First and foremost, do not be intimidated. You have not done anything wrong. They are not going to be mad at you. Whether the accident is your fault, your son’s fault, or a stranger rear-ending you, you are entitled to benefits. Unless this is your seventeenth claim in six months, they are not going to drop you. Although insurance companies are “ensured” a captive audience by virtue of state law that requires you to maintain motor vehicle liability insurance, they would like to keep your business.
Before you make that visit to the insurance company you must change your mind-set. Your insurance company has not been doing you a favor accepting your monthly premium. You have paid for a product and you are entitled to reap the benefits.
Next, read your policy. You probably don’t have it. From time to time your policy is amended, modified, supplemented, and altered, all without your instigation. You are not charged with the task of keeping, assembling, interpreting, and graphing the now relevant sections. Ask your agent what your policy covers under your particular circumstance, but always get an updated copy and read it for yourself.
Your journey will mostly likely begin by formally reporting the accident your local hometown agent. Do not be mislead by the fact that you visit with this person at the Thursday morning Optimist Club meeting or the high school football game. Your agent is a salesperson. They will dutifully report your claim and proudly advise you that you will receive a call from someone in the “home office” in 24 hours. They have performed the extent of their duties. They sold you the policy and helped you report the claim. They have met or exceeded expectations according to their job description. Your claim is now out of their hands and into the hands of a stranger.
In all fairness, this stranger wants to keep your business and will be extremely friendly on the phone. They generally return phone calls fairly promptly and keep you updated on the status of your claim, but you must be persistent. Unless you ask for everything you are entitled to, they simply won’t offer it up on a silver platter.
You are now in the hands of one or more claims representatives (they are often-times subdivided into property, liability, and personal injury departments). They have a bit more authority than your agent, but will likely refer you to a third person. This is your adjuster, who will conduct the initial inspection of the vehicle damage.
You must make this person your new best friend. They can close the deal. Before you begin your acquaintance with them, educate yourself in the terms of art of the automobile insurance world. Know what medical co-pay is, know the difference between obtaining estimates and a “total loss” claim.
Final negotiations begin. Hang in there, and you might just get what you paid for.