No one ever wants to get into a car accident. But fortunately, filing a car insurance claim is easier than you may think. With the right paperwork and a thorough understanding of your insurance policy, you can even expedite the process. While specifics of your damage -- and whether you sustained personal injuries -- will affect how long it takes to get your check, physical damage claims usually take a week or two. More minor repairs, including fixes to glass, can be processed within days. These six tips will help you take care of your end of the bargain.
Before an Accident:
Know What Your Policy Covers
Hopefully, you've kept the documentation that came with your policy. But if not, or if you don't understand it, contact your insurance company. This can prevent you from taking unnecessary chances with your car, such as allowing a friend to drive it, filing for uncovered damages -- or worse -- filing too late. The last thing you want is to file and then be denied because you waited too long.
Have the Right Tools on Hand
Always keep your insurance card in your glove box and a copy in your wallet. Beyond that, it's best to have a writing pad and several pens or pencils available in your car, in addition to your cell phone or a camera. These items will help to collect the proper documentation, should you need to file a claim. It's also a good idea to have a kit ready, including warning lights or a hazard triangle, fire extinguisher and a first aid kit for any small cuts or burns.
In an Accident:
File a Police Report
Never let another driver talk you into not calling the police at the scene of an accident. Once you've contacted the police, all parties involved should wait until they've been interviewed, and until the authorities have cleared them to leave. If for some reason you didn't call the police, and you plan to make a claim on your insurance, you must file a report as soon as possible, make copies and send one to your adjuster. Not having a report will hold up your claim. Also, if you didn't file a claim right away, it may raise questions with your carrier.
Be Organized at the Scene
If you are in an accident, it's easy to forget the steps you need to take. Luckily, most insurance companies have a list printed on the back of their card. Aside from calling the police, you should take note of the names of each driver and eyewitness -- as well as their personal information, including addresses, phone numbers and license plate numbers. You should also seek medical attention, if necessary. If possible and only if it can be done safely, have a witness take photographs.
After an Accident:
Keep All of Your Receipts
Make sure you have proof of all the costs related to your accident, including medical bills, estimates or bills from your auto repair shop, or anything else as instructed by your claims adjuster. Check with your insurance carrier if you have any questions. A good rule is to keep everything even if you are unsure. This is especially true if you think you might become involved in a lawsuit.
File the Proper Documentation
You should file the paperwork provided on your insurance carrier's website as soon as possible. Make sure you have all information from every person involved in the accident, witness statements, police reports, photographic evidence and anything else as stipulated by the claim form. This will prevent your adjuster from having to follow up with you, dragging out your claim.
Review your auto insurance coverage each time you renew. Laws change from state to state and it's important to stay informed. Make use of online tools to easily compare insurance rates and find the best carrier. Fortunately, if you're current on your policy and thorough about your record-keeping, during and after an accident, you should be back on the road again as quickly as possible.