How Car Insurance Companies Handle Car Accident Claims

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Hopefully, you have never been involved in a car accident. But imagine if this happened to you. You are driving along at the posted speed limit, listening to your favorite tunes and it is a glorious day. There is a four-way intersection ahead and you slow to stop behind a Toyota RAV4. There you are, enjoying life, with not a care in the world when someone slams into your car from behind with enough force to push your car and the RAV4 in front of you into oncoming traffic. 

There is the sound of screeching tires, horns blaring and metal smashing into metal. Then, there is silence. You are stunned. You look in your rearview to see a pickup truck attached to the back of your car. The driver stared back at you in shock. You check to make sure that you are okay. Your hands shake as you open the driver's door and step out to inspect the carnage. 

Car Accident Claims

The average person only files an insurance claim about every ten years, according to the Insurance Information Institute. But the experience of going through the car insurance claims process can be stressful. But it doesn't have to be if you follow the steps about being at the accident site.

  • Write down the time and location of the accident
  • Take a photo of the other drivers' insurance cards and drivers licenses 
  • Get their contact info
Keeping good records of what happened is the best thing you can do. 
Once you have plenty of photos of the accident site and the vehicles involved, and the police are on the way, call your auto insurance company. Let your agent know what happened and give him or her all the details about what happened. Your agent will ask you if you have been injured or if anyone involved was hurt. The agent can call for a tow truck to take your car to the repair shop or collision repair company of your choice. If you don't have a favorite repair shop, your agent will have a list of local companies that he or she is used to working with. 

Claim Adjusters

Your agent will file a claim for you over the phone and do all the necessary paperwork to open a claim regarding the accident and you will have a claims adjuster assigned to your case. Your adjuster works with a team that will investigate the accident, examine the damage to vehicles involved, look at medical reports, investigate the accident and check all coverages. The adjuster will also determine who was at fault for the accident. 

If the claim is fairly straightforward, your adjuster may not need much of the material you collected at the accident site, but if a problem occurs, you will need all the information possible. From first filing the accident claim, all the way to its resolution, most of what happens through your insurance company happens behind the scenes. Your adjuster's team will evaluate the damage to your vehicle, manage the repair process, and negotiate with the other drivers' insurance companies regarding payments.
All the work the adjuster does is seamless to the insured, that's you. While the adjuster and the team do their work, any medical treatment and auto repairs start right away in an effort to put things right. This process is known as "indemnification." Once the Insurance companies involved determine who was at fault in the accident, they negotiate on which company will reimburse the other for costs. 

According to Progressive Insurance, liability laws don't govern how you access fault. Rather, they dictate how much you can collect and who is eligible. Oftentimes, if one driver is allocated more than 50 percent of the fault in the accident, that driver's insurance company pays for everything.

Uninsured Drivers

If you get into an accident with someone who is uninsured, each state has its own laws regarding what will happen, but most states require auto liability insurance. The important thing to know is that as long as you have collision insurance for uninsured motorists, your carrier will pay for the damages. 

Behind the scenes, your insurance company's subrogation unit will determine which insurance company pays and how much. While your claim has been completed and you have been "made whole" in the process (In other words, your injuries have been taken care of and your car has been repaired), the insurance companies involved figure out who will pay for what and will seek reimbursement from the other company where necessary.
The Bottom Line 
Before you get into an accident, it is best to know what car insurance coverage you have. Talk with your agent to make sure you are properly covered, especially from uninsured drivers. Check your liability coverage. If you prepare yourself before an accident occurs, it will make the whole process go smoother if the worst should happen. Record as much information as possible at the accident scene to make your claim adjuster's job easier.