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The last thing that any wants is to be involved in a car accident. But the fact of the matter is that they happen!
When accidents happen, instead of fumbling about trying to figure out what to do next, we’ve put together this comprehensive guide to help you navigate what to do.
We’ll cover topics such as what exactly an accident insurance claim is, how to file a claim, what happens after you file a claim, and how filing a claim can affect your insurance rates.
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Understanding an Accident Insurance Claim
To kick off this guide, you’re going to want to know exactly what an accident insurance claim is! In this section, we’ll elaborate on the things you’ll want to know!
According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), national traffic statistics look a little something like this:
|POLICE-REPORTED MOTOR VEHICLE TRAFFIC CRASHES|
|TRAFFIC CRASH VICTIMS: FATALITIES|
|TRAFFIC CRASH VICTIMS: INJURED|
|OTHER NATIONAL STATISTICS|
|Vehicle Miles Traveled (Millions)||3,212,347||3,174,408||3,095,373||3,025,656||2,988,280||2,969,433||2,950,402||2,967,266|
|NATIONAL RATES: FATALITIES|
|Fatalities per 100 Million Vehicle Miles Traveled||1.16||1.19||1.15||1.08||1.10||1.14||1.10||1.11|
|Fatalities per 100,000 Population||11.40||11.69||11.05||10.28||10.40||10.76||10.42||10.67|
|Fatalities per 100,000 Registered Vehicles||12.79||13.13||12.61||11.92||12.21||12.72||12.25||12.82|
|Fatalities per 100,000 Licensed Drivers||16.48||17.05||16.27||15.29||15.50||15.95||15.33||15.71|
|NATIONAL RATES: INJURED PERSONS|
|Injured Persons per 100 Million Vehicle Miles Traveled||85||96||79||77||77||80||75||75|
|Injured Persons per 100,000 Population||843||946||761||734||731||752||711||724|
|Injured Persons per 100,000 Registered Vehicles||946||1,063||869||851||859||889||836||870|
|Injured Persons per 100,000 Licensed Drivers||1,219||1,380||1,120||1,092||1,090||1,115||1,046||1,066|
So making sure you understand what an accident insurance claim is will be vital.
– What is an Insurance Claim
So what exactly is an accident insurance claim?
An accident insurance claim can be defined as the request by a policyholder (you) to an insurance company for coverage/payment after a car accident has occurred.
Once the insurance company receives your claim, and approves of it, they provide compensation to the appropriate parties that the claim is covering (such as yourself or another driver for instance).
So who exactly can file a claim? The simple answer is that anyone involved in the accident can file a claim, particularly depending on whether you live in an at-fault or no-fault state as discussed in the next section.
There are two main types of insurance claims that you’ll want to familiarize yourself with; first-party claims and third-party claims.
- First-Party Claims: A claim that you file with your own insurance company.
- Third-Party Claims: A claim that you file with the insurance provider of another person/business.
Which of these two types of claims you will file will depend highly upon the fault-based system in your state, which we will cover in more detail in the next section.
– At-Fault versus No-Fault States
In the United States, there are two types of states when it comes to car insurance, at-fault states and no-fault states. What are the differences between these two?
A state that is “at-fault” means that if you are the one who caused the accident, it is you and your insurance provider who is responsible for providing compensation for damages/injuries from that accident.
A state that is “no-fault” means that regardless of who caused the accident, you will have to rely on your own insurance coverage to provide compensation for damages/injuries from that accident.
Why is this something you’ll want to keep in mind?
This means that you’ll want to know which state you are in to know whose provider you will want to file a claim with.
If you are in an at-fault state, you can file a claim with the provider of the driver who caused the accident. If you are in a no-fault state, you will need to file a claim with your own provider.
Not sure of which state you fall under? Check out the table below to see which states are “no-fault” states according to the Insurance Information Institute:
|No Fault States||Effective Date|
|Florida||January 1, 1972|
|Hawaii||September 1, 1974|
|Kansas||January 1, 1974|
|Kentucky||July 1, 1975|
|Massachusetts||January 1, 1971|
|Michigan||October 1, 1973|
|Minnesota||January 1, 1975|
|New Jersey||January 1, 1973|
|New York||February 1, 1974|
|North Dakota||January 1, 1976|
|Pennsylvania||July 1, 1990|
|Utah||January 1, 1974|
– What You Should Do Immediately Following an Accident
First things first, what in the world are you supposed to do immediately after an accident has occurred?
