Dec 3, 2008

What to expect from your insurance company after a car accident

When we were rear-ended a couple of weeks ago, I really didn't know what to expect in terms of our insurance claim because it had been over ten years since I'd been in an accident. Obviously, I've been paying for car insurance during all of those years, and I expected our insurance to cover most of the repair costs. But I was clueless when it came to details. Here's what I've learned so far:

You have the choice of proceeding through your own insurance company or working directly with the other party's insurance company. Our insurance agent said that if the other company makes it easy, then it's better to work directly with them - you'll get the money sooner, and you won't have to pay your deductible, then wait to get reimbursed.

If you go through your own insurance company, you'll have to pay your deductible. But you might get it back. It sounds like you get reimbursed for your deductible after your insurance company has received money from the other party's insurance company - and apparently that takes months. In our case, we're still not sure if the other party was actually covered at the time of the accident, and we've been told that we might get our deductible back if he turns out to be an uninsured motorist (apparently that's a term of our policy).

You'll probably get the repairs done fastest if you go through your own insurance company. This is what we're doing, because we didn't want any delays in getting the car repaired. It would have taken at least one additional week, and probably more, if we'd tried to work things out with the other insurance company.

In California, you have the right to choose the repair shop. In other words, your insurance company can't make you use a certain shop, although you may have to pay the difference. In our case, we chose a body shop that's not preapproved by our insurance company, but the body shop accepted the insurance company's estimate without quibbling so we are only on the hook for our deductible. We've received notice from our insurance company that this is California law, but if you live in another state, you'll have to check your own state law to see if that's the case where you live as well.

Your insurance company will handle all communication with other parties and their representatives. One of the nicest moments in this experience was being able to tell the insurance company for the driver of the car that we were pushed into to call our insurance company instead of talking to us directly.

Your insurance company will reimburse you if you have to replace any car seats. I'm still deciding which seat to get, though.

It's good to have good insurance. This accident has served as an excellent illustration of why insurance is so important. As it turns out, the total cost of the repairs will be a few thousand dollars, an amount that we could have paid out of pocket if necessary. But what if the accident had resulted in greater damage or even injury? You never know when an accident is going to happen, and I know that we were lucky that no one was hurt. And that's why we pay good money for insurance.

All in all, this has been a relatively painless experience thus far. Hopefully, we'll get the car back within two weeks, our deductible will be reimbursed without too much delay, and we can put this whole incident behind us.


stalkermom said...

This was very interesting. My husband has been hit 2 times in the last 10 years by uninsured motorists. What section of your policy tells you about getting your deductible back if the other drive is uninsured? Also, a litte gripe of mine, all the commericals spout about losing your license if you're in an accident and uninsured yet both times neither of these people lost their licenses. The last guy was in the military, too. We only received letters from both accidents that efforts to collect were unsuccessful.

Chief Family Officer said...

@Stalkermom - To be honest, I haven't read my policy, I'm just reporting what the insurance rep told Marc on the phone. I'm sorry you've had some bad experiences, but glad your husband seems to be all right!

Jerry said...

These are great insurance tips, and it is also important to note that laws can vary wildly from state to state! This can lead to frustrations when moving from one state to another, as far as the costs and the policies are concerned. It really does stink about stalkermom getting hit twice by uninsured motorists... it drives up the costs for everyone!