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First steps before making a claim

What to do if the worst happens


The most important fact is, of course, you are unhurt. Secondly, it was not your fault. The worst has happened. Despite all your best efforts, there’s been a traffic accident. The vehicles involved are damaged and someone else is injured. You take a moment to draw a breath and steady yourself before getting out of the vehicle. It’s not going to help anyone if you start shouting in anger. There’s a checklist to work through, and it saves time and stress if you just get on with it calmly.

This always goes more smoothly if you have planned in advance. Keep a pen and paper in your vehicle. Never assume you will remember everything after an accident. Write as much as possible down at the time. When you first receive your policy and any other information from the insurer, go through it and list what information your insurer wants you to collect at the scene and from the other driver(s). There will be serious problems in filing the claim if you do not have all that’s required. Carry the list of the details you need to collect in the vehicle.

Start by calling the police and an ambulance. If your own vehicle is not drivable, do you have the cost of towing covered in your policy? Either way, your vehicle must go to a garage. You will also need to trigger the rental provision so you have something to drive while your vehicle is off the road.

1. Exchange your name, address, driver’s license and insurance details with the other driver(s). This is easier if you carry a printed listing of your details in the glove compartment. You can simply hand this over and collect the other driver’s information. Now work through the list of information you need to collect from the other driver.

2. Draw a rough sketch of the scene of the accident and the position of the vehicles. Write a brief outline of what happened. You can flesh it out into a full description later. Having notes about exactly what damage was caused and the injuries obvious to you is also desirable.

3. If your mobile phone has a camera, take pictures. If not, you should carry a disposable camera in the vehicle so you can have a full record of the damage sustained by all vehicles and where they ended up after the collision.

4. No matter what other commitments you may have, always wait for the police. Remember, it’s an offense to leave the scene of an accident. Make a note of the attending officer’s name. Encourage the officer to file a report. Also record the names of the paramedics who take away the injured in the ambulance. The apparent extent of those injuries could become very important later.

Now you have done everything to prepare for the auto insurance claims process. This is often stressful but, so long as you have all the necessary information, you should prevail in the end. Hopefully, when you collected the multiple auto insurance quotes, you also checked out the website your local state’s Department of Insurance, and picked an insurer with the fewest complaints.