Going through the claims process after a car accident can be chaotic but it's important that you maintain proper communication with the agent assigned to your claim. The insurance agent handling your claim will investigate all parties involved with the accident to determine how compensation will be rewarded.
How long does it take to settle a claim?
If the damage to both cars is minimal, it could be as easy as taking it to get fixed and letting the insurance agency handle the rest. For accidents that are more serious, if someone sustained an injury or major vehicle damage was done, it becomes a more lengthy process.
Important note: Insurance companies will do whatever they can to keep the payout as low as possible; it's good to be especially aware of this if you're working with the other driver's insurance company.
Communicating with an insurance agent can be intimidating; they will ask a lot of questions and require a lot of information from you. It's important to be thoughtful, honest and yet cautious about the information you share with them.
Here is a list of "dos and don'ts" for dealing with an insurance company post-accident:
DO call the insurance company and file a claim immediately following the accident.
DO look over your existing insurance plan to make sure you understand the type of coverage you have.
DO collect as much information about the accident as possible so you can give the agent a clear statement about how the accident occurred.
DO take pictures to document vehicle damage (for all vehicles involved). Pass along these photos to the insurance company upon request.
DO let the insurance agent know about any injuries you sustained in the accident, whether big or small, make sure they have it on record.
DO take detailed notes of all communication with the insurance company. Get the agents name, title and direct phone number.
DON'T ignore calls from the insurance companies. Be accountable to them and stay in constant communication, don't give them a reason to deny your claim.
DON'T admit fault. Whether you believe you caused the accident or not, it is up to the insurance team to determine fault. Admitting fault could seriously jeopardize your chances for fair compensation.
DON'T sign a release for your medical records. You should inform them where you're being treated, how and by whom. It's even okay to give them a written diagnosis from your doctor but signing a waiver of release for medical forms could cause the insurance company to use a previous injury or illness against you. They might claim it wasn't the accident that caused the injury but a preexisting condition.
DON'T sign any waivers or give them access to anything without consulting an attorney. It's not typical for an insurance company to need access to personal records, be very cautious if this presents itself.
DON'T accept any payment that you deem as unfair or inappropriate. Once you cash a payment or move forward with their offer, it becomes very hard to backtrack.
DON'T forget there are lawyers who focus on these types of cases that can help you. Use your resources, especially if you feel intimidated by the process or unhappy with what they are offering you.