The Claims Process: what happens after a car accident.

In my last post I gave you “The Accident” portion of my car accident story. In case you missed it you can click here to go to that post. In this post, I’m going to share with you the claims process for my specific claim. Remember, every loss will be different but you’ll get the idea.

On the way home from the car accident I called my carrier. The first person you speak with will most likely NOT be your adjuster. That person is your first contact and will ask what happened, where it happened, who was driving, who you were with, who was driving the other vehicle, what kind of vehicle was the other party driving, do they have a driver’s license and an active policy etc… Those representatives are supposed to gather as much information as they can to pass along to your specific adjuster. So that’s what I did. I was asked all of those questions, including what I was doing downtown and where I was going or coming from. I told her everything I knew, and all of the information I gathered.

IMG_4819 So now what? My front bumper wasn’t secured and I needed to have it repaired. I was given some options for collision centers that have been approved by my carrier and close to my home. If I use one of my company’s approved body shops my company will stand by the repairs made by that shop for the life of the vehicle. Meaning, if after I get my vehicle back and it still isn’t fixed, or one of the new parts they put in isn’t operating correctly then it will be replaced. If I chose to use a body shop outside of my company’s suggestions that is fine, however if something goes wrong I will not have my company to back the work of that body shop. I ended up choosing an approved body shop that was close to my house.

The claims representative told me she will send that body shop the claim information and they will call me to set up an appointment for the estimate. I was also given the option to call them myself to get the ball rolling. Since it was Saturday the body shop wasn’t open so I had to wait even if I called myself. Then the representative explained I will be getting a phone call from my adjuster to get more details of the loss and instructions on what will happen next.

When Monday came around I did receive a phone call from my assigned adjuster and the adjuster from the other company.  I had the same conversation with both adjusters. Each phone call was recorded and they wanted to know every detail. When I was telling them my side of the story I felt so strange. I felt like I was the bad guy. I felt like I was being investigated, and I was! I had to remember that is their job. They are there to investigate both sides of the story so they can come to a conclusion on fault status, and what actually happened during this accident. I knew the truth, but they didn’t so they needed to hear every bit of information I could remember.

I was found not at fault for the accident so I was not going to have to pay for any damages. But I decided with my adjuster through my company that they would pay for the repairs and then my company will submit their receipts to the other party’s insurance company for reimbursement; which is called subrogation. The only thing I had to pay for out of pocket to submit for reimbursement was for my rental vehicle. Why? Because I had removed my rental coverage from my policy when I moved and the premium increased. I was upset it increased because I now had a different zip code so to bring it back down I removed rental on a whim. Dumb Move AGENT VAL! I will not do that again, and I added the rental after my claim was completed. It is important to note that when I add rental after the date of the loss I cannot use it for that claim, only for losses that happen after I’ve added the coverage to my policy. So I had to pay for my rental vehicle for 10 days which cost me about $300 out of pocket, plus a refundable $200 when I picked up the vehicle. My adjuster explained to me that legally the other party has to pay for my rental car while it is being repaired; but because I went through my company to make the repairs I had to pay for it upfront and submit my receipt to the other carrier. It’s been about a month and I still haven’t seen my reimbursement. These things do take time and I understand there is a process but if you don’t want to spend your hard earned money add rental to your policy. It is a small price to pay in your premium versus paying a large chunk should you have an accident and need a rental car.

I scheduled an appointment at the collision center for an estimate the next day. That’s all that it was, an estimate. I brought my car in the morning and they took some pictures and didn’t even open the car and they told me they’ll have an estimate together for me by the end of the day. What happens now in the claims process?  The body shop puts together an estimate to give my insurance company (or the other insurance company) to approve or disapprove. If the estimate is approved I can then take my vehicle into the shop so the repairs can start to be made. If for some reason your estimate is not approved you will need to work with your adjuster to see what needs to happen in order to get the estimate approved. Now, you do have the option to do all of this yourself and not wait for the insurance company and pay out of pocket, but you’ll need to save the receipts and wait to be reimbursed. Then you’re at the mercy of waiting for your money back.

