While we hope our family, friends, and clients can all avoid the stress and dangers of being in a car accident, inevitably, they happen more than we would like them to.
Yet, aside from remaining safe, most clients are unsure of what they should do next if they are in an auto accident.
In this blog, we discuss, step by step, on what actions are necessary to have a smooth insurance claim process.
I Was Just In An Auto Accident. Now What?
I will also have to say this is my opinion; I'm not an attorney or claims adjuster. As always, what you choose to do or not do may depend on the situation and the circumstance. I will try to cover the basics below, but when all else fails. Contact your broker/agent if you need advice. I'm always here for my clients in case of an accident, or you want information.
What do I do after I've been in an auto accident?
The first thing is everyone safe? Any Injuries? If any injuries, you need to call emergency services at 911 and report the accident.
Everyone OK? Good, let's go on.
Next thing to remember, "If it steers, it clears!"
Move all accidents out of the roadway if possible. Document and take photos, but all accidents need to be moved to a safe place!
Second, depending on the situation do you think the damage is bad enough to file a claim? Whether at fault or not. Is the damage severe?
Again, we recommend only using your auto policy if it's catastrophic. We will never tell you not to file a claim, only advise on how a claim may impact your insurance future.
We also realize that it is very annoying, and you hate insurance. However, this is the current insurance environment in Louisiana. One of my jobs is to mitigate risk and advise my clients on what could impact your premiums or rates in the future. So if you have questions, always refer to your current broker, agent, or attorney.
We get lots of calls about accidents; I would say most of the time those accidents happen in parking lots so my most significant piece of advice: SLOWWWWW DOWNNN in parking lots.
Parking lots are private property, so if you call a police officer, they do not have to fill out an accident report. Unless the other party admits fault, accidents in parking lots tend to turn into a big mess.
To avoid this, take lots of pictures, fill out our accident sheet if the other person is at fault, try and get his or her full name, phone number, address, insurance policy number, a picture copy of the ID card if they refuse good luck.
What do I do if the accident wasn't in the parking lot?
Great question! Are you at fault? Do you know who was at fault?
Call the cops, 9/10 times I always recommend calling the police. Yes, some people will say they will pay out of pocket if the accident isn't severe; however, best practice is always to call the police.
They will fill out an accident report that will usually assign fault, and describe the accident and also have everyone's relevant information.
I would also download this handy accident guideline, and you are already one step ahead of the game.
Gather as much information as possible or as much as the other party will allow. Take as many photos as you need to document damage to both vehicles, also try to take a picture of the other person's auto ID cards, or even a driver's license if they let you.
That way, you won't have to wait to file the insurance claim. (Yes, the insurance company is going to want a copy of the police report, but it's always good to have your report already filled out and ready to go.)
I never (This is for Louisiana) recommend filing an insurance claim on your policy if you are not at fault.
Why is that? Because if you file a claim on your policy, you have to pay your deductible. Then that claim will be subrogated (basically charged to) the other person's insurance company; they (insurance companies) have to agree (Settle).
Then eventually, you would get your money back if they determine the other party was, in fact, at fault.
Then even though that claim would be a not at-fault accident, all these insurance companies rate differently based on tiers.
Any accident or claims has the potential to impact the tier or "bucket" you fall in. Again, sometimes the other company is not cooperating, and it's necessary to file a claim on your policy, but I consider it a last resort.
As always, every situation is different, and you can always call your broker/agent for advice if needed.
When filing the claim, it's always a good practice when calling insurance companies to write down the name of the person you talk to, the phone number they can be reached at, the time you spoke to them, a summary of the conversation, and email address if you are feeling extra spicy.
Have your repair estimate and accident sheet ready to go, and if you have the police report already, have that prepared as well. You are going to need to provide all these documents to the insurance company.
The more documentation, the better!
If you have all your documents ready to go, and the other company has accepted fault, the claims should hopefully be smooth sailing from here. But much like most things in life, it's always a good idea to check with the body shop doing the repairs.
Once you get your vehicle back, inspect it! Scrutinize the repairs. Make sure you are happy with the results!
Will A Car Accident Affect My Insurance Rates?
Most likely, yes, depending on the situation and the severity of the claim, we advise our clients to only use the auto policy, if necessary.
That goes for windshield repairs as well. I also realize this will annoy people.
However, due to the current Louisiana legislative environment, my job is to advise on coverage and advise on actions that may impact your insurance rate.
Insurance companies rate on tiers based on a bunch of different factors, one of those factors being claims.
Comprehensive, or collision claims, number of those claims and severity of those instances. Technically in Louisiana, auto companies should not charge you for a comprehensive claim however, because it is a claim instance, the company can choose to tier that particular client differently.
That's why we advise our clients only to use your auto policy if necessary.
When and How Do I Report An Auto Accident Claim?
What if I wasn't at fault?
When filing the claim, you will file with the at-fault parties insurance company.
It's always a good practice when calling insurance companies to write down who you talk to, the phone number they can be reached at, the time you spoke to them, a summary of the conversation, and email address if you are feeling extra spicy.
Have your repair estimate ready to go, have your accident sheet ready to go, if you have the policy report already have that. You are going to need to provide all these documents to the insurance company. More documentation, the better!
If you have all your documents ready to go, and the other company has accepted fault, the claims should hopefully be smooth sailing from here. But much like most things in life, it's always a good idea to check with the body shop doing the repairs,
Once you get your vehicle back, inspect it! Inspect the repairs carefully. Make sure you are happy with the results!
Insurance is the first building block in building your financial foundation. It's important because you have a huge liability exposure!
You are driving a 5000 lbs vehicle down the road a 50 mph, and one accident can change your life in the blink of an eye.
Are you buying a $20K, $30K, or even $100K vehicle? Well, if that vehicle was in an accident and totaled, would that hurt your wallet? Yeah, I suppose it would!
That's why we carry insurance! We carry insurance and pool risk so we can afford that nice new car or house that you want to buy. Insurance pays out if something catastrophic happens and will make you whole. That's the job of insurance.
It's a way for us all to share in the risk together to make sure if something happens, we all won't go bankrupt.
People complain about paying insurance, but as your net worth grows, so should your insurance cost, because you are protecting more of your assets. It only makes sense.
I would pay $20K all year long to protect my $1 million if I had to. Or if I had to pay $50K to protect my $5 million.
Well, that's what insurance is protecting.