The steps to file an insurance claim include gathering information at the scene of the accident, filing a police report, contacting your insurance company, working with your assigned insurance adjuster, and settling the claim.
To protect their best interests, some people also hire attorneys to help them through the claims process.
Gathering Information at the Scene
After an auto accident, collect as much evidence as possible before leaving the scene.
If you can, note the date, time, and location of the accident, as well as the weather conditions at the time of the crash. Take photos of both vehicles and your surroundings and be sure to document any damage.
Get the other driver’s name, contact, insurance, and vehicle information and note the name and contact information of any passengers, as well as anyone who may have witnessed the accident.
Note: do not worry about any of these things if you need immediate medical attention. Call 911 if you are seriously injured and accept medical transportation if you need it.
Filing a Police Report
Even if there are no injuries in your car accident, you should call the police and file a police report. Ask for the report number and request a copy of the accident report before you leave the scene. Write down the names and badge numbers of any officers who responded to the crash.
Sometimes, police officers will not respond to a crash they deem “minor,” so you may have to go to the police station and file a report there instead.
If you are unable to get the police report at the scene, you can also request one at the local police station. You may face serious delays and processing times, but don’t worry.
In most cases, you will only need to provide your insurance company with the report number.
Contacting Your Insurance Company
Many insurance policies contain a time limit for filing claims, so be sure to let your insurance company know about your accident before the deadline expires.
Your insurance company will ask you questions like:
- Which covered vehicle was involved?
- Who was driving at the time of the accident?
- When and where did the accident take place?
- What happened?
- Was anyone hurt?
- How severe is the damage?
- Who is the other driver? Do they have insurance?
- Do you have the other driver’s contact and insurance information?
- Was anyone else involved in the accident? Do you have their contact information?
- Were there any witnesses? Do you have their contact information?
- Did you file a police report? What is the report number?
Do not be afraid to say, “I don’t know,” if you are unsure of a question or don’t have the information the insurance company is asking about – and do not offer information the insurance company does not ask for. If you haven’t seen a doctor, for example, say “I don’t know,” when asked if anyone was hurt.
Always stick to the facts when contacting the insurance company and do not speculate about fault.
Once you report your claim, you will be assigned an insurance adjuster.
Working with Your Insurance Adjuster
Your insurance adjuster works for the insurance company. Their job is to minimize the amount of money the insurance company loses. In addition to asking all the questions you answered in your initial report again (and looking for inconsistencies), your insurance adjuster will ask more specific questions, have you fill out paperwork, gather information and evidence related to the accident, and inspect your vehicle (or have a certified repair shop perform an inspection).
Additionally, your adjuster may ask you to provide a recorded statement.
Be careful when speaking to your insurance adjuster, as they may not have your best interests in mind. Consider speaking to an attorney before giving a recorded statement or signing anything related to the accident.
Settling the Claim
The final step of an insurance claim is settling it or accepting payment. New York is a no-fault insurance state, so your insurance company should reimburse you for medical costs and other losses up to your policy limits – no matter who is at fault for the accident.
Compensation for property damage is still based on fault, so you may need to file a claim with the other driver’s insurance company to get your car fixed. In accidents with severe injuries, you may also need to make a claim against the at-fault driver’s insurance company.
The process is similar.
In most cases, you should not accept the insurance company’s first offer. Insurers rarely consider the long-term effects of injuries or overlook challenges you may face while repairing or replacing your vehicle.
Before accepting a settlement, have an attorney look it over. Often, your lawyer will find an opportunity to advocate for your best interests, negotiate with the insurance company, and help you recover more compensation.
When to Hire an Attorney
You can hire an attorney at any point in the insurance process. To avoid dealing with insurance companies, many people call lawyers before contacting their insurance companies.
Otherwise, we recommend contacting an attorney before making any official statements to an insurance company or signing any official documents.
You may also want to get in touch with a lawyer if you run into any problems during the claims process. Attorneys are especially valuable for cases with serious injuries – and cases where litigation may be necessary.
At the very least, have a legal professional review your insurance settlement before you accept it.
You may feel confident going through the entire claims process alone but having a legal professional review the document you are about to sign can help prevent errors and protect your best interests.
The Law Offices of Charles R. Gueli has more than 2 decades of experience working with insurance companies and representing people with serious injuries.
We are available 24/7 to help you deal with your insurance company and get the compensation you deserve. You won’t pay anything unless we settle on your behalf, so get started with a free consultation.
Call us at (516) 628-6402 or contact us online to schedule yours today.