How to File an Auto Insurance Claim

How to File an Auto Insurance Claim

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Auto accidents happen all the time and they are scary events.  When you are in an accident, you are overwhelmed and shaken-up even if you are not physically hurt.  Thankfully you’re reading this now and not after an accident.  There is a lot to remember to do, and very little time to do it.

I am going to share with you the information you need to remember to gather at the scene of the accident.  I suggest you put this information checklist with your insurance card in your vehicle so you can refer to it if you have a car accident.

I want to share this information with you because I know peace of mind is so important.  I want to help ensure that your claim is paid in full and as quickly as possible.  Sharing the knowledge I have accumulated as owner of The Southcott Agency, Inc. and insider provides you with great service as a customer.  It is just as good for my business as it is for you.

My clients have filed hundreds, even thousands, of auto insurance claims, and as a result I know what to do and what not to do to get a claim resolved to the satisfaction of my clients.  There are a few steps you should take right now before you have to file a claim.  If you keep these steps handy, having a wreck will not make you panic because you will know what to do as soon as it happens.

Know What IS Covered

Few people read their auto policy, but you should know what your policy covers and what it does not.  No policy can cover every possible situation, but most good policies cover almost all of them.  Sometimes people decide not to have certain coverage because some types of coverage are too expensive or not worth having if a car is fairly old.

An agent at The Southcott Agency, Inc. will do an annual policy review to make sure your coverage is up to date and discuss discounts.  Find out the situations in which you do not have coverage by calling The Southcott Agency, Inc. and asking us to explain what the policy covers and (most importantly) what it does not cover.

Follow The “Conditions” (steps)

Insurance companies have certain steps you need to follow in the event of an accident.  In the policy, these steps are called “Conditions”.  You should know what these conditions are.

You should also determine right now, before an accident, what you would do with your car if it needed repairs.  Do you have an auto body shop that does excellent work?  If so, that is great!

If you do not, ask your agent to recommend a body shop close to where you live.  Most insurance companies have shops they consider ”preferred” auto body shops. These shops have good names from doing good work and insurers trust them.  Ask your agent or insurance company if there are any of these body shops near you.

Ask your agent what to do and who to call when you need to report a claim.

You will need to have paper and a pen to make notes at the scene of the accident.  Keep at least two writing instruments and a notebook in the car.  Keep these in the glove compartment or the console next to the driver’s seat.

In addition, if your insurance agent has a form that allows you to provide details of an accident, including a sketch of the scene, keep some of these forms in the car as well.

Remember that most cell phones have built-in cameras.  You can use yours to take pictures of damage.  Now you are prepared if you have an accident.

What To Do After You Have An Accident

At the scene, you need to do the following:

1. Stop the car and get help for any injured drivers or passengers.

Give whatever help you can to the injured (covering them with blankets, making them comfortable), but do not move them.  You could cause more harm by moving anyone who is badly hurt.  Have someone call 911.  Tell the dispatcher how many people are hurt and how seriously.  The dispatcher will then notify the nearest police and medical units (if needed).

2. Protect the accident scene.

Try to prevent further damage to the vehicles involved by setting up flares or getting your car off the road.

3. Give police officers whatever information they require.

Give your version of what happened, but do not, under any circumstances, admit you were at fault, either to the police or the other driver(s).  Just give the facts as you see them.  Ask the investigating officer how you can get a copy a copy of the police report.  You will need the report when you submit your claim to The Southcott Agency, Inc.  Stay at the accident scene until the police have left.  (If it is a minor accident, the police may not make a report.  In fact, they may not even come to the scene if there are no injuries or serious damage to any of the vehicles involved).

4. Write down the names and information of all drivers and passengers.

Write down the names and information of all people involved in the accident, the license plate numbers, the driver’s license number(s) and auto insurance information of the other driver(s), as well as the make, model and year of each car involved.  Write down the names and addresses of as many witnesses as possible, as well as the names and badge numbers of the police officers and any emergency personnel.

5. Write down all the details of the accident you can remember.

Write these either on the accident forms from your insurance company or in your notebook.

6. If necessary, have your car towed to a repair shop.

This is why I suggested earlier having a repair shop in mind before you have an accident.  This way, you already know where you want the car towed.  Keep the shop’s phone number and address in your glove box, along with the number of a towing company.

7. Call your insurance agent at The Southcott Agency, Inc. to report the claim.

If possible, call from the accident scene.  Write down the phone number of The Southcott Agency, Inc. or ask for your agent’s business card so you can easily call to report a claim.  Keep this number with the numbers of the repair shop and towing company.  To make the process easier, also save these numbers in your cell phone.  If The Southcott Agency, Inc. is involved, it will speed up the claim process.  Also, tell us if you are not satisfied with how your claim is being handled.

8. Ask The Southcott Agency, Inc. how to proceed.

Ask what forms or documents you will need to support your claim.  Your insurer may require you to fill out a “proof of loss” form and supply documents like medical and auto repair bills and a copy of the police report.  Keep copies of any paperwork related to the accident in a secure location.

9. Keep records of any expenses resulting from the accident.

These might include any expenses related to a temporary inability to work or perform basic household functions.  Your policy may allow you to be reimbursed for such things as medical and hospital expenses, lost wages and some of the costs of hiring a temporary housekeeper.

10. Tell your agent at The Southcott Agency, Inc. if you are not satisfied with how the company handles your claim.

Note how they answer your concerns, but be careful at this point with using the word “lawyer”.  Once you raise the prospect of seeking legal help, it changes the way your insurance company deals with you.  When you say “lawyer,” you are basically threatening to sue your insurer.  Do not make this threat until you are absolutely convinced that your insurance company will not resolve the claim to your satisfaction.  If you hire a lawyer, no one at the insurance company will be able to communicate with you directly.  Instead, they will have to go through your attorney.

While no accident is a pleasant experience, remember that proper preparation and following certain steps can help resolve the claim process to your satisfaction.  If your claim has the important documentation and all the key details, there is no reason that it will not be paid in full quickly.

If you have any trouble, please contact us at The Southcott Agency, Inc., phone us at (585) 589-6236 or email us at information@thesouthcottagency.com.  We are here to help you and make sure your insurance policy takes care of you, as it should.

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