Reporting an accident should be simple — in theory. But there can be a lot of steps, and missing any can lead to problems later on. When an accident occurs (as they often do!) the last thing you want is to have to worry about anything else. Even under the very best circumstances, reporting a claim to your insurer can prove to be a regrettably stressful experience.
While every car accident is different, the good news is that most claim processes are the same across the board. Follow these steps to make a successful outcome (no red tape, less waiting, an accepted claim as likely as possible.
Step 1: Gather Information at the Scene
Accidents always come as a surprise. There’s no way to properly account for them until it’s too late. While it’s natural to feel stress in the moment, the information you gather early on can work wonders towards getting the outcome you want at the end. You might think of it like being a detective on your own case.
If the accident involved another driver, your first step is to get his or her information. You should collect the full name and driver’s license number, license plate and vehicle make, as well as their insurer and policy number. In addition, you should make a quick written note of the time and place of the accident, including any details about the circumstances of the accident.
If the other driver is at fault, it’s especially important to get their insurance policy information. Although it is technically their responsibility to report the accident, you aren’t going to want to depend on their word alone. Get statements from witnesses if any were available to see the accident for themselves.
Above all, do your best to stay composed and relaxed. A crash may be arduous, but you’ll be able to make the most of it if you stay focused and under control. Something to keep in mind: any crash can have potentially drastic consequences. If the crash has happened, chances are you’ve already seen the worst of it.
Step 2: Prepare for Your Call to Your Insurance Provider
Timeliness in making your call is key; if the accident involved another vehicle and you are to blame, failure to report it within a 24 timeframe is considered negligence and will weigh against you. Calling your insurance company to report an accident isn’t a conversation anyone looks forward to, but you can make it significantly easier for yourself by having all of the relevant information out in front of you, as well as a general idea what you want to say.
Your insurance company should have a 24 hour phone line. The number may be found either in the car’s glovebox insurance papers, or the company’s website itself.
Step 3: Speaking with the Insurance Adjuster
An insurance adjuster may go through many claims and reports in a day. They’re trained to lead customers through the reporting process. However, you should nonetheless feel capable of running over all relevant facts on your own. Clarity and straightforwardness will be your friends here.
Clarity is especially important in the case of a potential injury caused by the accident. Medical bills can stack up big-time in the long-term, sometimes in ways that aren’t easily foreseen in the first few days. Some claimants are nixed by signing a quick settlement agreement, giving over money instantly and absolving the insurer of further responsibility.
If there’s any risk of injury, you should go through with a doctor’s examination before filling in the insurer on the details of the injury. The first call should go over the basics of the accident itself; if you’re asked something you’re unsure about or are requested permission for something, you should respectfully decline until such a point where everything has been made evident.
Answer the representative’s questions straightforwardly and simply. Don’t get caught up in small talk. Unnecessary details or a slip of the tongue may be used as evidence to invalidate your claim. Assume that everything you say will be taken at its absolute face value. Much like the accident, it’s important to stay calm. Insurance professionals are never called upon in good times, but they are people too. A little courtesy will go a long way towards getting you what you want.
When Should You Avoid Reporting a Claim?
Small, single-vehicle accidents that don’t infringe upon the property of someone else can be overlooked, providing the damage is slight enough to pay for it out of hand or even overlook. Small repairs are best tended to yourself, especially if the out-of-pocket estimate is lower than the deductible.