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.
It 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?
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.
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 phone 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.
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.
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.
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: firstname.lastname@example.org W: www.amerdiv.com