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August 19, 2010

How to File a Car Insurance Claim

Damage Filing auto insurance claim can be a headache, heartache and a hassle and something we hope you never experience. However, if you’ve been in an accident you don’t have to be an expert, just follow these four easy steps to help make the process go smoothly.

Step 1 - File a Claim

Make contact with either your auto insurance company or the insurance company of the other driver to file a claim. The insurance company will ask you for information, (including a statement), about the accident and any other information they think will be necessary to handle the claim.

Depending on insurance company is going to pay for the repairs, yours or the other driver’s, you will first need to verify that there was a valid insurance policy “in force” at the time of the accident loss. “In force” just means that they had a binding policy on that vehicle and for that type of coverage. Part of evaluating coverage is to determine whether you have the right to a rental car under your policy provisions.

Go here to download a form to print and keep in your glove box to help you collect all the information you will need to report your accident claim.

Crash Step 2 - Vehicle / Damage Inspection

Once an insurance company determines that they have both coverage and liability it is time for them to determine how much they are required to pay out on the claim. The insurance company can assess the extent of damage in one of several ways:

•    send an adjuster out to inspect the vehicle
•    have you bring the car in to recommended collision center

One of the outcomes of this process may be that the vehicle is determined to not be worth the cost of repairs. This happens in about one of every five claims. This is what is called a “total loss.”
Most initial estimates are performed while the car is still being driven and therefore include “visual damage” only, meaning only the damages that are visible without doing any disassembly of the damaged parts of the vehicle. That means that there is almost always additional damage discovered after the car has been dropped off at the shop. These additionally-required repairs are commonly referred to as “supplements” and are added to the original repair estimate.

Step 3 - Liability Investigation

Next, the insurance company will want to determine who is at fault, so they know if they are liable to pay for the damages. This may mean getting police reports and witness statements, in addition to the statements that they have collected from you and the other party.

Step 4 – Settlement

Once the insurance company has determined that the car is worth repairing, they should indicate to the car owner that it is approved to proceed with the repairs. Often, this process is short-cut by sending that notice directly to the collision repair center.

The final step is for the insurance company to make the payment for the repairs. The insurance company may arrange to send payment directly to the collision repair center. This is probably a good time to discuss deductibles. A “deductible” is the amount that your auto insurance company will deduct from their settlement for repairs. There is no deductible when the other party’s insurance company is paying for your repairs.

This article is sponsored by 21st Century Insurance.

Jody DeVere President & CEO
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