Auto Claims: Dos and Don’ts
Having auto claims can be an extremely stressful experience, and these can go on and on. I can tell you that because I’ve been through it. Rare and lucky is he or she who hasn’t. Take it from your local, friendly insurance gay-gent: they’re a pain in the backside, and not the good kind.
Being in the industry myself, when I got into that situation where I needed to tap my car insurance, I had the fortune of knowing what to do. Reporting, following up on, and tracking a number of these for my clients, I saw first-hand what went into these. Most people, however, don’t have the benefit of knowing the procedures.
Hopefully, this will never happen to you, and if it does, that there won’t be any injuries. If you do have auto claims in your future, here are a few do’s and don’ts.
Auto Claims: DO
Cooperate with the insurance company during the process. The more compliant you are in helping the claim representative out, the faster things will go. This includes taking their calls, supplying any additional information they need, letting them inspect the damage, and following their instructions. Failure to cooperate with the company can result in what we call a “reservation of rights” and ultimately a denial of the claim.
In some states, the insurance company won’t have recourse to deny the claim outright, as your state may have certain “compulsory coverages” that a driver is required to have. (We did an article on that.) They can deny the “optional coverages” on the policy, such as collision.
Check with your jurisdiction on any incident or accident reports to be filed. If the police do not get involved, you may have to file an incident report with the Department of Motor Vehicles and local police. In Massachusetts, for example, if there is $1,000 or more in damage, the parties involved must file a crash report with the Registry of Motor Vehicles, the police department of the town where it happened, and the insurance company.
Trade insurance information with any other drivers that may be involved. That’s a no-brainer.
Take pictures. The more documentation you have, the better off you’ll be. Take as many pictures of your car and/or the other person’s car as you can.
Line up substitute transportation as soon as possible. If you know your car will be unusable, make the appropriate arrangements to rent or borrow another car. Hopefully, you have rental reimbursement coverage. Yes, it will be a pain not to have your own for a little while, but lining it up before you know your car will be in the shop will give you some peace of mind.
Auto Claims: DON’T
Sit on the claim too long. Your insurance policy requires that you report any incidents which may give rise to a claim within a reasonable period of time. Delays beyond what may be considered “reasonable” could impact the insurance company’s view of your situation. And besides, if your car was damaged, why would you want to hold back on getting money if you’re entitled to it? (Note: your agent can get in some hot water if they don’t report it in a timely fashion, either.)
Duck the claim rep’s phone calls. This goes to one of the do’s on top. I have seen coverages denied because the insured didn’t feel they needed to take an interest in their own claim. If the insurance company needs to ask you for help, then help them.
Slowing down the auto claims process in any way can also adversely impact your ability to get your money, when you want it. This applies to any claim, however.
Lie, distort, or obfuscate. So you got in a fender-bender and want good old ABC Insurance to pay for that year-old side panel damage from the supermarket parking lot? Yeah, no. Misleading the company is insurance fraud, which is cause for claim denial, policy cancellation, and perhaps litigation. Perjury also comes into play if you’ve signed deceitful affidavits. Be completely honest and upfront.
Auto Claims: The Bottom Line
When you have auto claims, it stinks. Try to get around that, if you can, but it does. Keep in mind that as the policyholder, you have certain obligations under the terms and conditions. (To see our terms and conditions, step out here.)
If you have to stay on top of your insurance carrier (not literally), get your insurance agent or broker involved. You want them in your corner if things aren’t progressing with the company. In the event your agent will not help if asked, get a new agent (or gay-gent). Understandably, the insurance agent is not involved in the meat of the claims process, but they can intervene if something isn’t right. Their abilities could be limited, but a fine, upstanding agent will make the attempt.