UPDATED: Aug 25, 2020
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Dealing with life after a car accident is never easy. On top of the normal day-to-day responsibilities of your busy life, now you’re dealing with jumping through the flaming hoops of the red tape bureaucracy that is filing an auto insurance claim with your car insurance company.
But getting your claim filed — and honored, on top of that — can be a little bit easier if you know what to do before you get into an accident in the first place. Or, even if you’re reading this right now because you need advice on dealing with your insurance company when your car needs repair, you can still benefit from some of the tips we have listed on this page.
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What to Know Before You File
For some of the people reading this, dissection may be “too little, too late”. but if you’re in the very beginning stages of filing your claim, or you’re educating yourself and what you need to know before you get into an accident, then we advise you to take notes. Because the following information is very important.
The first proactive step you can take to make sure that the filing of your claims goes as smoothly as possible is to get as much documentation as possible right after the accident happened. Such steps can include:
- Call 911. The more serious the accident is, the more important it is to dial Emergency Services — especially if anyone’s car is totaled, or injuries are involved. You may be able to get away with choosing not to call the police assuming the accident involves minimal body damage and nobody was injured. But when in doubt, call 911.
- Record everything at the scene. It’s not necessarily a good idea to wait until the vehicles are cleared or your vehicle is towed away to a safe place where you can take all the pictures and video you want. Videos and pictures at the scene can help you build your case as far as weather conditions, traffic, and help prove your version of the events leading up to the accident.
- Talk to your insurance company first. It doesn’t matter whose fault it is — even if the other driver was determined to be 100% at fault for the accident, you’re going to want your insurance company’s help. When it comes to getting a third party claim paid out, your insurance company has the clout and the legal resources to force them to pay up whereas you may not.
- If you end up getting a third party claim settlement, make sure your insurance company appears it first. Signing anything from the at-fault driver’s Insurance company without first consulting your provider, a good lawyer, or both is asking for trouble.
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More Information About Third-Party Claims
If, while reading the section above, you scratched your head and asked: “what is a third-party claim?” We understand the need for clarification. The claims filing process can be extremely confusing, and it’s important to understand the terminology before you get swept up in the legalese.
If you get into a crash, and it is determined that the other driver is at fault, then it’s that driver’s insurance company it will be financially responsible for paying out damages – up to the limits of that driver’s liability coverage, that is. Once those limits have been met, any excess money owed comes out of that driver’s own pockets; however, getting that driver to pay out is a completely different headache altogether.
With any luck, the at-fault driver’s insurance policy will have enough coverage that you will only have to deal with getting the money from their insurance company. In this situation, when you have to file a claim against the other drivers’ insurance to get damages and medical expenses paid for, this is a third party claim. And, if you and the other driver are not insured by the same company, it can be a nightmare to get the money you are owed.
And many cases, though, your insurance company will do most of that hard work for you. In the early days after your accident, you may end up getting money from your insurance company first – especially for any immediate medical expenses and/or vehicle repairs you need to get back on the road and back to your daily life.
Then, it will be up to your insurance company to deal with the at-fault driver’s ensure in order to get reimbursed. And trust us, you’d much rather have your insurance company taking care of that reimbursement then having to do it yourself. Third-party claims are notoriously difficult to get paid out in full, and your insurer has the lawyers in the money to make sure it happens. Most often, drivers who are trying to file a third-party claim do not.
Filing Claims in a No-Fault State
For those drivers living in a no-fault state (such as Florida, Pennsylvania, Hawaii, Kansas, Kentucky, Michigan, Massachusetts, Minnesota, New York, New Jersey, North Dakota, or Utah), it can get further complicated still. This is because the no-fault laws in these states limit whether or not you are allowed to file a third-party claim against the other driver’s Insurance company. this is true, even if the other driver is at fault.