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Things to Know Before You File a Car Insurance Claim

Accidents happen every minute of every day. There were an estimated 6 million accidents last year alone. So your chances of being in an accident and having to file a claim at some point in your life are pretty good. That’s why it pays to have a reputable insurance company and a good understanding of what you need to do before you file an auto insurance claim.

Before you’re in an accident …

Find out what kind of service you can expect.
Most people don’t give their car insurance much thought. They get a quote with a few companies, pick the cheapest and expect that if they have a claim it will be handled quickly and fairly. However, poor service, repair delays and billing problems can cost more in time and frustration than any amount saved. Before you buy, consider what kind of service you can expect. A good clue is how you’re treated when you call for a quote.

Make sure you have enough liability coverage.
Liability coverage pays for other people’s costs if you cause an accident. The Insurance Information Institute recommends that you have at least $100,000 of bodily injury protection per person and $300,000 per accident. But if your net worth is more than $300,000, consider buying additional liability protection today.

Make sure you have enough money put aside for your deductible.
Choosing a higher deductible can be a smart way to save money on your car insurance. The higher your deductible, the lower your rate. Just make sure you can afford to pay your portion of the auto claim.

After an accident …
If you’re unfortunate enough to find yourself involved in an accident here’s what you need to do before you call your insurance company…

1. Call the police (911 in most areas). Report any injuries.

2. Write down the other car’s make, model, and plate number. Get the driver’s name, address, and license number…get the owners name, too. Most states require drivers to have an insurance identification card in the vehicle and it will provide most of this information.

3. Write down the names and addresses of all passengers and witnesses.

4. Get the officer’s name and badge number. Ask how you can obtain a copy of the police report for your insurance claim.

5. Do not admit to guilt, do not accept money from the other driver, and do not agree to forget about a minor accident.

6. Write down what happened: include the time of day, weather conditions, hazards, road conditions, and driving speed. Make a note of any prior damage on other cars.

Once you collect this information, contact your auto insurance company as soon as possible. Many insurance companies have 24-hour claims service by phone. So you can call your insurer right from the scene. Your insurance ID card should provide the number.

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