Car Insurance Claims 101: Be an Informed Driver and Policyholder

June 18, 2010

What does it mean to file an auto insurance claim?

When you file a car insurance claim, you are requesting reimbursement to help cover costs associated with a loss. That loss may be the result of a car accident, vandalism, theft or accidental damage. In return, you pay the deductible, which is an agreed upon amount in your car insurance policy. For example, you may have a $500 deductible for a policy that provides up to $100,000 in coverage.

When should you file a car insurance claim?

You should file a claim if your car sustains damage and/or you have an injury as a result of the incident. Common car insurance claims advice is to notify your insurance company immediately after the damage or injury occurs. The sooner you document the circumstances of the incident, the sooner any compensation can be awarded. Also, it’s best to report the details while they are still fresh in your mind.

How do I file a claim?

Before you contact your insurance company, gather necessary information at the scene of the incident. If you were involved in a car accident, get the names, addresses and contact information for all parties involved and any witnesses. If your car was vandalized or broken into, take photos of the damage and make notes about what was damaged or stolen. There are iPhone apps like Nationwide Mobile that can help you do this. Look around to see if anyone witnessed the incident; or, if your vehicle was parked in a public parking lot or garage, security cameras captured it.

Next, contact your car insurance company by phone or online, and provide the following information:

  • Your name and address
  • Your insurance policy number
  • Names and addresses of the parties who were involved or witnessed the incident
  • Details about the accident, theft, vandalism, etc.

Your claims representative will then take the lead on managing your claim and keep you informed about the claims process.

The claims process is something you should ask about when you get a car insurance quote. You want to make sure your insurance company will be there for you when it counts. You could also inquire about programs such as accident forgiveness, which will keep your rates from rising if you have an at-fault accident after maintaining a good driving history.

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