Over six million car accidents occur each year in the United States. Even if you are only involved in a minor accident, you must make sure you understand how the claims process works in California. Failure to do so may result in unfavorable judgments on your driving record and/or increases to your auto insurance premiums.
California can be extremely unforgiving when it comes to its driving rules and regulations. For specific instructions on what to do if you are at fault in a claim, read this article. If you are not at fault, read this one. Fortunately the claims process is pretty standardized either way.
What Should I Do if I am Involved in a Minor Accident?
- Make sure everyone is safe – First and foremost you should find out if anyone involved is injured or needs medical attention. The well being of everyone at the accident should be top priority. It is also important to note for settlement reasons who appears injured and who does not. A verbal confirmation can go a long way; however, it should not be your primary source of evidence.
- Pull over to the side of the road – If possible, get out of the way of oncoming traffic! Avoiding additional incidents or accidents should be your second priority. Make sure the area is safe for you and any other parties involved to safely exchange information.
- Notify the police – We always recommend that you contact the police and get a police report. However in California, 7 out of 10 times the police will not respond to a minor traffic collision with no injury. That’s just the way it works in California.
What Should I Do to Report a Claim?
Contact your Insurance company right Away!
Reaching out to your insurance agent, broker, company, or provider at the scene of the accident can be very beneficial making sure the incident is properly document and record.
You will be assigned a claims representative that will review your policy and inform you of your coverage and deductibles. Basically, they will let you know what’s covered, and what’s not. If you have “car rental coverage” on your insurance policy, now would be the time to claim this coverage.
How Do I Get My Car Inspected for Repairs?
After you contact the claims department to report the incident, your claims representative will reach out to you to have your damages inspected. This can happen in a few different ways. The insurance company will have you go to one of their service centers to have the damage appraised or they may send out and appraiser to your location to inspect the vehicle.
Depending on the extent of damages, you should receive an estimate for the repairs the same day. It is beneficial to consider obtaining estimates from at least 2 or 3 shops to ensure you are being treated fairly.
How Does the Claims Investigation Process Work?
A few days after you file your claim, your claims representative may reach out to you, your passengers, the police, witnesses, and any other parties involved to find out what happened and determine fault. They will typically ask you to provide a recorded statement about the details of the accident and provide any evidence you have, such as pictures and witnesses testimonies. If there are other parties involved, your insurance company will reach out to them and negotiate fault and liability payments.
The claims investigation process is primarily handled behind the scenes between insurance companies. Your primary role in the investigation process is to truthfully and accurately provide your side of the story and any supporting evidence.
What is Covered by My Car Insurance Policy?
Your policy coverage and limits will vary. It is important to speak with your insurance provider to determine what is covered by your policy. The main forms of coverage provided by a standard auto insurance policy may include:
Property Damage – Covers the cost of repairing another person’s property; required in California
Collision – Covers damage to your car by another vehicle, no matter the fault. If you are financing or leasing your vehicle, this coverage is required.
Comprehensive – Covers everything else that may damage your car. Also required if financing or leasing.
Uninsured/Underinsured Motorist – covers medical expenses for you and your passengers should you be in an accident with an uninsured driver.
How Do I Close My Car Insurance Claim?
The claims process will be closed by your claims representative once all deductibles have been paid and your car is repaired. It is important to make sure that you are completely satisfied with the outcome prior to closing your claim. Once the claim is closed it most likely cannot be reopened.
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