The body shop gave their estimate of roughly $1700 to my company and my adjuster ok’d the repairs. Now they always tell you it is just an estimate and they could find more damage once they go in and open up the vehicle. I brought my vehicle in and they began to work on the repairs. I ended up getting several phone calls stating that they found something else underneath the hood that needed to be replaced and the estimate had gone up. I didn’t mind because I knew that I wasn’t going to have to pay for it, as long as they fixed my car. IMG_4800 From the outside my car looked like it just had some minor cosmetic stuff, and $1700 seemed like a good amount to buff out the dent and secure the bumper to the rest of the car. My vehicle’s repair total came out to be about $4000 including labor. I was honestly shocked how many things needed to be repaired and how quickly the estimate increased. So many things were damaged on the inside that I couldn’t see.

What is important to note here is that the State of California requires a minimum limit of liability for property damage, which is $5,000. I have no idea what the other party’s limit of liability is for property damage but if such a minor accident created $4,000 worth of property damage on my car I suggest you look at increasing your liability limits. If the other party doesn’t have enough coverage, then my policy will have to be secondary, or I would receive a bill for the difference. Then I would be left with a choice to pay it out of pocket or I could go after the driver who hit me for the difference. Fender benders and car accidents happen all the time and you’ll want to make sure you’ve got the coverage.Soobie fixed You cannot plan an accident. You cannot plan who or what type of vehicle you could hit, or could hit you. I know that many vehicles out there are far more expensive to repair than mine and if my repairs are that much who knows how much a more expensive car would cost to repair. Again the insurance is in place to protect you from financial hardship so make sure to do the right thing and keep your insurance up to date and with adequate coverage. After 10 days I turned in my rental and picked up my car.

Every claim is different so if you have a claim it may not happen the way mine did. Your accident may be completely different than mine. Maybe your vehicle is completely totaled and needs to be towed from the scene of the accident. Or maybe you are injured and need emergency medical assistance and you’re taken away from your vehicle. You may be at fault, you may not be at fault; you may have comprehensive and collision or you may have liability only. Again, each claim is different, AND each policy is different. Your claim will be different but the hope with my story is to give you the understanding of how it works. There is a lot of behind the scenes work. Both companies will talk to each other and based off of their findings in talking to each person and witness. They will make a decision based off of the evidence and then figure out who will pay for the claim.

Whatever your case, your claim will be investigated and eventually it’ll be closed. Going through a claim is a process, that’s why they call it a claims process. The simplest way for me to describe the claims process for a car accident like mine aka “Super Common Fender Bender” is in 10 steps:

  1. Accident Happens – gather as much information as you can and take pictures if you can (if immediate medical assistance is needed please call 911)
  2. Once you are safe call the Claims Department
  3. Wait for instructions from your adjuster (unless you chose to do everything on your own and save receipts)
  4. If you need a rental vehicle right away and it is a weekend contact a rental company and keep your receipts if you haven’t heard otherwise from your carrier
  5. Get an estimate
  6. Submit the estimate to your carrier (if not done by your body shop)
  7. Vehicle repairs are made
  8. Turn in rental
  9. Pick up vehicle
  10. Submit all (if any) receipts for reimbursement

The company wants to get you back on the road just as quick as you do, and they’ll do their best to make that happen. It happened for me!

American Diversified Insurance Services, Inc

A: 201 Natoma St Folsom, CA 95630

P: (916)985-7500 F: (916)985-7302 T: (916)389-1820

E: info@amerdiv.com W: www.amerdiv.com

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What to do when you’re in a Car Accident

I’d like to say I’m a pretty good driver. I’ve gotten one speeding ticket as an adult and only a minor fender bump in a parking lot when I was in high school. But other than that, smooth sailing. Until last month. Now before I start I will tell you I was not at fault in this accident so my record is still good. My story today is about the start of my claims process and what happened to me. We get so many questions about a company’s claims process and my gift to you is a true story and example of what happens when you have an accident. First, the accident story. Next week I’ll give you the repair process of my claim.

