwriting department to come up with the company's formal response to a claim.
The concept of "comparative negligence" (assigning some degree of fault to several motorists) can lead insurers to assess fault in somewhat complicated ways. It's important to keep in contact with the insurance company's examiner to make sure the eventual response from your auto insurance company is fair and takes into account all the facts.