The auto insurance claim is something that you hope you will never have to utilize, but when you do, that is where the rubber meets the road, so to speak. After all, a claim is when you get to take advantage of having paid those auto insurance premiums for so long.
Whenever you are in an accident or your car is stolen or something happens to it that is covered by your car insurance policy, one of the first things you should do is to contact your car insurance company and report it. I say one of the first things because if you are in an accident and someone got hurt, you obviously need to call for an ambulance and the police first.
That is actually an important point — always contact the police. I have heard of circumstances where the insurance company balked at paying the claim because the owner of the car had not filed a police report, which in the eyes of the insurance company is fishy. Remember, insurance companies are in this game to make money, not pay it out, so if they smell something fishy, you can be assured that you will have hassles.
If this is the scene of an accident, stay there. I don’t care if it is raining cats and dogs or is the hottest day of the Florida summer — stay there. Leaving the scene of an accident is considered a very serious offense and could also detract from the amount of insurance settlement that you receive. So stay there!
When you call your insurance company to make the claim, explain what happened, date, time, and location. If this is after hours, chances are high that you will be leaving this on a voice answering machine. That is ok, leave the message anyway, because it tells the insurance company that you were doing as you were supposed to do, which is to contact them. Also, if police are involved, make sure you get a copy of the police report for your records and keep it on file at home until all claims have been settled. While it is easy for the insurance company to get a copy of the police report, you should take the initiative to get one anyway to let the insurance company know that you know how their game is played.
For an accident, the insurance company is probably going to ask you to get 2 or 3 estimates from different body shops. Ask them which ones they recommend, since somebody shops have an agreement with certain insurance companies and will provide a better repair rate. During all this time, it is important for you to keep good records — who did you talk with from what company and at what time on what day. If things get sticky, especially with the other driver’s insurance company, having this log handy will save you a lot of grief.