Auto accidents are common, and they are no fun. If it’s minor, it’s still a very big inconvenience, and if it’s serious, well that’s pretty serious.
We purchase insurance to limit our risks. With auto insurance we are trying to protect our car, our assets (in case someone sues us), and our health through personal injury protection coverage. We rely on our insurance to take care of these elements and we look to insurance companies to provide fair, reliable service and coverage when they are called upon.
From the insurance company’s perspective, they are serving society by spreading risk across a great number of people. This allows them to absorb the costs of claims by paying for them with a piece of the premiums that everyone pays the company. They are usually very heavily regulated by the states they operate in, and they are currently in a “soft” market. That means pricing is low and competition is high.
Taking these basic assumptions in to consideration, we can examine what happens when you are in an accident. On your end of the deal, you are required to report the accident to them. Insurance companies get cranky if they find out about an accident from someone other than their insured (especially if it is a lawyer for the other car’s driver!). So, call them and tell them everything that happened.
If you were injured, there will be some paperwork to submit if you need to collect money from them for medical bills. Be sure to fill it out completely, and send it back as soon as you can. It is not a bad idea to make copies of this documentation for your own file. Yes, you should keep a file.
The insurance company will either want you to provide a repair estimate, or they will send an appraiser out to look at your car. In most cases, both of these things will happen, and the appraiser will get an “agreed figure” with your collision shop. If they cannot meet eye to eye, they will eventually have to. Disagreements usually revolve around the use of after-market auto parts vs. OEM (original equipment manufactured) parts. This might mean used vs. new parts, or “off brand” vs. “brand-name” parts.
One important thing to remember throughout the handling of your claim is that you will be dealing with a person who works for the insurance company to get everything resolved. This person deals with claims all day long and they have a job to do. They are paid to manage the claim, to the satisfaction of their employer, and in most cases to the satisfaction of the customer. As in any service industry, if you experience poor service you have an opportunity to voice your concern to the company and they in all likelihood will take some corrective measures if necessary. If you have a bad experience, do not sit idle, and do not hesitate to make some noise, however if you have a good experience, let them know.
Insurance companies typically get a bad reputation as an industry when it comes to claims, but in today’s market, insurers are trying very hard to promote good customer service. There are some bad insurance companies out there, and if you are with one of them, move on. There will be another good company out there ready for your business.