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What steps should I follow in filing an automobile insurance claim?

Although insurance regulations vary from state to state, and there are some differences between the filing a property damage claim versus a bodily injury claim, the basic procedure is the same. Generally, when making a claim for vehicle damage the following procedure should be followed:

(1) You make a claim;

(2) The adjuster looks at the damage and estimates the cost of repair; (3) The insurance company pays you that amount; and

(4) You use the money to have the repairs made. Before an insurance carrier will pay claims, all claims require some sort of proof of damage or injury. In the case of auto claims, five elements of proof are available:

(5) The actual physical damage at the scene of the accident. In making your claim, you need to make sure that all of this evidence is available to your insurance company, and in as accurate a manner as possible. Thus, these are the steps you should take if you are in a car accident (a similar process can be followed for other claims, leaving out unnecessary steps):

Step 1

(At the scene of the Accident) If someone has a life-threatening injury, call 911 immediately. But, if there is no emergency, get any needed medical attention and directly call the police. It is important to call the police because you will need the police report. If the damage appears to be under $500, often times police officers may try to avoid writing an accident report.

Step 2

You and the other driver should exchange license plate numbers, contact information and auto insurance information. Make sure to get phone numbers. In most states drivers are required to have an insurance identification card in their vehicle.

Step 3

Identify witnesses who will be willing to give an eye-witness statement if necessary. You should get their contact information. If you are unable to do so at the scene, the police report can serve as a back-up source of information on both the other parties involved and witnesses.

Step 4

Contact your insurance company as soon as you can. If you have a cell phone, you can even call your company from the scene. Most insurance companies provide 24-hour claim-filing service. The phone number should be on you insurance ID card. The agent who picks up should be able to guide you through the process.

Step 5

If the other party is at fault, you should advise the other party’s insurance company that you are pursuing a claim through your carrier and will seek reimbursement for any costs your company will not pay. These costs may include your Collision deductible, lost wages, auto rental differential and the amount of your diminished resale value.

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