The mysterious world of the auto insurance claims

For most consumers, what happens on the insurance side of the fence after an auto accident is a total mystery. For that matter, what they need to do themselves immediately in the aftermath of an accident can also be confusing.

Experts say that most consumers only have to deal with a claim about every eight years or so. That's not often enough for most people to remember what to do and what happens next. Here's some information that can help.

Jot down (or photograph) as much as possible

With a little luck, your claim will be nice and easy, and everything will go smoothly. Just in case it doesn't, gather as much information as you can.

Keep writing materials in your car or use your cell phone to record important information. information you need includes the license of the car that hit you, its make and model, the driver's name and insurance information, the names of responding officers and witness information.

Have all of that with you before you make your first call.

Call your insurance company first

Call your own insurance company first to let them know you were in an accident. The only call you should make before that is to first responders or local law enforcement.

No matter what happens from here, your insurance company has an obligation to look after you if the other insurance company doesn't cover your losses. You may still have a small deductible that you have to pay, although that can be waived in some circumstances.

Call the other insurance company second

Once you've alerted your own insurance company, contact the other person's insurance company regarding your claim.

As long as they are responsive to your questions and needs, you can probably get your car repaired quickly and your medical bills paid.

If they feel that you were possibly at fault for the accident or aren't responsive and your car is going without repairs or your medical bills aren't be paid, ask your own insurance company to subrogate the claim.

At that point, your insurer will start picking up your bills and pursue the other person's insurance company for repayment.

Perhaps the most important thing to remember after a car accident is to take a deep breath and don't panic. You can always get legal help if you need it when dealing with insurance companies. In fact, it's usually wise to explore your legal options after any serious car accident.

Source: edmunds.com, "How Car Insurance Companies Handle Car Accident Claims," Bridget Mintz Testa, accessed Jan. 25, 2018

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