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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