Getting into a car accident is one of the more stressful experiences a driver can go through. There’s a lot to immediately process: Is everyone involved okay? How bad is the damage to the cars?
Since there’s so much going on at once, it’s easy to forget about what comes next when involving insurance companies.
If someone hits your car, you might not know who to call or what information you need to collect from the other driver.
Being thorough and prepared at the scene of the accident ensures that the claims process goes as smoothly as possible for you.
So here are some tips on what to do when you’ve been in a car accident:
Someone hit my car whose insurance do I call?
It’s completely up to you whether or not you want to call your insurance company.
But it’s always good to play it on the safe side and contact them when there are other parties involved in the accident.
At the scene of the accident, everyone should exchange information and contact their respective insurers to inform them of the accident.
What information do I need to get from the other driver?
If everyone decides to go through their insurance, make sure you get their insurance information.
This means you’ll ask for their name, address, phone number, insurance company, driver’s license number, VIN, and license plate number.
From there, the insurance companies will communicate with each other.
Should I call the other driver’s insurance company?
Even if you’re not at fault, you still only file a claim with your auto insurer and not theirs. You don’t need to call and file a claim on the other driver’s insurance.
In some cases, the other insurance company might reach out to you and ask for your version of the accident.
But there’s no legal requirement for you to contact the other driver or their insurance company. They are responsible for calling their insurance company.
What happens when the other driver is uninsured?
If the driver is at fault and driving without insurance, you should always call your insurance company.
Your insurance company will pay for the damage and you only need to pay your collision deductible unless you have uninsured motorist property damage.
In this case, you should involve the police and call them to the scene. They will give the other driver a ticket and they will most likely have to pay a fine for driving without insurance. This is illegal. At the very least, each driver should carry the state minimum car insurance.
Involving the police and filing a police report will help your case when filing a claim.
Should I file a claim or pay out of pocket?
Sometimes, it’s not obvious whether you should file a claim or pay out of pocket.
If you get into a car accident that involves other people and their vehicles, yes, you should file a claim.
It’s not illegal to settle privately with the other driver, but it’s not recommended since there are a variety of risks involved. Even if the damage is minimal and/or other people involved seem unhurt, you should contact your insurer.
Let’s say you walk out of a store to find that someone hit your car while parked in a lot. If the driver left a note, you could get your insurance and their insurance company involved. Or if there’s no note, you could pay out of pocket for repairs if it costs less than your deductible.
In this case, it might be cheaper for you to repair your car on your own without alerting your insurer and risk having your premiums spike because of a claim.
Another example where you could pay out of pocket instead of filing a claim is when there’s no one else involved in the accident. For example, if you backed up into a light post and your car has minor damage.
When in doubt, play it on the safe side when other parties are involved. Use your insurance company and file a claim.
Is there anything else I can do?
At the scene of the accident, take as many photos as you can. Photos can only help your claim.
And you should submit your documents and photos as soon as you can. Most insurance companies allow you to use their app or an online submission form to make the claims process easier and faster.
It’s not necessarily over once you’ve submitted a claim.
Make sure you keep thorough records. Keep a copy of any documentation from the accident and correspondence you have with your insurer. Since your claims agent is dealing with multiple claims at once, you’ll want to keep track of everything on your end, too.
And don’t be afraid to be proactive. Filing an auto insurance claim can be a long process.
Stay on top of things by reaching out to your insurer to inquire about where they’re at in the process and when you can expect to receive reimbursement.
I decided to file a claim and my rates went up. Now what?
But even if your rates go up, it’s not the end of the world. You should consider switching car insurance companies to find a better deal. Take this time to shop around because there’s a good chance you’ll find a better rate somewhere else.
If you need more of an incentive, a study done by NerdWallet found that drivers miss out on an average of $416.52 of savings by not shopping around.
Having a claims history doesn’t necessarily mean you’re subject to high rates forever. Insurance companies rate drivers differently. You could be saving money with the same coverage with a different company!