If you read the terms of your automobile insurance policy, you will likely find a clause that requires you to report any and all car accidents to the insurance carrier within a certain timeframe. Failure to do so can result in the insurer denying coverage for your crash for late reporting, or raising your premium upon discovering that you failed to report a collision altogether. If you have never had to report a car accident to your insurance company, you may not know what to expect. Take these steps to properly report your accident and if you have any further questions regarding filing an insurance claim, consider speaking with a car accident attorney in West Virginia.
Gather Information at the Scene of the Accident
Before you make the call to your insurance company, gather the information you will need to answer the insurance representative’s questions. Do this at the scene of the accident, unless you have to leave to seek medical attention. There is certain personal and circumstantial evidence your insurance rep will need from you, including:
- Number of vehicles involved
- Any passengers in your vehicle
- The driver’s name (and the owner of the vehicle, if not the same)
- The year, make, and model(s) of vehicles involved
- Names and addresses of any witnesses to the accident
- Other driver’s insurance information
- Any injuries or deaths
- Type of damage to the vehicle(s)
- Circumstances of the accident
Prepare for your conversation with your insurance company by gathering this information. Take photographs at the scene of the accident to serve as evidence, including photographs of any damage to the vehicle(s). The more information you collect at the scene of the accident, the more detailed a description you can give to your insurance representative.
Learn What to Say (and What Not to Say)
During a conversation with your insurance agent, it is imperative to remain truthful and give an accurate representation of the accident. However, be careful when speaking to a car insurance claims adjuster. A claims adjuster is someone from an insurance company (it could be yours, the other driver’s, or a third party) who calls to investigate your claim and possibly offer you a fast settlement. Do not give a statement to an adjuster. The adjuster can use this information against you later. Here are a few tips for what to say when speaking to insurance company employees:
- Do not provide details of an injury until you’ve seen a doctor. Do not speculate about the nature of injuries or self-diagnose. State that an injury exists, but decline to give details until you’ve seen a medical provider.
- Stick to the facts. The law does not obligate you to give details such as bad weather or not paying attention to the road. Simply state the details of the accident as they occurred: “Vehicle A pulled onto First Street and collided with Vehicle B.” Resist the urge to make small talk, as the agent could construe what you say as proof of your contributory negligence for the accident.
- Answer only questions the agent asks. Do not offer information the insurance agent does not ask for. If you do not have a definitive answer, say you do not have the information at this time.
Do not accept a hasty settlement. You are under no obligation to accept the first settlement offer an insurance claims adjuster gives you. Speak to a West Virginia injury lawyer about the nature of your case, learn the true value of your damages, and then enter into negotiations.
Make the Call
Now that you’re prepared, it’s time to make the phone call. The number to report a car accident is on your automobile insurance card. Dial the number and follow the instructions for making a new claim. The representative will ask you questions about your accident, and tell you the next steps. For more legal advice about filing an insurance claim, talk to an attorney.