Nearly seven million car accidents occur in the U.S. each year, costing drivers money and even their lives.
If you’ve recently survived a car accident, there are several steps you must take to protect yourself, including contacting your car insurance company. With an insurance claim, you can access the benefits you’re entitled to.
To get back on your feet and back on the road after an accident, read on to learn about the car accident insurance claim process.
What to Do After a Car Accident
Starting the insurance claim process begins at the scene of the crash.
You should first call for an ambulance if anyone is injured or unresponsive. Even minor injuries, dizziness, or mild pains should be checked by paramedics.
You should also call the police to survey and record the accident. Their report will come in handy later when you’re ready to file your claim.
Then, gather your own information including:
- names of anyone else involved in the accident
- other drivers’ insurance information
- over drivers’ contact information
- video and photos of the accident from different angles
- other drivers’ license plate numbers
- name and badge number of the police officer writing the report
Be sure to offer your name, insurance information, and contact information to other drivers as well. However, no additional information must be exchanged and may even be used against you later.
How to File a Car Accident Insurance Claim
After leaving the scene of the crash, you can begin making your claim. You may need to wait until the police report becomes available, at which time you should request a copy. But try to avoid waiting more than a few days to contact the insurance company about the accident.
Whether you believe another driver was at fault, you were at fault, or it was a no-fault accident, you should typically contact your insurance provider, not the other drivers’ insurance company. Then, your company will represent you and contact other drivers’ insurance when needed.
But the type of claim you file varies based on who caused the accident. If you were solely or partially at fault, file a first-party claim with your insurance company. A first-party claim is also necessary if the accident is considered a no-fault accident or if the other driver doesn’t have insurance.
If you believe another driver was to blame, file a third-party claim instead.
The insurance company will ask for details about the accident including your photographic evidence and other information you collected at the scene. Even after your first contact with an insurance agent, you may be asked for additional information later.
Then, they will begin an investigation to gather more information and evidence from other drivers involved.
If you lease your car, you should also include the owner of the car in the process. And before driving the car again, you may need to get it repaired at a mechanic approved by the insurance company. That way, they can collect an accurate cost of the repairs needed.
What an Insurance Claim Covers
The cost of a car accident can vary greatly, sometimes exceeding thousands of dollars. And a car accident insurance claim may not cover everything.
Each company has different coverage, and this is sometimes dependent on where you live. For example, some states require additional personal injury protection which can offer extra coverage in case of an injury. And some insurance companies offer coverage for cases where other drivers aren’t insured.
In general, you can expect insurance to cover:
- property damage (such as covering vehicle repairs or the replacement of a totaled car)
- bodily injury and medical care
- collision protection (offering benefits even if you were at fault)
How Claims Are Decided
As the insurance company performs their own investigation, they’ll look for signs of negligence when determining who is at fault, if anyone.
They will look at the vehicles, the type of impact, and any damage. They’ll compare their evidence and photos of the scene with your description of what happened.
Insurance companies may also ask for detailed accounts from neutral witnesses to determine what happened and who was at fault.
Ultimately, insurance providers will aim for a fair decision, but sometimes they may come to a conclusion you don’t agree with. Some claims are settled at a 50/50 basis, or an innocent driver may be partially blamed for the accident. Even if your company thinks you are innocent, they may still accept some blame on your behalf while negotiating with other insurance companies.
If you don’t agree with the decision, you can take your claim to court instead. Hiring a lawyer is often a more effective way to make a strong case of your innocence in the accident and receive the compensation you’re entitled to.
How Long a Car Insurance Claim Takes
Depending on the complexities involved in your accident, it can take a couple weeks or a couple months to settle. But generally, your claim should be processed within one to two months.
In most states, limits are in place for how long the company has to investigate the case. Therefore, you should never be left waiting for weeks or months without any updates or decision.
Understanding the Car Accident Insurance Claim Process
After suffering a car accident, you have the right to access car insurance benefits to cover injuries and repairs. But you’ll have to go through the car accident insurance claim process first.
If you’re struggling with your claim or don’t agree with your insurance company’s decision, lawyers are available to help you make your case.
For more on driving safety, check out our other automotive articles!
Ronald is a business editor who writes about various topics such as technology, health and finance. He works along with the colourful folks that build a nation through tech startups. He is also a professional football player and video games enthusiast.