Updated: November 2016
Even the safest drivers can have accidents. At the scene of an accident, you'll likely take a few key steps, such as making sure everyone is OK, calling the police and exchanging information with any other drivers involved.
When it's time to file a car insurance claim, it's helpful to know what information you need to provide and to understand how your insurance coverage works.
Every insurance company handles its claims a bit differently, but many of the steps are similar. Here's an idea of what to expect during the insurance claims process.
When you call your insurer to file the claim, the Insurance Information Institute (III) says you'll be asked to supply information and documentation related to the accident. You'll also want to make sure you understand a few key points regarding your policy and how it works. These include:
Your deductible. When your purchased car insurance, you selected deductibles for certain coverages, such as collision or comprehensive coverage. Make sure you know how much your deductible is — it's the amount you'll have to pay out of pocket toward repairs to your vehicle before insurance coverage kicks in.
Say, for example, you have a $500 collision coverage deductible and the covered damage to your vehicle totals $1,500. Your deductible will be subtracted from your covered loss, and your insurance company would pay $1,000 for repairs.
Rental reimbursement coverage. Need transportation while your vehicle is in the shop? If your car insurance policy includes rental reimbursement coverage, it may help pay for the cost of renting a car while yours is being repaired. Consumer Reports suggests asking your insurer how to arrange for a rental car and its payment. It's also a good idea to ask about the coverage's limits (for example, $30 per day for up to six days).
Time limits. It's a good idea to ask your insurer about time limits for making claims and submitting bills, Consumer Reports says.
The insurance adjuster, or claims adjuster, investigates the accident, determines who is at fault and recommends how much the insurance company will pay for damages, according to Edmunds.
An adjuster will check your car to determine what was damaged during the accident, and what the repairs will cost (both parts and labor). According to Consumer Reports, some insurance companies require you to go to a designated inspection site to get an estimate for repair costs. The shop inspects the damage and sends a report to the insurance company, which will help pay for repairs to your vehicle.
If you disagree with the adjuster's repair value, Consumer Reports suggests asking for a full report that details how repair costs were assessed. Ask the adjuster to explain how he or she determined the insurance payout.
You can take your car to any repair shop you choose, says Consumer Reports. You are also entitled to ask the body shop to use original equipment manufacturer parts (OEM) to repair your car instead of less expensive "after-market" parts. Keep in mind, however, OEM parts could be new or recycled, depending on how your policy is written.
Depending on the situation, your insurance company might pay the repair shop directly or pay you and let you handle the bill.
After an accident, you'll likely want your car insurance claim to go as smoothly as possible, so you can get your vehicle repaired and back on the road. If you have any questions about the claims process, give your local agent a call.