Being involved in an auto accident on any level is always distressing. Whether you've sustained damage to your windshield, been involved in a full on collision or even received a minor scrape the whole incident can take up a lot of time, energy and be a major stress factor. After being involved in an accident the last thing you want to deal with is unnecessary bureaucracy, so here I explain the main different types of auto insurance claims, how they are handled by auto insurance companies and what you can do to prepare for filing each type of claim to make the process run a little more smoothly.

Bodily Injury Claims

If you're injured in an auto accident then you'll need to file a bodily injury claim. Usually in this scenario you will file with the at-fault party's auto insurance provider, however if the accident happens in a no-fault state where you are required to have PIP, or if you're a passenger in the vehicle then you must file with your own auto insurance company, and possibly the at-fault party's auto insurance company too.

Information You Will Need

Data required to file a bodily injury claim includes: names and contact details of every person involved in the accident as well as their auto insurance details, a full account of the accident including date, time, location (pictures are also a good idea if possible) and the costs of initial hospital and medical treatment such as an ambulance ride and emergency room visit. You must also mention whether a police report was filed or not.

Examples of the types of questions you'll be asked by the auto insurance company following your claim include not only the name and contact information of any physicians you've consulted but also questions on the types of treatment you've received. They can also ask whether you're still receiving treatment, whether you have a history of medical illness which could be associated with any of the sustained injuries and whether you have any residual injuries or pain.

Depending on your insurer you may be required to see a medical practitioner chosen by the auto insurance provider – this may cause inconvenience but it could be necessary for your claim. When dealing with bodily injury claims it is also always a good idea to invest in a personal injury attorney who can help guide you through the claims process, ensuring that all information is provided clearly and unskewed by the claims company. This helps to reduce the likelihood of having to dispute a claims settlement in the end.

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Property Damage Claims

When involved in an auto accident you have two options in terms of getting your vehicle repaired:

1. File a property damage claim with your auto insurance company

If you have comprehensive and collision insurance and the liability for the accident is uncertain then this is your best course of action. In this scenario your auto insurer will file for reimbursement with the other party's insurer if necessary, meaning you may be reimbursed for some of your deductible if not found liable for the damages.

Depending on the damage to your vehicle your insurer may deem it a 'total loss', meaning it would cost more money than the vehicle is worth to fix it. If this happens and you disagree with the decision you can choose to take the actual cash value of the vehicle minus your insurance policy deductible and the amount the company would have received for the vehicle at the junkyard. This is usually a decision which needs to be made swiftly.

2. File a property damage claim with the other party's auto insurance company

If the property damage liability is clear and you are not at fault for the damages then filing a property damage claim with the other party's auto insurance company is the best course of action. Not only does this mean you won't have to pay your policy deductibles before the necessary repairs are made, you are also likely to be given a rental car to drive while your vehicle is getting fixed.

If your vehicle is deemed a total loss then you need to ascertain the value of your car as the insurer is expected to provide you with a check for its fair market value.

Although property damage claims are handled without any legal representation, if the claim is combined with a bodily injury claim (as mentioned above) then a car accident attorney can manage both claims for you, and may be a good idea for extra support.

Windshield Claims

Tiny crack or chip in your windshield? Although it may not look very bothersome now, leaving a minor windshield problem unresolved can result in much more serious windshield damages later on, so fixing it early is always the best option.

If you have comprehensive insurance then this will generally cover windshield repairs, but that doesn't mean you shouldn't consider a few factors first to make sure your premiums won't increase. If your monthly deductible is $500 or higher, for example, the repair will not be covered by the deductible yet your claim will still be recorded in your claims history, potentially negatively affecting future premiums. If your deductible is lower it's worth weighing up the costs – if the repair cost of the windshield is low then it may be worth not filing a claim in order to keep your monthly deductibles down.

If you do decide to file a windshield claim then simply follow the normal claims procedures, ensuring you file your claim before you take your vehicle in for repair and paying the deductible amount for the repair before the auto insurance company pays the remainder of what is needed.

Managing Your Claims

As you may have surmised there are lots of things to consider when making a claim, but by identifying the claim type and considering the information above you can speed along the claims process. One way to ensure that any future claims you may file are managed well is to choose the right auto insurance company for you in the first place. Despite the fact that researching auto insurance companies can be time consuming, the dividends a little research can pay are massive.

If your time is limited and you want to find the best auto insurance with the least amount of hassle you've come to the right place – just pick your state in the box below to compare car insurance in your area!

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