As an insurance agent with over 12 years’ experience, I am often asked what a customer should do if they have an accident. All too many times, I find out on the back end some claims mistakes that have occurred, that could have been avoided. So, I thought I would start this blog to help bring this useful information to you!
When you are in a car accident, the first thing you should do is check to see if you and your passengers are okay. Call the police and report the accident and have them send medical assistance if needed. Also, move your car to a safe place where it is not blocking traffic if possible. Lord knows, we don’t need more traffic in metro Atlanta! When the police come, it is important to get a police report if possible. Sometimes, depending on the state, the police will not provide a report. This happens, for example, if the accident was in a parking lot with no injury or even if you hit a deer with no injuries. If this is the case, be sure to document the case yourself.
Speaking of documentation, it is a great idea to use your smart phone and snap some pictures of the damage to your car and the other persons car. Even snap a picture of the other persons license plate, just in case. The pictures help document the severity of the damage and prevent additional claims for additional unrelated damage that may occur later. Insurance Fraud from exaggerated claims costs insurance companies millions of dollars, which ultimately gets past on to you and other consumers. You may be tempted to call your insurance agent right away to report the claim, but my advice is to wait a moment. Allow the police time to do their investigation, write up the police report and determine fault. Don’t admit fault right way to the other driver, allow the police to do their investigation, because you may not be at fault. If you admit fault right away to the other driver, this may set you up for additional liability claims or lawsuits unnecessarily.
Request roadside assistance if needed. However, most people don’t know that when they use their auto insurance roadside assistance, this often results in an additional claim on their insurance. Any time the insurance company pays out money, that is considered a claim and stays on your driving record for 5 years. No roadside assistance is not an “at fault claim” but nevertheless it is a claim on your history and will show up in future claim reports. Sometimes too many claims can affect your rate or the underwriting as well. My advice would be to only use the roadside assistance sparingly. For example, you need this if the car is in a wreck and must be towed, but maybe not if you run out of gas 3 times a month. Some customers opt to purchase separate roadside assistance from other companies like AAA, that way the claims are separate from auto insurance claims.
If the damage to your car is small, you may want to consider getting an estimate on the repairs and consult your agent. I always tell my customer to call me for advice but call the claims department to file a claim. The claims department starts a claim when you call, and this is very difficult to remove once you start. The claims department cannot give advice if the damage is covered or not. Again, all claims stay on your driving history for 5 years. Often, it is best to call your agent for advice, review your coverages and deductibles, compare to the cost of repairing, then make the best decision about filing a claim. Your car insurance is there for you if you need it but be wise about filing unnecessary claims.
Your agent should be available to you, answer your calls, answer your questions, and give good consultive advice. Many times, you don’t get this with an internet insurance company. If you don’t have an agent, consider calling an agent, such as myself, who is local in your area and can shop multiple companies for you. I am happy to assist those with insurance questions and my contact information is below.
Wes Prior is a local insurance agent licensed in Georgia and South Carolina. Wes is appointed with Liberty Mutual insurance and many other insurance companies. The views in this blog are the opinions of Wes Prior only and do not necessarily reflect advice from Liberty Mutual or any other insurance company. License number 810318.