You’re driving down I-41 early one morning on your way to work. Suddenly, you hit a patch of black ice, sliding out of control into the side of another vehicle and finally coming to a stop at the side of the road. Though you are only mildly injured, your vehicle is damaged beyond repair, as is the vehicle you collided with. In addition, the driver of the other vehicle suffers injuries that will require hospitalization and some time off work. What happens now? Do you know how to proceed? Continue reading to find out what to do in an accident and how car insurance agencies typically handle claims.
First Things First
Once emergency services have been contacted and you are sure you and your passengers are okay, start gathering information for your records. Though the police report should have many of the details you need, write down the time and location of the accident, as well as the other driver’s name and contact information. You should also gather the other driver’s insurance information and driver’s license number, regardless of who was at-fault in the accident. If possible, take pictures of the accident with your smartphone, and gather contact information from witnesses who may have seen the wreck.
Opening a Claim
Next, contact your insurance agency to inform them that you have been in an accident. You can either call your independent insurance agent, or if not available, your insurer, for help opening your claim.
You will be asked questions about the accident and given an opportunity to make a statement. Then, your insurance company will dispatch a claims adjuster to investigate the accident, evaluate damages to the vehicles, review medical reports, and determine who was at fault.
Depending on the circumstances of the accident and the coverage in your policy, your insurance company may be responsible for paying your losses alone or the losses of both you and any victims involved in the accident.
Your insurer may also pay for your losses and then collect compensation from an at-fault driver’s insurance company later. Note that the coverage available will only be provided to the extent of the limits within your insurance policy or the coverage of an at-fault driver who caused your loss.
How Your Insurance is Affected by a Claim
Once the dust has settled, the insurance company will determine who was at-fault for the accident. Often the fault is placed solely upon one driver. In more complicated situations, the fault may be split between more than one driver. Car insurance agencies can help explain how the fault of an accident, as well as the value of the claim, type of claims, and other details, could affect future coverage. Consider the following facts:
- Some insurance companies overlook the first accident a driver has (often referred to as ‘accident forgiveness’)
- Some insurers raise rates on drivers who file claims, regardless of their fault in the accident
- Some insurers consider other details about the accident, such as the total cost of the claim and whether there were any injuries
- Some insurers will not renew the policies of drivers who have been in multiple accidents within a specific frame of time
Ultimately, the emphasis that each company places on an accident and the details surrounding it will vary from insurer to insurer. That’s why drivers should work in close collaboration with their independent agent after an accident to ensure they continue to get competitive rates on the coverage they need – even with a history of claims.