The decision to make a claim against an insurance company generally should be based upon the fault of the other driver and the extent of injuries and damages you suffered as a result.
Of course, not every auto accident will or should result in a claim. This is especially true in the situation where the thought process is to collect a few thousand dollars as part of some nuisance-type settlement.
When claims are made, they can be discovered in any subsequent litigation and could potentially hurt an otherwise legitimate case. Thus, the decision to pursue the claim should be made only when an injury and medical expenses have been sustained.
Once the decision to pursue the claim has been made, the next determination is how to go about making the claim. The answer to this question may depend on which insurance company you are attempting to make a claim against, yours or the other driver's.
When an accident occurs, the police are called to the scene and the investigating officer will fill out an accident report. He will then give to both drivers a copy of the item number or accident report number so that the accident report can be obtained when he is finished completing it.
The report will contain the names of the other driver and insurance company. It also usually contains the policy number under which the other driver is insured. Virtually all insurance companies have toll free numbers for reporting claims which can be used to report the accident.
You will need the name of their insured, policy number, date of accident and item or accident report number. They may also seek information about your insurance. Then a claim number will be assigned to your claim which you can use for future communications or for reference when checking on the status of the claim.
Most of the time the other driver's insurance company will contact you before you can contact them. This assumes that the other driver has reported the incident to his insurance company, which is not always the case. If they contact you, make sure you tell them that you want to know the claim number they have set up to process your claim against their driver.
It is also important to report the accident to your own insurance company even if you are not at fault in the accident. You may have certain coverages that will immediately pay for your property damage and medical expenses without having to wait and see if the other insurance company will accept or deny your claim. If your own insurance company pays you, they will then seek to recover their money from the other insurance company. This is called subrogation.
Be careful when discussing the accident with an adjuster for the other driver's insurance company. Avoid giving statements or recorded testimony about how the accident occurred. Those details are usually contained on the accident report which can easily be obtained by the adjuster. If the accident report is accurate, simply refer the adjuster to it.
Adjusters frequently try to elicit a statement from the opposing party in an attempt to minimize your damages or deny your claim. Give only the information that is absolutely necessary and contact an attorney if you have any doubts or questions about what information to provide.
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