How to File an Insurance Claim
Disaster can strike anywhere, at any time. Even safe drivers can have accidents, cars can be stolen even if every precaution is taken, and, try as we might, there’s no controlling Mother Nature. The thought of making an insurance claim can be daunting, but it doesn’t have to be. We’ll describe a couple examples of situations in which you’d normally file a claim, and then walk you through the process.
Of course, every insurance company has their own method for dealing with claims, but most of the major steps are the same.
Auto Insurance Claims
When you are involved in a collision, whether or not you are the one at fault, the first steps are to make sure everyone is okay, contact the police, and then trade necessary information with the other driver(s). This necessary information generally includes your name, address, phone number, driver’s license number, and license plate, along with the name of your auto insurance company and your policy number. Also, take pictures on your cell phone of any damage to your vehicle.
When you get home, here are the general steps you should take to file your claim.
1. Ask questions
When you start the insurance claim process, make sure you understand a few key things about how your particular policy works:
Your deductible -This is your out-of-pocket expense towards repairs before your insurance kicks in. Let’s say you have a $600 collision coverage deductible, and the damage to your vehicle is $1,600. Subtract your deductible amount from that, and that’s how much your insurance company will pay for repairs (so $1,000 in this case).
Rental reimbursement coverage -If you need to rent a car while yours is in the shop, you’ll want to know if your policy includes rental reimbursement coverage. If you have it, find out about its limits, like $40/day for up to one week. Ask your insurer how you should make the arrangements for the rental, and how to pay for it.
Time limits - Last but certainly not least, find out if your insurance company has time limits for filing claims and submitting bills.
Be aware that when you contact your insurer, you’ll be asked to provide information and documentation pertinent to the accident. Have this information readily available.
2. Work with the claims adjuster to get an estimate
The claims adjuster, sometimes called the insurance adjuster, looks into the accident to figure out who is at fault, and then they make a recommendation for how much the insurance company should pay for damages. If you disagree with the amount they decide on, ask the adjuster to explain how they came to that number, or you can request a full report detailing how the repair costs were determined.
3. Repair your vehicle
Generally, the auto repair shop decision is up to you. You’re entitled to ask the shop to use original equipment manufacturer parts (OEM) rather than cheaper after-market parts, but be aware that depending on what your policy includes, the OEM parts could be new or recycled. Your insurance company will either pay the shop directly, or write you a flat check and let you handle the rest.
Home Insurance Claims
There are many reasons for filing a home insurance claim. If someone’s been hurt on your property, if your house catches fire, if a tornado wipes out your upstairs floor - all valid scenarios for getting insurance involved. Again, the particulars may vary, but the general steps are the same.
1. Report crimes to the police
If your home has been vandalized or burglarized, let law enforcement know. Obtain a police report and record the names of all the officers you deal with.
2. Call your insurance company right away
As mentioned above, many times there are time limits for filing claims, so contact them as soon as possible. Ask questions about your coverage, whether your claim is more than your deductible, how long processing your claim will take, what kind of estimates you’ll need, etc. Go ahead and make temporary repairs, mainly to prevent further damage to your property, and save the receipts so your insurance company can reimburse you. Also, if you are forced to find other accommodations because the damage to your home is too severe, hang onto the receipts.
Your insurance company will send you the necessary claims forms; fill them out and return them promptly to avoid delays. Claims are usually processed quickly.
3. Make a list of anything lost or damaged
Take pictures or make a video of the damage. Try not to throw anything out until the claims adjuster visits your home. Write up an inventory for him or her, and provide any receipts from damaged items, if you have them.
Click here for more information about how to file a claim with Insurance Center Associates.