Damage To Your Car
Let's quickly dispense with the obvious: If there are ANY injuries incurred in an accident - you are hurt, they are hurt, or there is even just the possibility of an injury or it is possible someone might be injured - you must call that claim in immediately. Keep your insurance ID cards handy in your glove compartment; your policy and claims telephone numbers are on them.
Here is what you should do to protect yourself following an accident. Let's take one of the more common claims, a collision. After you determine that it is possible to safely pull to the side of the road, do so; if it's not safe, call the police from your cell phone.
Then, please follow these steps. You may even wish to print this out or call our agency for a glove-compartment claims kit:
If it is a bad accident, call 911 immediately
If you don't trust the other person but don't feel threatened by them, ask for the person's license, place it in your pocket, and then suggest moving to the side of the road. They likely won't leave the scene that way. Be prepared that they won't give you their license and don't force the issue. For your benefit, if you have your phone with you, just shoot a photo of the other person(s) car license plate before you move your car to the side of the road - but only if it is safe to do so.
- Do not admit to liability at this time.
- Use your camera or your cell phone to start taking pictures of the damages to your car as well as of the damages to the other person's vehicle.
- If you see other damage to his vehicle that appears not to be related to this accident, take a picture of that, too.
- Photo the other person's vehicle license plate if you have not yet done so.
- Take down all the information on the other person. The basics are the Name & Address of the driver and that person's contact information; the Name and Address of the vehicle owner (often, these are different); the Insurance Company & Policy Number; and any Contact Information for other people involved in the accident - or as many as you can - with the obvious emphasis on the driver of the other car(s). We have kits for that - call us!
- The name and contact information of any witnesses.
- If you can, note the area where you were hit (cross streets, directions - northbound on Elm, for instance)
Beyond that, the adjusters will develop the additional information needed to assist you in the development of the accident information.
Then there is the damage to your car and what do about it. While you have the complete freedom of choice to have your car repaired at any repair shop you choose, if you use a shop approved by your insurance company, typically the process will move much faster, and generally the repairs are guaranteed. Again, you have the choice - no one can make you get your car repaired at a specific place; you have complete control in that process.
There will be an initial estimate, but don't be surprised if the claim ends up being larger than the initial estimate. Some damage simply cannot be determined until the car is dismantled and they look inside at all the damage. It is sort of like a surgery: The doctors have a good idea what's happening inside you, but until they open you up and take a look, they won't know for sure. And, don't worry! The insurance company will pay for all damages for which it is liable.
Which brings us to another phase of the claims process: What if the insurance company (yours or theirs) wants to "total" your car, as the repair damages exceed the market value of the car? With newer cars, this is generally not an issue. But, if you have pristine but older car, this will become a concern - and rather quickly.
The insurance company has all the right in the world to not pay for repairs that exceed the value of your car. None of us likes that, especially when we are hammered by someone else. Even so, you would want the same deal if you were personally fixing a car that you damaged; you, too, wouldn't want to pay more for the repairs than the car is worth.
Still, you can protect yourself from receiving too low of a payoff, as each car is individual whereas the "book" payoff amounts are somewhat general. So, all you need to do is to provide all that you know about your car to the insurance company so that the adjuster has a better understanding of the value of your car. Here is how you do it:
- Initially, you want to go to the Kelley Blue Book website (www.kbb.com) or Edmunds (www.edmunds.com) to determine the value of your car. You probably do this when shopping for a pre-owned car. And doing it after an accident, where you believe your car may be totaled, is just as valuable; you are determining, with your knowledge, the true value of your car.
- You can also go to dealer websites and other sites, like Auto Trader, to see what similar make & model cars with similar characteristics (mileage, options) are selling for.
- Check the newspapers - the auto classifieds - for sample pricing.
- And, if you are so inclined, go out and get your own initial estimates; this is not for the faint of heart, as it will be a fair amount of time invested.
- Make sure you have all of your receipts for recent repairs, parts replacements, newer tires, etc. This will help you maximize your payoff.
- Now, when the adjusters make you an offer on your car, you have the information to either get more money for the car or, hopefully, there will be enough information on the value of your car to let the adjusters change their decision and actually fix your car!
- If you need additional assistance - you just can't get the adjuster to budge, call us; we'll review your situation and let you know if we can help. If we believe we have a shot to get you a bit more on your settlement, we'll certainly discuss it with the adjuster.
Click on a link below to learn more about what you should do before you file a claim.