Dealing with your car insurance company after a crash can be a time-consuming hassle. Now imagine what it’s like to deal with the insurance company of a person you don’t know who crashed into your car.
Here are some tips to ensure you maintain your cool — and your sanity — when making a claim with someone else’s insurer, known as a third-party claim.
Gather necessary information
The driver who crashes into your car is responsible for reporting the accident to his or her car insurance company. However, make sure you contact their insurer as well. Motorists who cause accidents are often reluctant to report them.
It’s vital to get complete information on the other party at the accident scene. Collect the following:
- Other driver’s name and address
- Other driver’s insurance company name and policy information
- Statements and contact information from witnesses
- Take pictures of the accident scene — most smartphone cameras are suitable.
This way, you’ll have evidence gathered at the scene to bolster your position on the cause of the accident. Check to see if your car insurance company has a mobile app that can help you document the accident while at the scene.
In addition, the National Association of Insurance Commissioners’ free smartphone WreckCheck App can help you collect and exchange the right information.
Notify the right people
You should then inform the other person’s insurer that you have been involved in a crash with one of its policyholders. Relay only the facts of the accident, even if you believe the other driver to be at fault.
The police will determine who is at fault for ticketing purposes. Independently, the insurer will make its own determination of fault, which may or may not match law enforcement’s assessment of fault. The insurer will take into account items such as the police report, driver and witness statements, and physical evidence.
Although you may feel that you have not caused the accident, you should contact your insurance company anyway. This establishes your good-faith accident-reporting effort and can aid you if the other party’s insurer denies responsibility for the accident and you need to make a collision claim.
Theoretically, you should only have to notify the other party’s insurer of your damages and injuries, take your car to a body shop, visit a doctor and expect the insurer to pay your bills.
But theories don’t always reflect reality. Car insurance companies may demand that you obtain their authorization before proceeding with vehicle repairs and injury treatments. If the insurance adjuster doesn’t authorize a repair before you take it to the auto shop, it can create a problem. At a minimum, make certain that the insurance company has accepted liability before going ahead with repairs. Get that authorization in writing. Ask the insurer to email it to you.
Remember that an insurance company can’t force you to take your vehicle to a specific repair facility. Most states allow auto insurers to recommend auto body shops but they aren’t allowed to demand you use a certain repair facility. The choice is yours.
Know what you deserve
Knowing your state’s prompt payment law is beneficial. Every state’s unfair claims settlement practices act outlines the time frame in which an insurer must issue you a check for your damages.
Laws vary widely from state to state, with many simply mandating a “prompt” payment of claims, while others specify the number of days and the interest owed to you if the insurer fails to pay within the specified period.
One last factor to keep in mind: Unfair claims settlement practices acts often do not extend the same rights to you if you’re making a claim against another driver’s insurance as opposed to making a claim under your own insurance policy.
Writing a matter-of-fact letter to the at-fault person’s insurance company is a smart way to inform it of your expectations and rights. Telling the insurer that you expect it to pay all reasonable costs you incur as a result of the accident, including payment for repairs to or the total loss value of your vehicle, diminished value of your car, medical expenses, lost wages, pain, and suffering and rental-car costs will highlight the insurer’s responsibilities under public policy.
Make sure you keep a record of all correspondence, including dates and the names of customer service reps.