Based on recent reports, there are currently more than 278 million registered vehicles and nearly 233 million licensed drivers in the United States. All those drivers are required by law to maintain insurance coverage on their vehicles. Businesses must also insure their commercial vehicles for their drivers to operate them legally. Ideally, vehicle owners would never need to use their auto insurance policies to cover accidents, but of course, this isn’t an ideal world.
Vehicle Crashes at a Glance
According to the latest figures, there are more than 6 million vehicle accidents each year in the United States. At least 3 million people are injured as a result of those crashes, and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration says those wrecks amount to approximately $340 billion in damages annually. Those numbers have been rising steadily over the years, and they’re expected to continue doing so in the years to come.
Understanding the Insurance Claim Process
Most drivers have insurance to cover their accidents as required by law. That being said, only a few are familiar with the claim process. Many don’t even completely understand what type of coverage their policies offer. Lacking that important knowledge can lead to an array of hardships after the accident. Some of the most significant are financial struggles, unexpected claim denials, and legal action from other parties involved in the accident. Help with avoiding those issues is available through atlantaadvocate.com.
Knowing how to file an insurance claim and being aware of the factors involved in the process is essential. Having that knowledge before an accident takes place can help alleviate much of the fear and confusion that so often arise during and after a crash. Take a look at some of the typical steps you’ll need to follow when filing a claim.
Know Your Policy
One of the most effective measures you can take before an accident is to familiarize yourself with your auto insurance policy. That way, you’ll understand what’s covered and what isn’t. Most drivers don’t take the time to do this. As a result, they end up facing unpleasant surprises during the claim process.
Be sure to read your policy thoroughly long before you need to file a claim. Even then, all those details included in the paperwork can be exceedingly confusing. It may be necessary to take matters a step further and speak with an insurance agent about your policy. He or she can explain some of the more complex details to clear up many of the lingering questions you may have.
Once you fully understand the policy you have, adding extra coverage to the mix may be a good idea. Many people select their insurance policies based on the minimum coverage requirements in their state. That’s generally fairly basic. It may be enough to protect you in some instances, but it’s often not enough to cover all types of accidents and resulting damages.
Gather Evidence at the Accident Scene
If you understand your insurance policy and what it’ll cover before an accident, you’ll be better prepared when faced with the need to file a claim. Of course, you’ll also need extra reinforcement when contacting your coverage provider or that of the other driver involved in the crash. That’s where gathering evidence at the accident scene proves helpful.
If you’re able to do so, get out of the vehicle and take pictures or videos of the scene. Be sure to include the damage to your vehicle and any others that were involved in the accident. Cover the road, traffic signs and lights, and other factors that could be relevant.
Law enforcement officials should be there, and you’ll need to speak with them as well. From there, find out when, where, and how you can obtain a copy of the police report that details the accident. While you may receive a preliminary report at the time of the accident, a more detailed version will be available a few days after the fact. You’ll need the police report for your insurance claim.
You’ll also need to exchange contact information with others who were involved in the crash. Take down their names, phone numbers, email addresses, and insurance coverage providers. Some coverage providers offer checklists of the information and other resources you’ll need to gather at this point. Those can be found on their websites, and they can help make sure you don’t leave out any important details.
Get Medical Attention
After more serious accidents, chances are emergency medical personnel will be on the scene. Allow them to examine you to get an overview of your injuries. You can refuse medical care, but that’s not advised. In the heat of the moment, you may be more seriously injured than you realize. Adrenaline and all the chaos surrounding the accident may initially overshadow your injuries, but they’ll certainly make themselves known later on.
Consider proceeding to a nearby hospital for further medical attention as well. That’ll get you started on the road to recovery. It’ll give you documentation of your injuries to use when filing an insurance claim, too. If any follow-up care is needed, be sure to get documentation of that as well. Having that essential paper trail will serve as proof of your injuries and medical expenses.
File a Claim
Claim processes vary a bit depending on your coverage provider, those of other people involved in the accident, and even where you live. Some states require policyholders to file claims with their own insurance companies first even if they weren’t responsible for the accident in question. From there, they or their insurance company will contact other relevant coverage providers if necessary. In other instances, policyholders should contact the at-fault party’s insurance company.
This isn’t necessarily a clear-cut aspect, but you can, and should, contact your own insurance company as soon as possible to report the accident. An agent can give you additional guidance from there. Be sure to have your policy number and coverage information from the other drivers involved when contacting your insurance company. Have the additional previously mentioned documentation on hand as well.
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Get Help If Needed
Filing a claim can be a confusing process even if you know what to do ahead of time. No two accidents and filing processes are quite the same. You may not even need to file a claim depending on your coverage, deductible and the amount of damage caused by the accident. Don’t hesitate to reach out for help from your insurance company or an attorney to ensure your rights and best interests are covered.