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Car Insurance: Dealing With an Accident

Written by Laura Martinez - 17 Comments

Car Insurance: Dealing With an AccidentLast week while driving home, my husband and I got into a car accident. We were stopped at a red light behind another car. When it turned green we started to move, but got slammed into from behind by a young guy going way too fast.

After the accident, he said that he was messing with his cell phone when he saw a car “pop out of nowhere.” He then swerved into our lane where he rear-ended us.

We’re grateful that it wasn’t worse, but we’re definitely upset by all the work we’ve had to do to get the car fixed (possibly replaced) just because some guy was messing with his cell phone.

What to do when filing a claim

Even if you’re in the right and have been a victim in a car accident, you have to make sure you follow your insurance company’s procedure for filing a claim. If you don’t, you can expect headaches and problems with getting the claim sorted out, and you might not get the money you deserve.

Exchange information

After you’ve established that everyone is okay, go ahead and exchange information with the other driver(s). Besides getting their name, contact information, and license plate number, you should get their VIN and car insurance information (including the policy number).

While this is generally easy, sometimes the other driver will be belligerent, especially if they know they’re at fault. Don’t say anything to provoke them. Instead, just wait for the police to arrive – you did call them, right?

Another point to consider is whether or not you should talk about the accident with the other person. In general, it’s a good idea to avoid speaking about the details of the accident with the other driver. This helps to protect you from a misunderstanding, and from them blaming you when it’s really their fault.

Contact your car insurance company

Another important step is to contact your car insurance company as soon as possible. Some insurance companies have very specific time frames for reporting claims. As soon as the police officer finished up, I called our car insurance company.

If you have serious injuries, of course, you should get them taken care of immediately – the insurance company can wait. Even if you think you’re okay, you might want to stop by an urgent care center to double check for any injuries related to the accident.

While I felt fine for a few minutes after the accident (aside from a killer headache), I noticed that my knee was bleeding. It didn’t look too bad, so we didn’t need an ambulance. Since our car was still functional, we drove ourselves to urgent care. I ended up getting a tetanus shot and a prescription for a pain killer.

While waiting for the nurse, my husband and I called and gave the insurance company all the information they needed. This included:

  • Names and contact information of all involved
  • Names and contact information of any witnesses
  • Vehicle information and VIN of the other car
  • Detailed description of the accident
  • Information on any injuries and/or medical treatment sought

If you have the presence of mind, you should try to give them this information as soon as you can after the accident, or at least write down the details so you don’t forget anything important.

Take pictures and organize your documents

My husband took numerous pictures of our car, but forgot to get pictures of the other guy’s car. Along with the photos, we’ve been accumulating related documents, receipts, and paperwork in a central spot.

When you’re getting phone calls and scheduling repairs, it’s very helpful to keep all of your information organized. If you don’t, you might lose documents that you don’t even know you’ll need.

Be careful before signing anything

While your car insurance company is processing your claim, take some time to review your policy to make sure you’re getting everything you’ve paid for. If you don’t understand any part of your policy or claim, call your insurance company for a thorough explanation.

Insurance companies often try to give you estimates of losses that are lower than your actual losses. Don’t accept their estimates without getting some estimates of your own. Also be sure to read any paperwork that you’re given to make sure you’re not signing off on anything that you don’t agree with.

Your thoughts

Have you ever been in a car accident? If so, what happened? And how did the claims process go? Did the other driver or their insurance company give you a hard time? What about your own insurance company? Please share your thoughts and experiences in the comments section.

Published on August 10th, 2010
Modified on August 11th, 2010 - 17 Comments
Filed under: Automotive, Insurance

About the author: helps families achieve financial freedom by sharing tips for reducing debt and building freelance income over at Couple Money.

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17 Responses to “Car Insurance: Dealing With an Accident”

  1. 1
    Ray Says:

    Having been in my fair share of accidents, none of which were my fault, be careful with medical expenses and follow up care. I was rear ended and had a killer headache. A couple week later the headache persisted and I ended up needing extended physical therapy for neck and back injuries. The at fault parties insurance company told me the precedures were unneeded and expensive, and they weren’t going to pay for unwarranted care. I had to get an attorney to make the pay their fair share. But when you get an attoney, insurance companies get anxoius. The attoney, of course will sue for more than the required amount because he has to get paid, so the claim drags out for longer than necessary. What should have been solved in six months, took almost 2 years. Good luck, and be diligent about your own care, don’t listen to the other parties insurance company.

