When Apple programmer Kit Cutler’s 2012 Ford Focus was hit from behind by a silver Lexus, the blow was so hard that it pushed his car in the Honda Accord in front of him. Although no one was injured in the accident, the driver of a silver Lexus drove off without providing insurance to someone else. Cutler and the driver of the Accord’s exchanged insurance information, filed reports with the police and went home. The accident was only slightly more confusing for Cutler then the claims process that came after.
That car insurance claims process baffles almost everyone. “Most people just file a claim every eight to 10 years,” says Jeanne Salvatore, vice president for public affairs and spokesman of the consumer for the Insurance Information Institute, an industry-supported, non-lobbying group dedicated to improving public understanding of insurance.
Cutler filed its claim over the phone. “In that first meeting, the agent told me early on that I have no guilt,” he says. When she asked him questions about the accident and typed his answers in an online form. Cutler checked and verified the information.
“They go through all this very quickly, so you have to watch,” he says. “I had not been in an accident, and I did not know what was going on.”
This article explains what the insurance companies do behind the scenes in the aftermath of a car accident or collision. It also discusses what happens when you’re hit by an uninsured or underinsured driver.
Immediately after the accident
If you are involved in an accident, “The first thing you should do is let your insurance company know that you are in an accident and provided with all the details of it,” says Salvatore. “From the second of the accident, keep good records.” Use your smartphone (or keep a notebook in your glove compartment) and record the time, date, registration number, make and model of their car, their registration information, registration number, name, insurance company and contact information.
If the police are on the scene, says Salvatore, take their names and badge numbers. Get the names of any witnesses and note whether the emergency medical personnel were called. “Pictures are helpful. Take pictures of the car and the license plate,” she says. “If the claim is simple, you are no part of the need, but if there is a problem, you need all the information possible.” Again, with the prevalence of smartphones these days, this is all very easy to do.
Of submitting the claim to solve it, methods each insurance are different. However, the essence of the process are fairly standard. You see only part of the process, though. All negotiations between insurers on payments and reimbursements will be carried out behind the scenes.
Submitting your claim
As with Cutler’s case, it is standard for your insurer to call soon after you report an accident. During that conversation, “We will align the person on their policies, determine what happened in the accident, find out about injuries, the extent of the damage to both cars and some demographic information,” says Mike Flato, a business process manager for Progressive Insurance. “We will make sure everyone is okay, if not, what happened and who the medical claims will handle.”
After a claim is filed, your insurance company has a claims representative appraiser, who is your contact person from that time. Adjustors coordinate teams that look to medical reports, investigate the accident, talk to witnesses, visit the scene, examining the damage to the vehicle, the management of all repairs and any medical treatment, verify all coverages (how many will pay your policy for medical injuries and damage) and ultimately to determine the fault.
“The claims process is the business of the insurance company,” says Salvatore. “Every situation is different, and the more organized you are, the easier the claims process is.”
While adjustors work, medical treatment and car repairs immediately start, each insurance company that injuries his driver and damage. This process of “making whole” is known as compensation. Your insurance company will indemnify you, not vice versa. Later, after the insurance companies assess blame, they will negotiate to determine which other compensate for claims paid.
Who is guilty?
Error rating not necessarily an easy thing. “Liability laws do not define how to assess the debt,” said John Murphy, service center business leader for Progressive Insurance. “They determine how much you can collect and who is eligible.” Therefore determined fault the insurance companies.
“There is an allocation of debt, such as 60/40,” said Scott Spriggs, a member of the Insurance Council of Texas. “In that case payments can be divided by percentage of the debt.” That is, the insurance company of the driver who is 60 percent debt pays 60 percent of claims and the other company will pay the rest.
“Sometimes, when one party is allocated more than 50 percent of the debt is that the driver insurance company pays for everything,” said Spriggs. “In no-fault states, each driver’s insurance company pays claims his client.”