Getting into a traffic accident is no fun. The sights and sounds themselves are terrifying, and even a small fender bender can end up causing nightmares. But there is a reason we are required to maintain insurance if we want to drive. The insurance premium check is no fun to write each month, but when you need it, you will be very glad you have it. When the time comes, knowing the proper steps to filing a road traffic accident claim is important to get your vehicle fixed and back on the road.
Soon after you are in the wreck, take a couple minutes to jot down some notes. You will want to be able to recall what actually happened. While it is not necessary to get law enforcement involved, if you are dealing with another irate motorist, you will want the officer’s official report to be turned in to the insurance company. While still at the scene make sure to exchange insurance information with the other driver, get his or her phone number, address, make and model of vehicle, and license plate number as well. After swapping information, call your insurance company. While many people are hesitant to do this, insurance companies will not raise your rates if you are just calling to ask questions. They can only raise rates based on the official notification (which can be a traffic citation or if they are sent a bill from the repair shop).
When filing the claim your insurance representative should walk you through what needs to be done. It is important that although you can legally wait at least a few days (some states as long as 90 days), file the claim right away. Even if you are not at fault, let your company know what is going on, they will become your advocate and fight on your behalf. If the other motorist’s insurance company calls you for information, direct them to your company for answers. You will start receiving mail about the claim, and you will have to sign affidavits attesting to what happened.
Insurance companies will then take one of two routes. They may send an adjuster to come and look at your car and assess the damage, or they may send you to a pre-approved body shop. If the damage is more than the value of your vehicle, you often have no choice but to take a cash settlement and start looking for a replacement. There is an alternative to filing an insurance claim however. If you have minimal damage to your vehicle, and there is little to no damage to the other, then you can just pay the repairs out of pocket. This can be a reasonable alternative if the damage will cost less than your deductible, and it will help to prevent having your insurance rates go up.
Even when you are not at fault, getting in a wreck sucks. When it does happen, you will feel much more comfortable if you are well prepared. Keeping a pen and paper next to your insurance information to write your notes on will make sure you have all the information. A camera phone will help to capture the situation and the damage. By being prepared you will be able to file your claim quickly and be back in your fixed car soon.
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