  2. 2
    Rosa Says:

    I got smashed into by someone who ran a red light. Spun the whole car around, killed his engine, broke my axles. I felt fine at first, from the adrenaline – I checked to see that he was OK, then the police showed up, then I called my insurance agent; worked a full day and went to the after-hours clinic to get checked out because by the end of the day I’d sprouted bruises and noticed scratches all over my arms, legs, and torso – I’d hit the airbag and the column of the steering wheel pretty hard. I think, if there weren’t an airbag, I would have died.

    The insurance company handled it from there. My car was totalled, so the insurance company cut me a check for the local replacement cost, I assume from car-lot quotes – it was enough to have replaced the car, though I switched to a bike instead.

  3. 3
    H Lee D Says:

    I was rear ended by a moving truck late on a Friday night — the Friday before the Monday that I was due to begin my cross-country move.

    A friend agreed to let me leave my car at his condo; I rented a car and left Monday morning.

    The insurance company was flat-out awful to deal with — could have been how they were anyway or could have been because I was dealing with them remotely.

    The accident was on August 1, and the car was not repaired until November. Awful awful awful.

  4. 4
    Dana Says:

    My accident was a single car, just me and it was a rental. My auto insurance company was great and everything was completed in 3 weeks. My secondary through my credit card however, what a nightmare. After completing all the paperwork they wanted with follow up for two months it was still not completed. I had to threaten them with legal action and was required to pay $250 in administrative fees only because the process took to long.

  5. 5
    beth Says:

    When you call the police, do you dial 911 even if it’s not an emergency (i.e. no one is severely injured) or is there another number?

  6. 6
    Mike Z Says:

    Two questions…

    1. If you are in an accident and it is clearly the other guy’s fault AND you do not have full coverage insurance (only liability), why would you call YOUR insurance company? They don’t owe you any money, the other guy and his insurance company owe you the money.

    2. If the scenario is the same as mentioned in Q1 above, then would you HAVE to give the other guy your insurance information if the accident is not your fault? You obviously don’t want a bogus claim from him saying YOU were at fault because that could increase YOUR rates.

  7. 7
    Samurai Says:

    Glad you are OK Laura! I’ve been in some small ones before ie parking lot, but nothing major yet.

    Car accidents remind me to get the biggest behemoth possible unfortunately for others and the environment. Tis why I love my Moose.

  8. 8
    Moneyedup Says:

    Sometimes people decide to settle car accident claims in cash instead of going through insurance. This is usually the case when the cost of the estimated damage is under $500, because having a car accident on your insurance record can really bring up your monthly rates and sometimes it is not worth the hassle of going through an insurance company.

  9. 9
    Laura Says:

    Thanks everyone, we’re still getting everything squared away with the insurance.

    @Sam: Thanks for the support! I’m glad you haven’t had any major accidents.

    We’re hunting for another car now and we’re looking at many things. With cars size can be a factor, but quality can make a huge difference.
    My husband got into a fender bender years ago with a large SUV. Their car was in much worse shape than his little 2 door coupe.

    @UP: I’ve had a woman pay cash with me on a small parking lot accident because she had too many on record. She literally said ‘not again!’. I was a broke college kid at the time and my car was already dinged up. Since I knew a school that did auto body work, it was a win-win for us.She didn’t have to bring insurance in and I had my car fixed up.

  10. 10
    Bryan Says:

    @Beth: If its not an emergency you could call local PD if you have the number, but I still think 911 is your best bet. When I was in an accident the operator asked if anyone was hurt, what happened, if the vehicles were blocking the roadway and sent the appropriate response, in my case 1 officer that showed up in about 10-15min which was enough time to exchange insurance info with the other driver. Calling in an accident, even if it is minor isn’t an abuse of the 911 system as long as you are clear that no lives are hanging in the balance and you’re not at risk of causing another accident by where the cars ended up.

