If statistics have any meaning, some of you may have had not-so “Merry and Bright” holidays because a fender bender put a dent in your fun. If you skated through Christmas accident-free, the upcoming New Year’s celebrations loom on the horizon. If you have the misfortune of having an accident, know what you need to do to make sure your insurance covers the repairs.
Before jumping into the nitty-gritty of filing an insurance claim, it may help to rethink your relationship with your insurance agency. They’re not your parents—they aren’t going to scold you or lecture you about safe driving. Their job is to help you navigate the process of getting your car fixed and paid for because that’s what you paid for.
First Things First
If you do have an accident, the first thing you need to do is check for injuries. If you or someone else involved in the accident is hurt, get medical assistance immediately. (More about if you don’t think you’re hurt a bit later.)
If everyone’s okay, the first step to successfully getting a claim covered is to get a police report. No matter how minor you think the accident was, call the police. Local police departments may have estimated damage minimums that determine whether or not they will actually complete a report. Don’t try to make that assessment yourself. Do not leave the scene of an accident before the police arrive. While you are waiting, collect information you may need later:
- The names and contact information of everyone involved
- The make, model, VIN and license plate number of the vehicle(s) involved
When the officer arrives, give them an honest report but don’t admit fault!
And After That
Call your insurance agent. The insurance card you carry as proof of insurance in your car should have a number you can call at any time. You can call from the scene of the accident. Having your insurance agent on the phone and able to speak to the reporting officer directly may be helpful.
Your insurance agent can help you determine the next steps. They may instruct you to take it to a pre-approved shop for repairs or they may send an adjustor to assess the damage before approving repairs. Here’s where it’s really important to do what the insurance agency says so that you don’t end up paying for repairs out of your pocket because you violated policy guidelines. Following their instructions will also help speed up the processing of your claim once it is submitted by your agent or by you directly (your agent will tell you that, too).
A Few Cautions
If you are in an accident, even if you feel okay, you may still be injured. Symptoms of whiplash-type injuries can take days to develop. Get checked out by a doctor to prevent injuries from getting worse or waiving medical coverage down the road.
If you do not call your insurance agent at the scene of the accident, call as soon as possible afterwards. Most insurance policies have windows of time after an accident that a claim must be filed. If you put off calling too long, you may no longer be eligible for coverage.
Although state law requires minimum liability insurance, nearly 30% of New Mexico drivers are uninsured. If you don’t have additional uninsured motorist coverage, you may want to consider it.
Drive safely, ABQ!