When a driver is involved in a traffic accident, there are several steps to take immediately, including calling the police, documenting the accident and filing a claim with the insurance companies even if the accident appears to be minor. By filing a claim after the accident, policyholders are better protected if circumstances change. Damage to vehicles may be greater than originally documented, those involved may have injuries that were not noticed at the time, or other parties may later claim to have suffered injuries or sustained damages.
Drivers should note what happened, take pictures of the cars involved, exchange contact and insurance information, and get the make, model and license plate number of vehicles involved. Insurance companies recommend that drivers do not discuss fault or admit guilt.
Within a day after the accident, drivers should contact their own insurance carrier and the insurance company of the other party, and a claims adjustor will be assigned to handle the claim. The adjustor may require that forms be submitted, and he or she might take a statement about the incident. At that time, drivers should be factual and honest when relaying the circumstances of the accident because the companies determine fault based on evidence that they collect. The claims adjustor negotiates with the other driver’s agent and determines what monetary compensation should be offered based on injuries, medical treatment, damage to property and cost of repairs.
Most policies carry a deductible to be met by the insured. Policyholders should review their plans to ensure that they understand what is covered and what compensation may be offered. They should also keep records about repairs to vehicles, medical bills, other expenses and conversations with agents or others involved in the process.
After evaluating the claim and adjusting for deductibles, a claims adjuster may make a settlement offer. It is important that the policyholder estimates the value of the claim to evaluate whether the settlement offered is fair. If the settlement appears to be too low, claims can be negotiated. If there is a dispute, lawsuit or a settlement that appears low, call an attorney who specializes in insurance claims to negotiate the claim process.