    In my accident, the other driver was clearly at fault (I was in the roadway, he was entering the roadway from a parking lot and did not have the right of way) and my insurance company told me I could either go through them and they would give me a certain amount less my deductible then would need to go through subrogation with the other insurance company to see how much of my deductible they would give me. Or, I could go directly through the other company and take whatever they offered. Problem with this is that everyone always thinks they aren’t at fault even if they were so the other company wanted to try and say I was 40% at fault and wouldn’t give me the full amount. It took about 6 months but I finally received my full deductible and because I was found to be 0% at fault my rates weren’t affected. Unfortunately because I was driving an 18 year old car that got spun 180 degrees, thrown over a curb and into a tree sideways, it was totaled and I didn’t get even close to enough to repair or replace it with something that wasn’t just falling apart. Now instead of having a well worn Honda that could easily last me a few more years, I’ve got a used subaru i love with a mountain of loans behind it.

  11. 11
    SLCCOM Says:

    Insurance companies make money from collecting premiums, not from paying claims. Be very careful what you say to the insurance company, and tape your calls to them (tell them you are taping them. They are taping you, anyhow!).

    When you take pictures, be sure to take pictures of the other people as well as their vehicle, the traffic situation (or parking lot situation; you WERE driving the lanes, not crossing over unused spaces, weren’t you?) and the weather, and any other situations. Get the names and addresses and phone numbers of witnesses as well.

    Document your injuries as well. Keep a diary of symptoms, treatments, and results, including pain scale levels. Get feedback from others and include their comments on how you are as well.

    Get your own copy of the police report. And ALWAYS report the collision to your own insurance company to help in case the other parties decide to file a bogus lawsuit just before the statue of limitations expires.

    Frankly, I would never accept cash because of the risk of a bogus lawsuit later. If the idiot is going to lose their insurance because they are such a lousy driver, well, it serves them right!

  12. 12
    Courtney Says:

    I have been fortunate thus far that I haven’t had to file a claim. These are great pointers to keep in mind for anyone in the event that an accident does occur and you will need to file a claim. It doesn’t have to be due to a car accident either. Several factors can result in a car insurance claim, so it’s helpful to know how to handle each of them. http://www.cheapercarinsurance.....laims-101/

  13. 13
    mick Says:

    Do I have to repotr to revenue if I get for example 2000 pound for a claim after accident?

  14. 14
    Darnell Says:

    I was involved in an accident, while driving through my parking lot of my residence. A women backed out of her space hitting me doing damage to my vehicle. I called her insurance company. which is a company that I have never heard of, and they gave a shop to get my estimates for repairs done.I have also never heard this shop and don’t know of there reputation. I decided not to go there to that shop. I really rather take it to a dealer. My question is should I pay the deductable ($500) and go through my insurance company so that I can get it fixed at the dealers. Question 2,Is the deductable refundable from the other insurance company once my company makes a claim with them? Thanks

  15. 15
    Mike Z Says:

    @Darnell:

    First, I’m no lawyer. My advice is not legal in nature and is only based on my personal experience.

    “My question is should I pay the deductable ($500) and go through my insurance company so that I can get it fixed at the dealers.”

    No. If you file a claim on your insurance, you run the risk of having your rates get increased. Also, you have a right to get it fixed at the shop of your choice (or so I have been told by numerous insurance companies).

    “Question 2,Is the deductable refundable from the other insurance company once my company makes a claim with them?”

    Maybe. The other insurance company will likely try to place some blame on you and try to avoid refunding you.

  16. 16
    Robin Says:

    I was in a 4-car pile up on the interstate last week. I was hit from behind and shoved into the car(s) ahead of me. I was not taken by the paramedics, the said I would be sore but was okay. I went home and took a hot bath. Next day I tried to go to work. My boss took me to a walk in clinic. Possible concussion and I can’t move my neck. Got a prescription for physical therapy and have been going to massage & chiropractor. I am having problems thinking of words and I work part time and go to school. When reading or listening to long sentences I just hear “blah, blah, blah”. It is all confusing.
    I don’t have a regular doctor. Don’t know if I need an attorney and cannot “get it together” enough at this point to keep a log or records. Have been off work for a week. Can anyone help me get a plan? I just keep getting confused and overwhelmed.
    Thanks

  17. 17
    Going Here Says:

    Its superb as your other blog posts : D, appreciate it for putting up.
    “Love is like an hourglass, with the heart filling up as the brain empties.” by Jules Renard.

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