IMG_4746It was a Saturday morning and my husband and I were heading to downtown Sacramento for our good friend’s daughter’s Christening. We live about 30 minutes away from downtown so it was just a short drive on the freeway. Here is my husband and I at the Christening just before we left. The Christening was lovely and after the event we would head to their house, back in our neck of the woods, for a reception. This wasn’t the only event on our schedule that day. We had a pretty packed schedule for a Saturday. After the Christening, we had a vet appointment for one of our fur kids, followed by a birthday party for our twin nephews in Wheatland an hour away.

Why is our schedule important to mention? Because no one plans for an accident. We are all busy and no where on our schedule does it say “squeeze in a car accident”. You cannot plan for these things, but you can be prepared.

Back to Saturday morning. My husband and I had left the church in Sacramento and were headed back to the freeway. There was a ton of construction going on that day so my speed barely reached 15 miles per hour. As I approached an intersection and made my way through it I saw another car coming towards me, and there was nowhere I could turn. I began to slow and was almost stopped when that vehicle hit mine. My husband was on the phone with the vet trying to reschedule our appointment when it happened too. After the crash I was a little baffled. Did this really just happen? Now what? Can I drive the car? Will it move? How bad was the damage?

IMG_4799 So many questions flooded my brain and now I was in the middle of the intersection in the middle of downtown Sacramento. My husband and I started to discuss what to do next, and I had to contemplate those questions and begin to get out of the way. The other vehicle had started to move out of the intersection and over to the side of the road so I followed.

When we pulled over we got out of the car and started to asses the damage to my car and the other car. My front passenger side was damaged, and thankfully my husband wasn’t injured, or anyone actually. I thought ok, I’m an insurance agent I’ve got this part. I know what to do. We’ve discussed many times what to do when you have an accident with our customers; so I got to work. After I made sure no one was hurt I took my phone out and took pictures. I took pictures of my car, the other car, the intersection where it happened and the street signs. IMG_4800

I went over to the other driver and as I approached her people began to come over to make sure we were ok and that no one was hurt. We also had a pretty irate witness who lectured the other driver, who happened to be a young driver, for going too fast. People can get pretty heated over things like this, and with good reason. Vehicles are expensive! Driving is dangerous! The risk of loss is huge! My husband and I already have begun to discuss with our 14 year old the importance of paying attention and the expenses and responsibility of driving. “It’s a big responsibility!” (cue a deep adult voice and shaking a pointed finger)  I was surprisingly calm, but a bit shaken.

After the heated rant towards the other driver I went up to the witness and asked for her name and phone number. Why? Because when you are in an accident the claims department will investigate it. They will take both sides of the story and like any good investigation it’s good to have a witness. If you don’t have one, the claim will be investigated anyways, but it could help determine fault and could help the adjusters finalize the claim more smoothly.

When the witness walked away the other driver was sobbing. At this point I had to console her and then we got down to business. I asked about her insurance and she pulled out an ID card. Instead of writing it all down I took pictures of it. I took pictures of her license plate, and put her name and phone number into my hand-in-face-emojiphone so I had her contact. Now there is one thing I forgot, and I was so mad at myself for forgetting. Her DRIVERS LICENSE! Duh, Val!  When you are in an accident you need to gather photos of the damage, the other party’s insurance information, the license plate number, any witness information, the drivers contact information and their driver’s license number.

While I finished getting information she got on the phone. My husband and I were then remembering all of the things we had to do that day, and our friends were calling wondering where we were. I also remembered my husband was on the phone with the vet who heard the whole thing. As thoughts flooded my head the other driver came up to me and said, so the car is on my mom’s policy and I’m not listed, can you help my mom out and tell the insurance company she was driving and not me? SERIOUSLY? Now I can imagine this happens all the time, because that’s why insurance companies have fraudulent claims investigators. But I was shocked! Plus I had a very solid witness who saw her driving and hitting my vehicle.

