Insurance Claims & Auto Repair Processes After a Car Accident.

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Every day, drivers all over Arizona find themselves in an awful predicament. No matter how careful of a driver you are, it is extremely common to be involved in a vehicular collision. Sometimes you are the driver who is at fault, while other times you and your car are in the wrong place at the wrong time. Either way, after an accident you will need to find a shop for auto collision repairs.

Perhaps this is the first accident that you’ve ever dealt with. Although you may be overwhelmed right now, especially if there are any injuries involved, you should know that most accident settlements are handled entirely by insurance providers. Here is a list of steps that will make the auto insurance claim process much easier. These tips will help you gather the information that should get you, and your vehicle, repaired and back on the road.

What to do Immediately After a Car Accident in Arizona

Right after a car accident, you may be disoriented and emotional. It’s important to call emergency services if anyone is hurt. Check yourself and any passengers you may have for injuries. When everyone is secure, check with the driver or passengers of any other vehicles involved to make sure that no one is seriously injured.

Exchange contact and insurance information 

Once everyone is safe, you should exchange insurance and contact information with the other driver. One simple way to collect the car insurance information of another driver is to use your smartphone to take a picture of their auto insurance card and add the other driver’s contact details to your contacts.

It’s also a good idea to ask any nearby eyewitnesses for their contact information. You might also look for any security cameras at surrounding businesses or parking lots that may have recorded what happened. Witnesses can be very important to your case if fault is disputed later.

Take pictures and notes of the accident and damage

After you have exchanged pictures of your proof of insurance, keep your phone out to take pictures of the accident site. Take pictures of any damage on your vehicle, on any other vehicles that were involved, and of the overall accident scene. Be sure to snap photos of any damage to property in the area. It’s important to show the accident from several angles so that your auto insurance company has a good idea about how the accident occurred. Take pictures from the perspective of both drivers as well as from the view of any witnesses.

In addition to taking pictures, you should jot down a few notes about the accident so it’s easier for you to recall the details later. Note the date, time, and weather conditions of the day as well as more specific driving data. Write down how fast you were driving, where you were driving to, the level of traffic, and any other relevant information. 

How to File an Insurance Claim After a Car Accident in Flagstaff, Arizona

Following a vehicle collision, it is important to contact your insurance company as soon as you can. Most insurance policies stipulate that they must be alerted to the collision promptly, otherwise you risk losing your insurance coverage. While you may be hesitant to call your insurance provider, especially if you think you may be at fault, know that the other party involved will speak to their provider, who will then contact your auto insurance. It is best to get a head start on this process prior to that happening.

Review & understand your insurance coverage

Before you contact your insurer, take a moment to review any paperwork you have regarding your policy. This will help you to understand the compensation you will receive as well as the financial obligations you may have. If you’ve never inspected your policy before, you might not understand the rights that you have as an insured driver.

For example, collision coverage insurance will pay for your car repairs after an accident, whether or not you were at fault. If you don't currently have collision insurance, you will have to wait for fault to be determined before your car is fixed or replaced. You may have to pay out of pocket for repairs to your car and then wait for reimbursement from the other party’s insurance company. It’s best to review your policy so you know exactly what your coverage entails.

Replacement coverage vs depreciated or actual cash value

Insurance coverage can sometimes be confusing. While you are reviewing your payment offer, check to see if you will receive replacement coverage or actual cash value for the damages to your property. These are different policies that will affect your final payout. When you are awarded replacement coverage you will receive the estimated amount of money to replace or repair your vehicle at today’s market value. But if you are promised actual cash value, that means you will only receive the depreciated amount that your vehicle is worth with regard to wear and tear.

What to expect during your call with your insurance agent

Once you contact your insurance agent, they will begin the process of filing a claim. They will want to know your full account of what happened. You can use the photographs and notes that you took earlier to help you recall. After they are done recording your personal account they may ask follow-up questions regarding traffic, injuries, or if there were any police interventions.

It's in your best interest to honestly answer these questions to the best of your recollection. This will help you to get compensated quickly. They will use your account of the accident, as well as information they receive from the other party’s insurance company, to determine who was at fault. This determination will result in your final compensation and include any insurance-covered repairs.

Prove property damage to your vehicle

As part of the investigation process, you'll be asked to prove the type of damage that your vehicle sustained. This is why it’s important to take pictures of both the damage on your car as well as any other cars involved. Your insurer may also have an insurance representative inspect your vehicle and take further pictures of the damage.

In some cases, insurance companies may claim that your vehicle did not sustain any damage from the accident. Pictures of damages, a visual inspection from an insurance representative, the police report, and eyewitness testimony should all work together to prove that your vehicle has been damaged.

Review your insurance payment

After submitting proof of the damage to your vehicle, the auto insurance company will determine how much compensation you should receive for repairs. Be sure to review this amount before accepting. You may find that the amount does not cover the entire cost for repair or replacement. Insurance companies are businesses, so they will pay you the lowest amount for repairs. Discuss the amount with your agent and body shop before accepting the payment offer from your insurer.

What happens if my car is totaled?

In some cases, your insurance company will have an insurance adjuster inspect your vehicle for damage. They may determine that your car has been totaled due to the accident. This means that the repair cost for your car is greater than the total value of your car. In this case, you will be paid that total amount, either with or without depreciation depending on your policy.

When a car is totaled, it generally indicates that there is structural body damage, such as to the frame. However, a dented or cracked bumper can also cause an insurance representative to consider your car totaled. 

What if the repairs cost more than the estimate?

You should always review the written estimate and the final payment before accepting any offer from an auto insurance company. If you intend to get your car fixed it's important to receive an estimate from a trustworthy auto repair shop that is equipped and experienced to handle your vehicle’s needed repairs. You'll want to know exactly what you'll be paying and won't be surprised by further costs. 

Bonus tips for dealing with insurance companies

It can be confusing to work through the insurance process after a collision. But if you prepare yourself with knowledge of what to expect, you'll have an easier experience. Here are a few things to remember.

  • Take notes while you speak to your representative. Ask for their name and the name of their supervisor. Write down any pertinent dates or amounts that they quote you. 
  • Think about whether you have any additional collision coverage. Sometimes homeowner policies or credit cards will offer some accident insurance for their customers.
  • You don’t have to accept the first offer given to you by an insurance company. 
  • Learn what to do if your insurance company disputes the quote you receive for repairs

Get the car repair process started quickly after a vehicle collision

It’s hard to know what to do after a car accident, especially if it is your first one.  Be sure to exchange names and insurance carriers with all parties involved and report it to your insurance agent quickly. Take pictures of the damage and obtain a copy of the police report. If there is any dispute as to which party is at fault, the process will become a bit trickier. You can be proactive in this process by seeking out a quality collision repair center on your own. 

Flagstaff Collision is your local high-quality repair service. We are an auto body repair shop that specializes in all kinds of after-collision car repairs. Whether you need some help with a dented area, paint repair, or more serious structural damage, we can help you while working with your insurance company.  The insurance claim process after a car accident can be confusing, let us help you get your repairs done quickly and within budget. Contact us today and one of our experienced technicians will be happy to talk to you about any needed collision repairs.

Michael Whittemore

Author