Behind the Scenes: How Car Insurance Companies Handle Accident Claims

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If you’ve ever been in a car accident, you know how stressful it can be. The red tape. Dealing with the insurance company. The paper – it never ends. Here’s how to get through it.

What Happens Immediately After The Accident

You just got hit. Now what? Well, the first thing you do is contact your insurance company. Let them know you were in an accident. Next, keep a record of everything. Your insurance adjuster is going to come out and look at everything, take assessment of the damage, and go over everything with a fine-tooth comb.

But, you also want to have a personal record of what happened. Take as many pictures and notes as you can. Make sure that you document the incident as best as you can from memory. Do it as soon as the accident happens – we tend to start forgetting things (especially details of an accident) soon after they happen.

Your insurer is going to ask you to file a claim before an adjuster comes out to see you, and they’re going to want to know what happened.

Filing Your Claim Information

File your claim with your insurer. Most let you do this over the phone. During the phone call, the claims representative will ask you about the accident, what happened, and if you’re OK. He or she will probably also assist you if you need help getting off the road or away from a dangerous place.

You should be asked if you need a tow truck or assistance. Even if you don’t have towing coverage or roadside assistance on your insurance policy, it’s customary for claims reps to ask if you need this kind of help.

Every situation is different, so you may be asked more or fewer questions than what happened, who was involved, and questions about the condition of your vehicle.

If you want more information about all of the potential processes involved in the claims process, read this comprehensive guide that explains what you should do if involved in an auto accident.

Determining Who’s At Fault

This is tricky. Not all states assign fault in an auto accident. Fault assessment is up to the insurance company when your state allows at-fault accidents. In some cases, fault will be split between both drivers. For example, if a vehicle hits you, but it’s determined that you are partially responsible for the crash, then the insurer may assign a portion of the liability to you, as a percentage.

You may be assigned, for instance, 20 percent of the fault.

This means that the other party takes responsibility for 80 percent of the accident and thus must pay for 80 percent of the total damages.

You are to pay the remaining 20 percent.

This is done out of your insurance policy, less any deductibles for coverage. If one driver is 100 percent at-fault, then things are easier. The person who is at-fault tries to collect from his insurance company, while the not-at-fault driver attempts to collect from the at-fault driver’s insurance for the claim.

When there is mixed fault or when fault is split, some money may be obtained from both insurance companies, though exactly how much depends on the details of the accident and how much the damages are.

What To Do When An Uninsured Or Underinsured Motorist Hits You

It’s unfortunate, but some people don’t carry enough insurance to cover a liability. In these cases, you are dealing with underinsured or uninsured motorists.

Each state has their own rules about what an uninsured or underinsured motorist is. Every state requires at least a minimum of liability insurance. But states often do not specify how much insurance is necessary to cover an average claim.

So, an individual might have liability insurance, but may not have enough to cover all of the damages, even when he or she has the minimum required under state law.

In these cases, your insurance company picks up the slack by paying the remainder of the claim using uninsured or uninsured motorist coverage. If your coverage is insufficient, then you must pay the remainder out of pocket.

When the other driver is uninsured, your insurance company will attempt to work with the other driver to recover damages in cash. Usually, how this plays out in practice is your insurance company will give you the money and then go after the underinsured or uninsured motorist to recover the remaining damages.

As far as you’re concerned, the matter is concluded and you get your vehicle fixed.

In 2011, Keith Magness formed the Law Office of Keith L. Magness, LLC with the goal of providing outstanding legal services to individuals at a fair and reasonable price. Keith has a passion for representing people injured through the fault of others and focuses his practice on assisting victims injured in auto, 18-wheeler, company vehicle, motorcycle, bus and fatal accidents. This focus has allowed him to become a go-to-guy for auto, truck and motorcycle accident claims in New Orleans, resulting in my selection as a Top 100 Trial Lawyer by the National Trial Lawyers Association an honor extended solely to the most qualified attorneys from each state who demonstrate superior qualifications of leadership, reputation, influence, statute and public profile. In 2015, Keith was awarded the Premier 100 designation by the American Academy of Trial Attorneys. The Premier 100 designation is an honor bestowed on less than 1% of attorneys in the United States.