Auto Insurance Claim Checklist

Fender Bender
A blast of horns. The screech of tires. And bracing for impact. The moment that follows is usually a tense one – usually, accidents are avoided, but sometimes there is a fender bender. Or worse, a more serious accident.

In the latter scenario, it’s it may be difficult to keep your wits and think through the proper protocol. That’s why we’re here. Print this insurance claims checklist out, bookmark it, and get a handle on the steps you should take after being involved in a car accident, no matter how serious it may be.

  1. Assess the scene: Are you injured? What about any passengers you may have in your car – or other motorists? Are you or others in imminent danger of being hit by other motorists?
  2. Make the call: Orient yourself so that you can describe your specific location. If there are injuries or the suspicion of injuries, don’t hesitate to call 911. If you’re calling to report the accident, that’s also fine, but just know that the police may not respond, especially if you’re in a parking lot or other private property where they may argue that they don’t have jurisdiction. Just know that your insurance company may instruct you to call 911 regardless of the accident particulars.
  3. Meet the other drivers: Unless you hit a telephone pole or another stationary object unabated by others, you’ll need to meet the other drivers involved and exchange information. Get their license plate, insurance info and contact information. Tip: don’t feel you need to provide your license, Social Security card or other documentation to other drivers who ask as this may be an attempt to engage in identity theft.
  4. Capture the scene: Take pictures, look for witnesses and seek out other ways to corroborate your side of the story.
  5. Contact the insurance company: If the damage appears to be minor, and especially if you’re at fault, you may be seeking reconcile the situation outside of insurance. While your insurance company will likely tell you to contact them and file a claim in all scenarios, it’s ultimately your call. But there are two potential compelling reasons to report all accidents. First, damage to a vehicle is often difficult to judge to the untrained eye. A seemingly benign dent may be much more serious than it appears, and a car that appears to be totaled may be repaired for much less than first expected. Additionally, if you don’t report it and the other motorists involved do, you may be caught by surprise. Finally, be sure to know all the ways to contact your insurance company or agent – phone, email or via an app – and have that info easily accessible. (You may also be contacting the other drivers’ insurance company depending on fault, the state you live in and other factors. It’s OK to contact both yours and the other drivers’ insurance companies in these scenarios.)
  6. File a report: This is another step that some consider optional. If the police arrive at the accident, you’ll likely have a report. If not, you’ll have to swing by the station. Again, this isn’t necessary, but if you don’t file a report and other impacted drivers do, it’s their word vs. yours – and they likely have the upper hand for having reported the accident.
  7. Answer the phone: You may receive a call from other drivers’ insurance company regarding an insurance claim; be sure to proactively consult with your own company regarding the best way to handle this call and the questions.
  8. Meet the adjuster: An insurance adjuster may meet you to review your vehicle, assign a value to any damage you may have occurred, and ensure you get a check for the right amount.
  9. Seek recourse: Like many of these latter steps, this may not be something you need to experience. But if you disagree with the value that an adjuster assigns to your damage, you may have recourse. Follow up with the insurance company is processing the claim and seek an appeal.

Filing a claim is not a one-size-fits all process. Depending on where you live, who’s at fault, and a number of other factors, your claims procedure may look quite different. But by following this template and using it as a guide, you’ll be on the road to getting back on the road.

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