Besides your home and perhaps paying for college tuition, your automobile is one of the most expensive things that you will buy in your lifetime. And of course you clean it, and buy all sorts of creams and waxes and scents to keep it looking and smelling like new. And then, you get the bad news: something’s happened to your car.
But that’s why we have insurance, to cover the things we don’t foresee. As a claims representative for a major insurance company, I take calls all day from people who are nervous about filing a claim for something that has happened to their vehicle. But it’s really not that difficult or scary. The main thing to remember is that if you don’t have all the information, that’s ok. In my experience, here are a few things that you need to remember when filing an auto claim to make the process go easier:
COVERAGE. Insurance falls into two major coverages: collision and comprehensive (sometimes called “other than collision”). Collision coverage is for anything that your vehicle collides with, and that not only includes other vehicles, but also ditches, poles, buildings, fences, trees, potholes, pedestrians and even hit-and-run damage to your vehicle. This applies whether you do it or someone else does it to your vehicle. Comprehensive coverage covers things like vandalism, theft, weather-related damage, flying or falling objects (a tree limb falls on your car), fire, damage by an animal, among other situations that may be covered. Mechanical failures are not generally covered by your insurance, unless you have a specific add-on to your policy.
DATE AND LOCATION: The date is important to know so that we could verify if the incident falls within your policy period. We also need to know where it happened. We don’t necessarily need an exact address, but an intersection will suffice. If it took place in a parking lot, please take note of which parking lot and what the road it is off of, if you can. Make sure you give a brief statement of what happened in the incident.
VEHICLE INFORMATION: If other vehicles are involved, make sure you write down the year, make and model of the other vehicle. Many times, if there is a police report, they only give the year and make of the vehicle. You might also want to write down the color of the vehicle and the license plate number and the state the license plate was issued from. As far as the damages go, try to take note of what parts were damaged, even if it just a minor scratch. If the vehicle was towed from the scene, you will need to have the address of where it is located.
OWNER/DRIVER INFORMATION: Make sure you get the name of the owner and driver (if it is different) and if there are any passengers. It’s important to get the owner/driver’s phone numbers and addresses. Find out what their insurance company is and a policy number, if available. If there are witnesses, you might want to get their names and a contact number as well.
POLICE REPORT: If the police show up to the scene, make sure you ask what police department they are from, and make sure you get the police report case number. Don’t worry if it’s not available yet.
When you call in to put a claim on file, it’s easier to have your policy number and all the paperwork in front of you before you call. Look over it, so that you are familiar with the information and can find it quickly. Make sure you have a working pen and paper handy before you call so that you can write down information and your claim number as well as the name of your claims adjuster. Don’t worry about not having a particular piece of information; no one expects you to have everything. Just let the claims rep ask you the questions and answer them clearly and as precisely as you can. Filing a claim is just the preliminary step in the claims process. Now it’s time for the adjuster to help you get your vehicle fixed and get you on your way.