Car Accident Insurance 101 - What You Need to Know After a Crash
We buy car accident insurance to protect us against worst-case scenarios. In an ideal world, we would never have to "use" that insurance because we would always stay claim and accident-free. Unfortunately, life has a way of throwing curveballs our way, and if you or a loved one has recently been involved in a car accident -- be it a minor fender-bender with property damage or a life-altering event -- you need clear and quality instructions about how to proceed with filing your claim. This article aims to simplify and boil down this crucial information for you.
At the Scene of the Accident
- Medical help. First and foremost, obviously, get medical help for you or any passengers or anyone else hurt in the accident. If your car is in the middle of the road, either pull it out of traffic or abandon the vehicle. Even if you don't think that you are "that hurt," you might be in a state of shock and thus unaware of truly how injured you are.
- Collect info. Collect (or deputize someone to collect) as much information as possible. Get names of witnesses and other drivers and passengers, contact information, vehicle identification (VIN) numbers, insurance information, and so forth.
- Take pictures. Take pictures of the scene of the accident with your cell phone camera (or other camera). Take pictures of your injuries -- or the injuries of your passengers.
- Call the police. If the damage is substantial or if anyone is hurt, call the police and have a accident report filed. Make sure to save any/all documentation -- and ideally, photocopy it for easy reference later.
Making a Car Accident Insurance Claim
As soon as you can after the crash, contact your car accident insurance company and detail what happened. Be completely honest. Not only is this good ethical policy, but if you make dishonest statements, the dissembling can be used against you to deny your claim. You will likely be asked to submit a written statement containing details of the accident and supporting evidence of your claim. When you prepare your statement, include info about the cause of the crash as well as a catalog of all injuries and property damage. Retain any bills and receipts connected to the accident, since you may later submit them to your insurance company.
Applicable Car Accident Insurance Coverages
Bodily Injury -- Bodily injury liability covers you if you are at fault in an accident and you cause injury to another person or persons. This insurance can cover things like medical bills, therapy, and rehabilitation. Your state may require bodily injury coverage. Typically, you will get minimum coverage for "per person" and "per accident." If you are shopping for car accident insurance, be sure you get enough bodily injury coverage -- some experts recommend $100,000 BI per person and $300,000 BI per accident -- well above average state minimums.
Property Damage -- Property damage covers you for any damage you cause to other vehicles or property (such as signs, sign posts, store fronts, or foliage).
Uninsured/Underinsured Motorist Coverage (UM/UIM) -- Unfortunately, not everyone on the roads carries insurance. To protect themselves, many drivers opt for coverage specifically to prepare for encounters with uninsured or underinsured motorists. Some states may actually have minimum UM and UIM requirements.
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