By: William Forbes
You never expect it, and you certainly never hope for it, but it happens – you’ve been in an auto accident. Of course your first priority is making sure you and anyone involved is okay. But, after that, what do you do at the scene and afterwards to make sure you’re taken care of from an insurance perspective? There are a few things you can do to make sure the process goes smoothly with your insurance claim. And, doing this handful of things can mean the difference between an expedited claims process, and the stress of having to go back-and-forth with insurance companies.
1. Call the police to the scene. Even if it’s a minor accident, it’s worth it to call the police to the scene and have them fill out a report. When you involve law enforcement at the scene of an accident, they take statements from both sides and record the details of the event. If you don’t have the benefit of a police report, important details can be forgotten or even changed. As time passes it’s hard to remember the specifics of the accident, but your insurance company’s claims department will need the exact details to resolve your claim.
Unfortunately, as an agent, I’ve seen an insured struggle with a claim because the person who hit him changed his story. All that’s left in that case is one person’s word against another’s. A report solves this issue. You may request a copy of the police report for your records; and, when you call your insurer’s claims department to report your accident, you should tell them that a police report was taken at the scene.
If for some reason you are unable to involve the police, then a disinterested, third-party witness can provide the same benefit. Just be sure to get the witness’s name and contact details and pass those along to your insurance company.
2. Take pictures of the scene on your cell phone, before moving the vehicles. For the same reason that a police report is helpful, photos of the scene eliminate the possibility that people’s stories will change over time. Any evidence you can provide your insurer that corroborates your story and solidifies details, will be a benefit to you during the claims process.
3. Obtain all pertinent information from those involved. To help move the claims process forward with no setbacks, it’s helpful to gather car and contact information from those involved, at the scene. Be sure to collect: name, phone number, year/make/model of the vehicle, the person’s insurance company, and his policy number (which can be found on the insurance ID card).
4. Contact your agent ASAP. You will want to contact your insurance agent as soon as possible to report the accident and get the claims process started. As we’ve discussed above, getting the insurance company up to speed as quickly as possible means a better chance of the involved parties remembering exactly what happened, and getting the claim resolved in a quick and hassle-free manner. The faster your agent knows what’s happening, the faster you will be back on the road with a repaired vehicle. Your agent can also help walk you through the claims process and make sure you’re aware of all the coverages available to you, such as towing reimbursement and rental-car coverage, if needed.