When an accident happens, everyone just wants to move on and have their life return to normal. Filing an insurance claim doesn't have to be a huge headache. Follow these tips and make the process as painless as possible.
1. File a police report
- If someone was hurt or there was serious damage, call the police.
- Even if the police decide you were at fault or no one was at fault, the insurance company may decide otherwise (see below).
- Having a police report can make the claims process easier for the insurance company.
2. Document the damage
- Take multiple photos from multiple angles.
- If you can take a video of the damage, do so. Your phone is probably fine.
3. Take witness statements
- If there were any witnesses to the accident, take down their contact information and see if you can get statements from them.
- Check for any security camera video too from neighboring businesses and homes. Inform these people that there was an accident and ask them if they can either save the day's video for evidence or if they can provide you or the insurance company with a copy.
4. Don't throw out any receipts.
- Check with your insurance agency before tossing anything and make a digital copy just in case.
- Don't have a scanner? Take photos with your phone.
5. Contact your insurance agency
Should I file a claim?
It depends. Remember, the insurance company is first going to require you to pay your deductible. If the cost of the damage is less than your deductible or just a little bit more than it, you probably don't want to go through the trouble.
Another thing to keep in mind is that your rates may increase because you've filed a claim.
What happens after I file a claim?
The insurance company takes all of the evidence you submitted and does their own investigation. Depending on the type of accident, the insurance company may send out someone to your home to inspect the damages, they may check with the witnesses you provided and they can also look for their own witnesses, they may ask you to get multiple estimates on repairs.
Is there anything I can do to be proactive before I need to file a claim?
Yes! There are certain things you should do before an accident even occurs that will make your life easier. A good place to start is by doing a home/business inventory. Record all of your property, how much it costs, the condition it is in, and take photos and videos. Having before and after photos will help prove the condition your items were in and the value of what you lost. If you're a business, document all of your equipment.
Keep your insurance agency up-to-date on any repairs or improvements done to your home, vehicle, boat, business, etc. If you add a fabulous work shed in your backyard but don't tell your agent about it, it may not be covered when something happens. If you add an expensive, stellar sound system to your ride and don't tell your insurance agent, your car is only insured for the value before you added that sound system. This is why we ask you each year if there have been any chances we need to be aware of. Updates, repairs, renovations, new equipment, a new product or service you offer, and other changes often mean we need to tweak your insurance policy to make sure you're fully covered.
Understand your insurance policy. You should have an idea beforehand of whether or not you will receive the cost of replacing the item at today's value or the full replacement cost. You should also know what your deductible is. It's also wise to know what items are excluded from your policy and what limits you have. For example, if your home is destroyed and you have $2,500 worth of jewelry in it, you don't want to find out your policy had a limit of $1,000 for jewelry. You're out $1,500 and there's nothing you can do about it.