Well, we have a few steps and tips for you to follow if you’ve just been in a car accident.
- Make sure that it is safe for you to exit your vehicle, otherwise remain in your seat until help arrives.
- If you are able to, and there are no injuries, pull your vehicle over to the shoulder of the road. Turn on your hazard lights as well.
- Call 911, especially if anyone is injured. Provide them with your name, number, and the crash site location If you are unable to provide the exact location, give the approximate location with any landmarks you can see. Make sure to provide them with any other information they request.
- Not all states require that the police get involved at all (i.e. filing a police report after the accident), but it can definitely come in handy should another driver ever try to take you to court!
- When it is safe to do so, you’ll want to exchange information with the other driver(s) involved in the accident, such as the following:
- Driver’s license
- Name, address and phone number
- Insurance card
- License plate number
- If it is not a significant crash, take pictures of the other vehicle(s) involved, the road, the direction of each vehicle and any other damage caused by the accident. Get the following details written down as well for reference later:
- Year/make/model/color of the other vehicle
- Date, time and any weather conditions
- Witness’s names, phone numbers and addresses
- Keep a record of all of the information you have (from above) should you ever be brought to court because of the accident.
Remember, accidents happen. So making sure that you are prepared in the event of one will help you turn a bad situation into a better one!
Time to File a Car Accident Claim
Alright, so you’ve successfully navigated getting through the accident, now it’s time to file an insurance claim.
In this section, we’ll discuss when you should file a claim, when you shouldn’t file a claim, who to file your claim with, and more!
– When Should I File a Car Accident Claim?
Ideally, you should always file an accident insurance claim after an accident.
After you’ve been involved in an accident, and if there was damage done (either to yourself or to your vehicle), you’re going to want to file a report with the police and to file a claim.
Insurance claims can help you pay for any damages to your vehicle, medical treatments from any injuries you received during the accident, and more.
The best way to receive full coverage for an accident is to report and file a claim as soon as you can.
– When Should I Not File a Car Accident Claim?
The obvious answer to this would be for you to submit a claim after any accident you’ve been involved with. But did you know that there are actually certain times when you actually shouldn’t file a claim?
For example, if you were to get into an accident (where no injuries occurred) and have damages to your vehicle worth an estimated $1,500, but your insurance deductible is only $1,000.
That means that you’d have to pay for the $1,000, while your insurance would only have to cover $500. This would be an instance where you might not want to file an insurance claim.
Another instance would be in a low-speed, single-car mishap (like if you were to back into a fence or garage). In this instance, it would cost you more for your insurance rates to file a claim.
This would be another case in which you would probably not want to file a claim.
So, while it’s always recommended to file a claim with your insurance provider, there are instances in which you probably shouldn’t.
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– Who will I file the claim with?
This is where the previous section on “no-fault” versus “at-fault” states comes into play.
Depending on which type of state you fall under, you will either file a claim with your own insurance company or with the provider of the driver who caused the accident.
One exception to this would be in the case that you are ever involved in a hit-and-run accident. In this case, where you would be hit by another driver who then fled from the scene, you would file a claim with your own insurance company.
Should the hit-and-run driver ever be found, they will then have to repay the claim paid to you by your insurance company, but it would not be a cost held against you.
When you do file your claim, there is some basic information that you’ll want to make sure that you have, as listed below:
- Your Insurance policy number (which can be found on your insurance card)
- Date the accident took place
- Location that the accident took place in
- Description what happened during the accident (how did it occur)
- The information of the other driver(s) involved such as their name, address, license plate number, and their insurance information
- Police department involved (if the police were involved at any point after the accident)
- Police report number (if a police report was filed)
– Statute of Limitations
Another factor when filing your claim is exactly how long you have to submit your claim.
There’s something known as the statute of limitations; essentially a cap in the amount of time you have to submit your claim.
