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Last 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.
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.
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.