Having an auto accident is a terrible shock, putting you into a daze and making it hard to think clearly.
So it’s wise to have a good idea, in advance, of how auto insurance works after an accident and what you need to do in the event of a collision.
The first priority is to stop your vehicle and check there are no injuries to your passengers or the people in any other car or cars involved.
If so, call an ambulance immediately, because even superficial injuries might have a deeper impact.
Once that’s done, you need to exchange information with the other driver. This will include your name and phone number as well as the name and policy number of your insurance company and agent.
Avoid at all costs making any statements to the other drivers that could later be used against you.
Hopefully, everyone will behave calmly and, at least, you can draw comfort from the fact you have the backing of an insurance policy for situations like this.
It will be a very good idea to photograph the scene. That should include the vehicles involved and their final positions plus the position of any traffic lights, debris and any skid marks made by the vehicles. You may also want to take notes on the weather and road conditions at the time of the accident.
You must then call the police and report the accident, even if nobody was injured. If you are not at fault, then a police report to this effect will be a great help in keeping your future insurance premiums unchanged because this provides an unbiased professional third party view of the incident.
If the other party was clearly at fault, they will probably be cited a traffic ticket, helping your case of ‘not-at-fault’ with your insurers even more.
In anything other than a minor bump, even if no one is injured, you must immediately inform your insurers.
If your part of the blame is more than 50% at-fault you premiums will probably increase when they fall due for renewal.
Insurers can increase your premiums if you receive a traffic violation ticket or you file a claim, but will normally only take one of these into account when calculating your future premiums.
One way of protecting your premiums at their present level is to take out some additional cover on your auto insurance policy, called Accident Forgiveness. That tends to be excellent value because even if you are deemed to be at-fault, after an accident, your premiums won’t increase.
When you report an accident stick strictly to the facts, leaving your opinions well out of the conversation.
You may very well speak to a car insurance adjuster at some stage.
Always bear in mind that, even if they come from a different company than the insurers, they are actually working on behalf of the insurers with the aim of keeping their pay out as low as possible.
If your claim is accepted, then whatever sum is arrived at it will be minus the deductible you agreed to pay in the event of an accident when buying the policy.
The car insurance policy you entered into is a binding contract between you and the insurers. So, provided the damage is covered by the parameters of the policy then your insurers should handle the cost of the accident, less the deductible you agreed to when buying the policy.
There are several elements to every auto insurance policy, covering not only damage to the motor vehicles involved (depending on how the fault is apportioned), but also the costs of any medical expenses and damage caused to any property at the scene of an accident (for example street furniture or a wall).
The policy can even have an element to cover you in the event of being hit by an underinsured – or even uninsured – driver.
Building an auto insurance package that protects you against all reasonable eventualities is very much a pick and mix exercise and so is best carried out for you by a competent auto insurance broker, like the ones we have listed in the Quotes section.
It’s important for either you or your insurance company to quickly establish the level of cover the other party to the accident has.
Because if it looks like the accident or the injuries involved are likely to exceed the other party’s policy limits you need to protect your interest by employing the services of a car accident attorney without delay.
They will fight your corner to ensure it does not fall to you to make up any shortfall in the other driver’s insurance cover when the other driver is held to be at fault.
They can also be a powerful ally in the event of your own insurance company valuing your claim settlement lower than you do – or even denying your claim – by reopening negotiations or even suing your insurers.
And for other tips on the correct procedure with auto insurance after an accident