No one wants to have a car accident, see their car get stolen, experience weather damage or get sued following a wreck by another driver. Still, these events are just some of the unfortunate bad luck that sometimes come with driving. It’s best to be prepared for them, even though you still should do all you can to be as safe a driver as possible. One of the best security blankets you can have is a quality auto insurance policy.
Auto insurance is designed to help you financially following any number of unexpected vehicle incidents. But to receive a payout from the insurer, you must follow all the proper steps to report the incident and file a car insurance claim. Claims must be filed correctly in order for you to reap the benefits of your policy. Here’s what you can expect when you contact your insurer for assistance.
Insurers Want to Know Details of the Accident
When you file an insurance claim, you are doing so on the expectation that the insurer will compensate you for a certain problem you have experienced behind the wheel. Therefore, since the insurer is supposed to pay out a claim on your behalf, they will want to verify the validity of the claim, and the details surrounding the incident. This will help them both calculate how much money they can pay you and verify that you are not trying to commit insurance fraud.
Each insurer works differently in how they process claims. Most of the time, you will simply call your insurer using the number provided on your insurance card, and they will start the claim. Usually, you should call the insurer before leaving the scene of any accident. They will tell you if it’s safe to drive the car, and if necessary, most will help you arrange for a claim.
Additionally, ask your insurer if you need to get a police report of the accident. Most multi-car accidents and instances of theft or vandalism will require you to contact the police. Their accident report will help confirm your claim. In cases of other damage or single-vehicle accidents (involving no third parties), a report might not be necessary. However, it might still help to have the documentation anyway.
Getting an Estimate for Your Vehicle Repairs
Your insurer will also likely ask that you take your vehicle to a claims adjuster (if the vehicle is drivable) or they will dispatch an adjuster to your location to inspect the damage. The adjuster will be able to take detailed notes and photographs of the damage and give you an estimate of how much your insurer is going to pay you for the requisite repairs.
At this time, you can then take your vehicle to a number of repair services to see how much it is going to cost them to make repairs. You can choose one that offers you a repair quote that equals or is close to the settlement quote offered by the insurer.
Your Payout Will Depend on Your Policy Structure
Your insurer will only pay you based on the terms of the coverage within your auto insurance policy. Therefore, if you don’t have certain coverage, then your insurer won’t pay for certain costs.
- Forty-nine states require drivers to carry minimum amounts of auto insurance. In most cases, liability insurance is required, which can help drivers pay for the injuries or property damage that they cause to others when an accident is the policyholder’s fault.
- Physical damage insurance is not mandatory by most state laws. However, if you finance your car, then you might be required by your lender to buy coverage. Collision insurance will pay for damage to your car caused by a wreck. Comprehensive coverage will pay for damage from hazards other than collisions—fires, theft, vandalism, severe weather, etc.
- If you become the victim of a hit-and-run or get hit by a driver who does not have liability insurance, then an added benefit called uninsured/underinsured motorist coverage will aid you in covering your own losses.
- If you have roadside assistance coverage and rental car reimbursement coverage as part of your policy, then you can get the costs of towing your damaged vehicle covered, and you can obtain a rental car at a much lower out-of-pocket cost.
Some Claims Will Lead to Increased Rates
If you make an auto insurance claim, then you are opening yourself up to the risk of increased policy rates. In the end, because you cost the insurer money, they are more likely to view you as a higher-risk driver. As a result, they might have to charge you more to make up the cost risk.
Still, not all claims will lead to rate increases. After all, if you have to file a damage claim for an accident that was not your fault, then your insurer will often recognize that you were the victim in this case, and they won’t raise your rates. All the same, it’s best to speak to your insurer about your concerns about costs if you ever have to file a claim.
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