Depending on what state you live in, the statute of limitations will highly depend:
|State||Personal Injury||Property Damage|
|Alabama||2 years||2 years|
|Alaska||2 years||6 years|
|Arizona||2 years||2 years|
|Arkansas||3 years||3 years|
|California||2 years||3 years|
|Colorado||3 years||3 years|
|Connecticut||2 years||3 years|
|Delaware||2 years||2 years|
|Florida||4 years||4 years|
|Georgia||2 years||4 years|
|Hawaii||2 years||2 years|
|Idaho||2 years||3 years|
|Illinois||2-3 years||5 years|
|Indiana||2 years||2 years|
|Iowa||2 years||5 years|
|Kansas||1 year||2 years|
|Kentucky||1 year||2 years|
|Louisiana||1 year||1 year|
|Maine||6 years||6 years|
|Maryland||3 years||3 years|
|Massachusetts||3 years||3 years|
|Michigan||3 years||3 years|
|Minnesota||2 years||6 years|
|Mississippi||3 years||3 years|
|Missouri||5 years||5 years|
|Montana||3 years||2 years|
|Nebraska||4 years||4 years|
|Nevada||2 years||3 years|
|New Hampshire||3 years||3 years|
|New Jersey||2 years||6 years|
|New Mexico||3 years||4 years|
|New York||3 years||3 years|
|North Carolina||3 years||3 years|
|North Dakota||6 years||6 years|
|Ohio||2 years||2 years|
|Oklahoma||2 years||2 years|
|Oregon||2 years||6 years|
|Pennsylvania||2 years||2 years|
|Rhode Island||3 years||10 years|
|South Carolina||3 years||3 years|
|South Dakota||3 years||6 years|
|Tennessee||1 year||3 years|
|Texas||2 years||2 years|
|Utah||4 years||3 years|
|Vermont||3 years||3 years|
|Virginia||2 years||5 years|
|Washington||3 years||3 years|
|Washington D.C.||3 years||3 years|
|West Virginia||2 years||2 years|
|Wisconsin||3 years||3 years|
|Wyoming||4 years||4 years|
Making sure you know what your state’s statute of limitations is will help prevent you from having your insurance claim denied!
How to File a Claim
The next step will be to actually file a claim with the insurance company you need to file with.
There are a few basic ways, according to the Insurance Information Institute (III), in which you can file an insurance claim, such as the following:
- In person (at your local insurance office)
- Phone (through your insurance provider’s preferred accident claims number)
- Online (through your insurance provider’s online portal)
- Mobile app (if your insurance provider has a mobile app with the capability to file a claim)
We’ll dive a little deeper, however, into how to file a bodily injury claim and how to file a property damage claim.
– Filing a Bodily Injury Claim
In order to file a bodily injury claim, follow the info-graphic we’ve provided for you below:
The following video will help you break this down further:
– Filing a Property Damage Claim
In order to file a property damage claim, follow the info-graphic we’ve provided for you below:
The following video will help you break this down further:
What Happens After Filing a Claim
You’ve submitted your claim… now what?
In this section, we’ll talk about some of the next steps to take after you’ve filed your car accident claim.
– Dealing With the Damages
One of the other things you’ll want to take care of pretty immediately after an accident has occurred, aside from filing your accident insurance claim, is to deal with the damages caused during the accident.
If you’ve been injured at all, you’re going to want to make sure that you get the medical attention you need. Do not delay this! The more serious the injuries, the sooner and more urgently you will want to get to a health care provider.
Once you’ve dealt with your injuries, you’ll want to know what kind of compensation you’ll need. Common injury claims include compensation for:
- Medical bills
- Out-of-pocket expenses
- Lost wages
- Pain and Suffering
For instance, if your injury was severe enough that you had to be out of work for a month to heal, an injury claim can help pay for any lost wages that you had.
So making sure that you get to the doctor as soon as you can after your accident is crucial!
In addition to it being damaging to your health, delaying medical care can actually hurt your claim for any of the above types of medical claims!
If you’ve been fortunate enough to avoid injury, but your vehicle wasn’t so lucky, you’re going to want to get your vehicle evaluated for damages, and get the repairs you need to restore your vehicle to its original state.
