How to Start an Insurance Claim After an Accident
You’ve been involved in a vehicle collision, or a bicycle crash, or a pedestrian accident. The police came and took a report or got the other driver to provide his insurance information to you. You are back from the emergency room where they patched your injuries up.
You know you need to start a claim with the driver’s insurance. But you’ve never done this before and you aren’t sure how to proceed.
Here are the steps you need to take to start an insurance claim for your injuries:
Step 1: Write Down the Basic Details from the Accident
The insurance company’s claims department is going to ask for all the basic information to get the claim started. At a minimum, be prepared to give simple answers to the following questions:
- Who was involved?
- When did the accident happen?
- What is the driver’s policy number?
- Where did the collision occur?
- How did the collision occur?
- Were there any witnesses?
- What is your contact information?
- Do you have your own auto (or homeowner’s or renter’s) insurance that might apply?
- If so, what is your policy number?
- Did the police show up?
- If so, did they give you a report number?
- What hospital did the ambulance take you to?
Jot the answers to these questions down on a piece of paper so you can reference it during your phone call. If you have the information written out in front of you, setting up the claim can be accomplished in just a few minutes on the phone.
Step 2: Call the Insurance Company’s Claims Department
When you have all the basic information written out, it’s time to give the claims department a call.
Your going to initially be shuffled through an automated system, but once you indicate you are “starting a new claim,” you will be directed towards a human to get you set up. (For all the claims I’ve set up, I have always ended up speaking with a human claims representative. But sometime in the future, this process may become completely automated.)
If you were involved in an accident with a vehicle, you’ll be starting an auto liability insurance claim. For the DC, Virginia, Maryland area, here are the phone numbers for the claims departments of the most common auto insurers:
- GEICO Auto Claims – 1-800-207-7847
- State Farm Auto Claims – 1-800-782-8332
- Allstate Auto Claims – 1-800-155-7828
- USAA Auto Claims – 1-800-531-8722
- Progressive Auto Claims – 1-800-274-4499
- Nationwide Auto Claims – 1-800-421-3535
Follow the prompts to “start a new claim” until you are able to talk to a live person.
Step 3: Set Up the New Claim by Providing the Basic Details About the Accident
Once you reach a live claims representative, start by saying you were involved in an accident with one of their “insureds” (that is, the at-fault person who caused the accident).
You will then be asked a series of questions like the ones up in Step 1 above. Since you wrote out the answers to all these questions, you won’t even have to do much thinking, you can just read through your notes.
Keep a few things in mind while you are speaking with the claims representative:
- The claims representative is just taking down information, not evaluating or “adjusting” your claim.
- Keep your answers short and simple. If you don’t know something, just say you don’t know.
- Focus on the facts, not on fault. You don’t even need to discuss who’s fault the accident was with the claims rep when you are starting the claim.
- Do not agree to give a recorded statement. You are not obligated to give a recorded statement to the at-fault person’s insurance company. Politely decline.
- If there is a police report, answer as many questions as possible with information straight from the police report. Just say, “The police report says …”
Eventually the claims representative will run out of questions to ask. At this point you are almost finished.
Step 4: Write Down the Claim Number and the Adjuster’s Contact Info
With the claim set up, all that’s left for you to do is get the claim number and adjuster’s name and phone number. By the end of your conversation, the claims rep should be ready to provide you this information.
The claim number is the identification number for your case. Write it down and keep it in a safe place until your case is over with. Write the claim number on any letters or correspondences you send to the insurance company.The adjuster is the insurance company employee who will be evaluating your claim. He/she will eventually try to negotiate a settlement with you if you have a meritorious case. So you’ll want to know how to reach the adjuster to provide information or ask questions.
That’s It! Your Claim is Set Up.
Setting up an insurance claim is easy to do if you know what to expect. Once you’ve started an insurance claim, the claim will live on until you resolve it by settling with the insurance company or when the statute of limitations runs (the legal time limit you have to make and resolve your claim).
After your insurance claim is set up, you’ll face the task of documenting your damages and arguing the value of your case. If you have the time and effort to spend, it can be a rewarding experience to do it yourself. But it can also cause exasperation, anxiety, and frustration. Patience is the key.