What to Do After a Car Accident
If you were just involved in an auto accident, whether it was your fault or not, it can be a stressful time. It is important to know what to do and when to do it, to protect yourself and your family.
Contact Your Insurance Company
Right after the accident, contact the local police to file a report, and contact your insurance company to let them know you were involved in an accident, and a police report will be filed. Whether you were at fault or not, you still need to contact your own insurance company. Get the contact information and insurance information for anyone else involved in the accident, so you have it if and when you need it.
Depending on the circumstances of the accident, the insurance company you use, and the coverage types you have available, the exact claim process may vary. Your insurance company will be able to help guide you through the process.
When you make a claim, you will have to pay the deductible for the policy you have at the time of the accident. Most policies carry a deductible between $100 and $1,000. THe amount will vary based on the terms of the policy. The deductible must be paid before the insurance company will pay anything on your claim. The deductible applies to physical damage only–there is no deductible for personal liability claims.
Keep copies of everything associated with the claim, including the police report, if there is one. This will help you in the event that there is a problem with your claim. For example, if you are not at fault for the accident, but the other party has no insurance, or left the scene of the accident, this can help with the criminal investigation and show that you took care of the expense yourself.
Dealing with the Insurance Adjuster
After you make your claim over the phone, your claim will be assigned to an insurance adjuster, who will come out and talk to you about the accident. He or she will assess the damage. If the car is not drive-able, you may be asked to have it towed to a drive-in assessment center, or a particular mechanic who can help the insurance company assess the damage.
The settlement process could go smoothly and quickly, or it could take a while and have some bumps in the road. This all depends on the severity of the damage and the complexity of the case. If the other insurance company needs to be chased down, or is denying that their client had any fault, then this will create problems for getting the issue settled quickly and easily.
When the companies reach a settlement, they will call and offer it to you. However, you do not have to accept it. If you feel you’re being low-balled, research and see if you can negotiate a higher amount. Depending on the circumstances of your case, you may also have the right to get a lawyer and sue. If you suspect the case could get hairy, talk to a lawyer as soon as possible. They will be able to help you navigate with the insurance companies. Many of them will take the case on a contingency basis, meaning you won’t pay them unless the win for you, and many offer free consultations to help you determine if there is a case or not.
From here, your car will be repaired. Pay attention to whether third party aftermarket parts or original manufacturer’s parts are used. If the mechanic uses third party, you may have the right to demand they use original. However, not all insurance companies will pay for your repair bill if you opt against third party aftermarket parts.