IMG_4819 I told her that I was not going to do that and then explained to her the way insurance works. I was also thinking in my head, why don’t people know this. We tell our insureds all the time and I was upset that more people are not educated about the way insurance works. I told her that the insurance follows the vehicle, not the driver. So, her mom’s policy, will be responsible for the loss and damages but she will be charged with the accident on her driving record. Basically her mom’s policy will not be rated with an at fault accident unless her daughter is listed on her policy. Her daughter will have a point on her record and her policy, (if she has one) will increase due to the point. Now at this point I don’t know if they have an active policy, I do not know if her license is valid, I do not know the coverage limits or the regulations of that particular company. Some companies in this situation will require the particular driver to be added or excluded from the policy. However, if she was excluded from the policy there would not be coverage at all for this loss.

As I explained this to her, her mother had pulled up and we explained what had happened and again, I was asked to lie and then I explained about the insurance following the vehicle. I told them they will need to contact their insurance company to give them the information, and I would be doing the same. What happens next?  The insurance companies will talk to each other and come to an agreement of who is at fault, and who will be paying for the damages. Since both vehicles were drivable we were able to head home.

IMG_4820 With an accident, the party that is found at fault is responsible for paying the damages to the other party’s vehicle and paying for a rental vehicle if needed while their vehicle is being repaired. If the at fault party has damage to their vehicle with collision coverage, they are responsible for paying their collision deductible and the company will pay the rest of the repairs, up to the policy limits. If the at fault party does not have rental car coverage they will be responsible for paying for a rental out of pocket. If they do have rental car, the insurance company will provide a rental up to the policy limits. If the at fault party has liability only, they would be making the repairs and replacements on their own.

As we left and with my husband driving I got on the phone with my company. While I was giving the claims department the information I realized that the ID Card I had been given was almost a year out of date. I thought, well I hope this is just an old card and that they do have coverage. If they didn’t have coverage then my company would be paying for this out of my uninsured/underinsured motorist coverage and waive my deductible. The only downside would be that I would have to pay out of pocket for my rental car because I had removed it from my policy thinking I didn’t need it. Yes, dumb move and I had done that because after I moved in December the zip code increased my policy and I removed it to reduce my premium. This will not happen again.

The whole day I was thrown off. We missed the reception for the sweet little baby girl who had gotten Christened earlier that day, and surprisingly made it to the vet on time. After that on our drive up to Wheatland I couldn’t get the accident out of my head. I replayed the situation over and over in my head and I just thought I can’t believe this happened to me.  I cannot believe that I, a pretty good driver had an accident. Again, you cannot plan for these situations to happen. No one says, “I think I’ll have a car accident today.” I remember consoling the young driver and I told her that life happens and thankfully we weren’t hurt. We can only prepare ourselves by training our brains for what to do when we are in that situation. I even forgot to get the driver’s license. And, we must also prepare for these situations and keep our insurance policies up to date.

Safety-First It’s hard to remember what you are supposed to do after an accident. If anything try to remember, after getting to safety, to get as much information and as many photos as possible. If you aren’t able to move your vehicles or if you are hurt you can call the police. I could have called the police to file a police report but the damages were so minor, no one was hurt and both vehicles were drivable. This was just the beginning of the claims process for me. I then had to wait for my company to assign an adjuster and wait for their call on what to do next. Since my vehicle was drivable the claims rep told me I could take it to get an estimate while I waited for the adjuster to call with further instructions.

Stay tuned for the second part of my story, the repair process. I’ll share with you all the steps that were taken to get my vehicle back on the road! If you aren’t sure what to do in an accident you can always give us a call. We’ll let you know what information you need to gather, and give you the phone number to call for your specific company to report the claim.

American Diversified Insurance Services, Inc

A: 201 Natoma St Folsom, CA 95630

P: (916)985-7500 F: (916)985-7302 T:(916)389-1820

E: info@amerdiv.com W: www.amerdiv.com

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