So, you’ve gotten into a car accident and it CLEARLY wasn’t your fault. Good thing you don’t have a care in the world since you didn’t do anything wrong, right?
Well, it may not go that smoothly for you. Insurance is a complicated deal. The purpose of this article is to educate you on the best way to handle such a situation.
Don’t shoot the messenger here, but not-at-fault accidents will still show up on your C.L.U.E. report and will likely increase your premium, although significantly less than an at-fault accident will.
Not At Fault? What You Need to Do
First thing first, you should obtain the other driver’s information. Here are the steps you want to follow:
1. Collect the name, address, contact information and pictures of the scene. Most of us have a mobile phone with camera capabilities, so use it if you have it. Taking pictures may come in handy if there are any disputes about who was at-fault for the accident.
Tip: Call the mobile phone number the at-fault driver gave you while still at the scene. If your call rings the phone they are holding, they gave you a legitimate number; if not…RED FLAG!
2. Call the police and get an accident report (demonstrating the fact that the other party is actually at-fault). It is important for you to understand that, depending on the state in which you reside and the severity of the accident, the police may not even make a report. Minor accidents with no bodily injury may not warrant the police even showing up.
3. Contact their insurance company. The at-fault driver is supposed to do this, but you might find he or she is in no hurry to file a claim. Spare the insurer any dramatics or opinion, as they are only concerned with the facts. They may seem indifferent, but keep in mind that they potentially receive hundreds of claims calls per day and don’t share your enthusiasm for this particular accident.
4. Contact your insurance company. If you read your policy carefully enough, you will see that your insurer demands you do so. Also, you are now getting an insurer (and their lawyers if necessary) involved in this accident. This is where uninsured and underinsured motorist coverage may come into play. If the joker that caused the accident has no (or state minimum coverage) and it’s not enough to cover your resulting bills, you may be relying on your own insurer to share in the expense to pay for your damages.
5. Get estimates for your damages. This step may include getting a medical evaluation and a quote for the cost to repair the damage to your car.
Take Your Time
Whatever you do, do not accept an immediate claim payment from the at-fault driver’s insurance company. You will want to “realize” all of your damages prior to accepting the settlement check.
It is in the insurer’s best interest to quickly settle any claims, but that might not be the best bet for you.
Many insurance claims are settled quickly with a minimum amount of effort. The entire insurance industry is based on collecting premium and paying claims.
There are no insurance companies out there that make a living on ripping off the general public. In fact, insurers’ business practices are heavily regulated by government agencies that have our best interests in mind.
With this thought in your head, it is important to recognize that insurance companies consistently deal with people trying to rip then off!
This is why you have to do your due diligence to ensure you present your claim properly and receive fair treatment.
Read more: How to negotiate with insurance companies.
(photo: Peter Gene)