Common Questions After An Auto Accident
Accidents happen, and even minor fender benders can be an unnerving experience. Advanced technology, including driverless cars, may eventually make accidents a thing of the past, but until that happens, we need to be prepared for when they do occur. This week’s blog post comes courtesy of our friends at Cook Maran & Associates, an insurance brokerage firm specializing in personal lines insurance. Personal Insurance Executive Director, Tim Brenneman, discusses what to do if you have been involved in an auto accident. Please click the link below to be directed to the original post.
- What should I do immediately after an auto accident in order to file an insurance claim?
It is best to gather information about who, what, when and where. Gather the name and address of the other driver, as well as the names of anyone else occupying the other car. It is common to exchange insurance information and that will identify the name of the person insured, the insurance company, policy number and effective date of the policy, and the year, make and model of the car. If possible, use the photo feature of your cell phone to snap a photo of the accident scene. If not, sketch a diagram of the accident including cross streets. The more information you can gather and provide the insurance company, the more likely they can represent your interests after the claim is filed.
- Should the police be called to the scene?
It is best to call the police and have them complete an accident report. The report can usually be picked up at the police station a couple of days after the accident. The police will record the accident details including both drivers’ immediate version of the accident. This is important because it isn’t unusual for these details to change after the accident – unless they are recorded immediately.
- If I think the other person was “at fault,” should I try to file a claim with his or her insurance company?
You certainly can file a claim directly with the other person’s insurance company, and there are certain situations where there may be no other choice but to file the claim that way. One example would be if you do not carry collision coverage on your car. The only way to recover your damage is to go through the other company. But remember that going through the other person’s company as a third party can come with some risk. As a third party, you may be treated differently and less favorably than you would by your own company. As a result, we typically recommend filing the claim with your own company – providing you have collision coverage on the car that is damaged. The only downside is you will be subject to your deductible. Your company will seek to recover all of the money paid to repair your car, including your deductible, through a process called subrogation. Subrogation is the process whereby the insurance companies negotiate with one another for the purposes of determining fault in every accident. Your company will reimburse you the same percentage they recover – if they recover the total amount of damage, then they will reimburse you the total amount of your deductible. Let me give you a recent, and very personal, example. I was recently in an accident. While stopped at a traffic light, my car was rear ended by another car. Fortunately, no one was injured. I called the police, and they recorded the details of the accident. I elected to take my own advice and turned the claim into my insurance company. My car was repaired two weeks later, I paid my deductible and got my car back. In the meanwhile, I obtained a copy of the police report (it cost me 50 cents) and sent it to my company. Long story short, I just received my full deductible back from my insurance carrier. The entire process from start to finish was six weeks. We usually tell our clients to expect six months as a typical turnaround time, so it doesn’t always work this way. But in my case, the insurance companies quickly exchanged information and came to an agreement. As a result, I recovered my deductible quickly.
- What if the accident is very minor? Should I still report the accident to my insurance company?
Yes, we recommend you report all accidents to your company – even if it is for informational purposes only.
- Will my rates go up if I file a claim?
Your policy may be surcharged, or it may not, depending on the details. A number of companies now have “first accident forgiveness.” So if you haven’t filed any claims recently, you may not pay a surcharge – you’ll just lose the designation and perhaps a discount. Also, your rates will only go up if you are deemed to be more “at fault” than the other driver – technically, you have to have incurred more than $2,000 in damage and be assessed with more than 66% of fault in the accident.
- What is the worst part of an automobile claim?
No matter how you slice it, being involved in an accident and having your car repaired is inconvenient. We often say that insurance can do pretty much everything but take that inconvenience away
John Male, CFP®
The Gassman Financial Group
G&G Planning Concepts, Inc.
The Retirement Maven ™
9 East 40th Street, Suite 1500
New York, NY 10016
Tel: 212-221-7067 Ext. 17