When you are involved in a car accident, the first thing you will want to do (after you’ve been deemed ‘okay’ by your doctor) is to call your insurance company to inform them about the claim. A car insurance claim is when you “make a claim” to your insurer that you have been involved in an accident so that they can start the indemnifying process. Most insurance companies have a dedicated claims hotline, whose number is usually printed on your “pink slip”, in which you can call to inform them of the accident.
It depends on your state, but in most cases you will have one year to make claim from the date of the accident. It is advisable that you make the claim as soon as possible so that you may get your settlement money as well as pay to have your vehicle repaired and/or your medical expenses paid off.
When you call your insurance company to report a claim, the person you are assigned to is called a claims adjuster. This person will be your point of contact for the entire claims process from reporting it, to advising you which mechanics are acceptable, to keeping you updated on the claims status. As this is someone that will be determining how much you will be getting from your claim (and someone you will be in constant contact with), it is highly recommended that you treat them with respect. Demanding that they “pay now” and threatening them with legal action will only make them more suspicious of you and more likely to do a “thorough investigation”.
The main thing a claims adjuster looks for in an automobile claim is the police report. The adjuster will ultimately make the decision on whether you are at-fault or not based on what the police at the scene of the accident deem happened. This report will have details of how fast all vehicles involved we’re travelling, which direction they we’re going in and who was the cause of the accident. It will also indicate if any drivers we’re impaired or breaking any other traffic laws. All this information will be passed on to your claims adjuster.
If you are claiming for medical expenses, usually another claims adjuster who specializes in bodily injury will be assigned to you. They will require proper documentation from a doctor regarding the nature of your injuries. If it is found by a doctor that your pain was the result of the car accident, the insurance company will look into covering your medical expenses as well as any missed days from work. Keep in mind that each insurance company is different and depending on the contract you signed with them and the coverage you purchased, you may or may not be covered. Remember your injuries must be real as it is likely that your insurer will hire investigators to keep tabs on you.
Another thing the claims adjuster will do is notify their underwriting department of the said claim and any tickets you may have received as a result of the accident (i.e. careless driving, impaired driving, and speeding). This is why you will notice on your next renewal that your premiums have increased if the accident is deemed at-fault and you have received a careless driving conviction.
If you’ve recently been involved in an accident, you should read: How an Accident Affects My Car Insurance.