How the Claims Process Works
Because it doesn't happen to us everyday, most of us don't know what to expect when making an auto accident claim or how to deal with the insurance claims adjuster. Here are the three main phases in the process.
A. Submit Your Claim
After an accident, report property claims and/or a personal injury claim immediately to your insurance company. Reporting to your insurance company in a timely matter is imperative. Be prepared to give the following information:
Your policy number
The date, time, location and nature of your loss
The make and model of your automobile
A description of the damage and injuries
Names, contact information, and insurance information of those involved
Your contact information
B. Your Insurance Claims Adjuster Is Assigned
When your claim is entered into the insurance company's system, an insurance claims adjuster will usually be assigned to you within a day or two. Your insurance claims adjuster will contact you to gain further information and investigate your property claim, personal injury claim, the damage, your coverage and the cause of your loss.
C. Vehicle Damage Inspection
To determine if your vehicle can be repaired or if it's a total loss, your adjuster will need to inspect it. If your vehicle is repairable, you may take it wherever you want to get it fixed. Read your policy, though, as now many insurance companies are putting restrictions on their auto policies. Few people know about these until they actually get into an accident.
Some policies charge a co-pay of 20% of the repair bill if you don't take your vehicle to a network provider. (This usually only occurs with low cost or non-standard polices). You are free to get an estimate from a repair facility of your choice, but most insurance companies require repairs to be based on the insurance estimate only. Any supplements requested by the repair facility will need to be approved by the insurance company.
If your claim is simple, then it can usually be resolved by your insurance claims adjuster within a few days. Minor scrapes or dings are often settled the same day the vehicle is inspected.
However, delays can occur when there is severe damage. This almost always results in supplements, delaying the closure of your property claim. If the claim is more complex than usual, if it involves a personal injury claim, or if there are red flags present, it may take even longer to settle. These situations require detailed investigation by the insurance claims adjuster including an in-person recorded statement, the gathering of medical bills, negotiations with attorneys, etc. If the insurance company believes your claim is potentially fraudulent, they may check your background, run your credit, and require multiple statements from you.
This is why it's so important to know what to expect in an auto accident claim before you actually have one.