For repairing your vehicle after an accident, you’ll want to follow the following steps:
- Make the insurance claim
- Take your car to a car repair shop (either one you’ve been to before, or one your insurance company recommends)
A few tips for getting your vehicle to the repair shop after an accident:
– If you have Roadside Assistance on your policy, check to see if towing is included by your insurance provider
– If you are a member of the American Automobile Association (AAA), see if they can tow you there
- Leave your vehicle at the repair shop (if needed) and follow up with them about the repairs
- Confirm what repairs needed to be done and follow up with that information with your insurance company
- Pick your vehicle up and wait for your claim to be processed
Based on what make and model your vehicle is, you may experience greater insurance loss than others according to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS). So make sure to factor this in when submitting a claim!
– What To Do If Your Claim is Denied
It’s not something you would want to think about, but should you submit your insurance claim, and it were to be denied, you need to understand what to do next.
We’ve come up with a couple of steps that you should follow if your accident insurance claim is denied:
First, you’re going to want to find out why your claim denied. There are actually a few common reasons why your claim was denied, such as the following:
- Disputed Liability: This would happen if the insurance company you are filing your claim with says that their policyholder (whether it’s you or the other driver, depending on what state you live in) was not the cause of the accident. Or, they could also claim that the injuries/damages you submitted the claim for did not happen.
- Policy Exclusions: This would happen if you don’t have all of the coverage needed for the claim you are submitting. For instance, if you don’t opt for Personal Injury Protection, but submit a claim to receive payments for this, the insurance company would then basically say that you don’t have the coverage needed to give you the payment.
- Lapsed Policy: This one would happen if you haven’t been paying your premiums regularly like you should, and your policy has entered a “lapsed” period. Meaning that during the time of the accident, because you hadn’t paid your premium on time, your policy simply didn’t cover you.
- Failure to Notify: This would happen if you were to not inform your insurance company of an accident after it has occurred (within a reasonable amount of time). This is why it is so important to inform your insurance company as soon as safely possible after an accident, because otherwise they could deny your claim stating that they didn’t have the opportunity to investigate the accident properly.
Once you’ve figured out why your claim has been denied, and you’ve taken action to rectify any issues within your power, you will then want to see if you can appeal the denial.
There are two ways that you can appeal this decision, through an internal appeal or an external appeal.
An internal appeal is directly with your insurance company. There are a few things you’ll want to do when taking your case for an internal appeal:
- Complete all of the required forms by your insurance provider.
- You can also write to your provider with your name, claim number, and health insurance ID number.
- Submit any additional information that you want the insurer to consider, such as a letter from the doctor. Basically any evidence to further your case as to why they should reverse their denial.
- Additionally, you can contact the Consumer Assistance Program in your state so they can file an appeal for you.
- This process should take approximately 30 to 60 days depending on whether or not you have received services the claim is based on (such as hospital treatments or car repairs).
If an internal appeal does not work (especially for an injury claim), according to the Affordable Care Act, you have the right to take your appeal further for an external appeal. An external appeal can be taken to the state or federal government for review.
To take your case for an external appeal, you may use any of the following methods according to the Affordable Care Act:
- Visit externalappeal.cms.gov. You’ll be able to file a request using a secure website. For claimants who are able to do so, the portal is the preferred method of submission for review requests.
- Call toll free: 1-888-866-6205 to request an external review request form. Then fax an external review request to: 1-888-866-6190.
- Mail an external review request form to: MAXIMUS Federal Services 3750 Monroe Avenue, Suite 705 Pittsford, NY 14534
- Submit a request via email: is firstname.lastname@example.org
How Filing a Claim Affects your Insurance Rates
Now that you know all that you need to know about filing an accident insurance claim, in this last section, we’ll touch on some of the ways that filing such a claim can affect your insurance rates.
Your insurance rate may increase.
This is an unfortunate side-effect of getting into an accident, especially if you are the driver who caused the accident. Your insurance provider now sees you as a higher-risk driver, and increase your rates to help pay the difference.
There are several factors in which this decision would be based upon by your insurance provider, such as how severe the accident was, your prior driving record, and who caused the accident (you or the other driver).
For example, did you know that State Farm typically charges an 8.5 percent surcharge for your first accident?
Your insurance provider may also decide not to renew your policy, known as non-renewal.
There are several reasons why an insurance provider would choose not to renew your policy, but this is usually reserved for particularly severe occurrences. Such offenses as drunk driving, or a large history of accidents in the past, would be cause for non-renewal.
Now that you’ve made it through this comprehensive guide, you’ll know exactly what you should do should you ever need to file an accident insurance claim.
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