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How do I submit a car insurance claim?

Auto Insurance

By Smart Bug | February 24, 2016

Getting into a car accident is stressful enough and many are caught unprepared when they have to make an insurance claim. Is it covered? How does it work? What if you’re not at fault? What if you’re injured and can’t make the call right away?  The good news is filing a claim doesn’t have to be difficult and you can reduce your stress when you know the right procedures to follow. To help we’ve put together the must-do list for making a car insurance claim.

How To Submit a Car Insurance Claim in an Accident

1. Stay calm and call 9-1-1.

Panicking won’t help the situation so take a few slow deep breaths. Turn off your engine. If you’re okay and it’s safe to do so check on the others involved. Immediately call 9-1-1 if there are any injuries. It’s generally a good idea to call the police regardless as it is necessary if there is over $2 000 in damages they can help direct traffic and a police report is needed to submit a claim for most insurance companies.

2. Document.

Thanks to cellphones it’s easy to get a few pictures of the crash. Remember to stay safe – don’t step out into the middle of the road to get a good shot. Here’s what to document:

  • Location and time of the accident
  • Current weather conditions and other factors that may have contributed to the accident
  • The license and insurance information (pink cards) of any other drivers involved – you’ll want the driver’s name address driver’s license number insurance company car insurance policy number and the involved vehicle’s details (make and model)
  • The license plates of all vehicles involved (especially if you can’t get the above information)
  • A copy of the police report
  • Pictures and/or video of the accident and damage

You can always take a picture of the license plates or insurance info instead of writing it down.

Click here to find out what happens if the other driver doesn’t have insurance.

3. Report the accident to your insurance company.

There will be a number on your pink card that you can call to submit the claim. You don’t have to do this immediately but the sooner you get a claim started the sooner you can get your vehicle repaired or replaced . Even if you weren’t at fault you should report the accident to your own insurance company.   Your insurance company will walk you through what information they need (which you’ll have if you followed Step #2).

Your broker is also there to help. They can help you submit your claim or in some cases submit the claim on your behalf. They’re also there to answer any questions you may have and check up on the progress.

You will get a claim number – be sure to write that down. You may also get the name of anadjuster assigned to your claimand their contact information although sometimes you might not get this information until the next day.

4. Talk to the adjuster

The adjuster will take your statement and gather the documentation you gathered earlier. Your vehicle will likely need to be appraised usually through a preferred mechanic or body shop. A quote for repair of the damage will be given and your car will either be repaired or will be “written off.” The amount you receive will depend on yourcar insurance coverage.

Don’t be afraid to talk to the adjuster about the valuation and claim payout for your vehicle. By politely asking them to explain how your coverage and final payment was calculated you can start to appreciate how the estimate was initially determined. This also allows you to start discussions on whether or not certain factors were overlooked or undervalued. For example let’s say you just put new winter tires on the vehicle. That information could raise the amount you get back – but make sure you have the receipts to prove this purchase.

Of course yourbroker is an excellent resourceduring this step. Once you receive your appraisal and the decision on if your vehicle will be written off or repaired it’s a good idea to discuss the situation with them.

5. Close the Claim

Your car will either be repaired or you’ll receive a payment for the agreed upon amount. Repairs can unfortunately take some time especially if the repair shops are busy. Many insurers prefer to use approved body shops but some offer you the opportunity to use your own mechanic. You will have to discuss this aspect with the adjuster and the insurance company – your broker can help.

Once this repair work is done or you receive your cheque the claim will be closed. Keep in mind that at-fault accidents willimpact your insurance premiums.

How to Submit a Car Insurance Claim for Other Damage

If you have comprehensive coverage on your car insurance coverage you will likely be covered for incidences like vandalism hail and hit-and-run damage. (This is one reason even you should havecar insurance for parked vehicles.) The process for submitting a claim is mostly the same.

1. Document

Documenting the damage is key. Take pictures and video of the damage and surrounding area. It’s a good idea to record the context around the damage – weather conditions location how long the vehicle was unattended and other details.

2. Call the police if necessary.

For hail damage and minor incidences you obviously wouldn’t call the police. But for significant vandalism and hit-and-run damage you will want to give the non-emergency police line a call. The police report is an asset for the insurance claim and the police may be able to find the culprit.

3. Contact your insurance company or broker.

You can call your broker or your insurance company to submit a claim (find the number on your pink card). Like with an accident you’ll be walked through the first steps to the process and be assigned an adjuster if necessary.

4. The Appraisal

You may need to bring your vehicle (driven or towed) to a body shop to be evaluated. An adjuster may also meet with you. The damage will be appraised and then it will be repaired at the body shop or the insurer may release the vehicle to you to take to your mechanic of choice. In cases of extreme damage the vehicle may be written off.

5. Closing the Claim

Once the repair is done or the payment amount is agreed upon the claim will be closed.

Do you always need to submit a claim?

No! If the damage is less than your deductible or you can easily cover it yourself you don’t need to submit a claim. Claims increase insurance premiums. You can alwaystalk to your brokerfirst to help decide if you should be submitting a claim or not.

However be wary of people who want you to agree to pay out of pocket but refuse to give you their insurance or contact information. Ensure you record this information even if you mutually agree to settle this without insurance companies in order to protect yourself if the other person is dishonest.

Help with Claims

The claims process can be frustrating especially if you’ve been the victim of a crime or are dealing with the aftermath of an accident. The timeline for a claim varies depending on the individual situation as well as how busy repair centres and adjusters are. Insurers do bring on extra staff to deal with high volume times such as after a natural disaster. You may also have some options when it comes to where your vehicle is repaired.

Your broker is there to helpanswer your questions and help the process along. They will advocate on your behalf and take some of the burden off of your shoulders. They can also help you understand how yourdriving record affects car insurancepremiums.

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