Car Accident Management 101

Ouch. 4/13/18

Good Morning and Happy Monday, everyone!

And a Happy Patriot’s Day to my fellow Massachusetts folks who have the day off from work/school today. For those of you participating in the Boston marathon- good luck! To those heading to Boylston Street to watch from the sidelines- have fun, stay warm- and be safe!

Heading down to the marathon had actually been on my itinerary for today, but unfortunately I was involved in a car accident this past Friday afternoon (the 13th! Go figure!) on my way home from work when another driver pulled from a stop sign and struck the rear, driver’s side door of my car as I was proceeding in the roadway. The impact was substantial enough to cause some pretty gnarly damages and temporary pain to my shoulder and neck. The damage remains- but my shoulder and neck are thankfully fine as I type this.

Now, I’ve been in a couple of accidents in the past- but it was usually as a passenger in someone else’s car, or the impact was so minimal that there were no damages or injuries. For example, a couple of years ago someone tapped my bumper while they were attempting to straighten their car out in a parking space behind me- and I didn’t even bother calling my insurance company because it was so insignificant.

But Friday’s accident marked the first time I’d ever been involved in a collision where I was driving my own car and there were significant dents/scratches/issues after the fact. I was fortunately able to drive my car home from the scene without issues- but my hubcap snapped. The hatch to my gas tank was pushed in and needed to be pried open with a screwdriver in order for me to fill my tank on Saturday morning. My rear, driver’s side door opens/closes a little funny. Long story short- it needs to be repaired- and claims had to be filed. It’s a lengthy, exhausting process- and one I’m all too familiar with given my job title.

So instead of cheering the marathon runners on this morning- I’ll be getting my car appraised, making arrangements to get it repaired, obtain a rental vehicle, and providing statements to the Adjusters from my own insurance company and the other driver’s carrier in the hopes of getting this resolved as quickly as possible.

Working in insurance/claims has actually been beneficial to me throughout the past few days while I made the necessary calls/contacts and gathered the appropriate evidence to present to the Adjusters- and although I had wanted to share a fun recipe this morning before I headed out for the day- I thought I’d provide some of my tips/tricks to surviving the post-accident process to those of you who may have never had to go through this very same experience (and I truly hope you’ll never have to!) or have gone through it- but may have been flustered throughout everything.

It happens fairly often- believe me!

IMMEDIATELY FOLLOWING THE ACCIDENT:

1. Stay calm and composed: Unless you or a passenger have been seriously injured- in which case getting medical attention takes priority- going from 0 to extremely pissed off is a pretty common reaction following an accident. This is especially true if said accident wasn’t your fault- but you need to remain calm. Take a couple of deep breaths. If you can move your car somewhere safe and out of the way of traffic before you exit your vehicle and speak with the other driver/passengers, do it.

Losing your cool, flipping out on the other driver, or otherwise working yourself into a frenzy can cause you to forget to do crucial steps or gather important information like obtaining names, license plate numbers, contact info, etc. It can also work against you if police are called to the scene and they have to write down in their report/narrative that you were losing your mind at the scene.

Just keep in mind that accidents happen. People make mistakes- and the other driver is probably just as upset as you are. Even if they’re being aggressive, rude, confrontational, or throwing a fit- keep it together. I was fortunate in my accident (a strange sentence to type) in that the other driver was incredibly polite, apologetic, and eager to assist.

2. Get ALL the information. Take ALL the photos- and not just of your own damage: A common mistake I see from insureds at my job is that they don’t get important information or take photos at the scene/of the damages to both vehicles involved- which can assist an Adjuster SO much- especially if liability is being disputed by the other driver or their insurance carrier.

Get photos of everything- their registration, their license plate, their driver’s license, the damages to your own vehicle, the damages to the other vehicle, the street/location where the accident happened from different angles (just be safe!) Anything that will help paint the picture of the events leading up to, during, and following the accident when your claim gets assigned to an Adjuster. They’ll want to see points of impact on both cars, the layout of the street, etc. so they can complete an accurate and thorough analysis of the claim and better assist you.

When speaking to the other driver, be sure to get their phone number (insurance companies will want it in order to make contact with everyone involved- and having it on hand saves them the trouble of having to mail a contact letter.) If there are any witnesses- get their full names, addresses, and phone numbers in case they need to be contacted to provide statements. Get the responding Police Officer’s full name and badge number- even if he/she tells you it will be on their report. Get it anyway.

And if you’re not sure if the information is necessary or not? Write it down anyway. You never know.

3. If you’re not okay- admit it and speak up: Immediately following an accident, adrenaline usually kicks in and any potential injuries might not be noticeable right away until after the fact when you’ve had a chance to decompress and relax a bit- and only then you might notice you’re not feeling so great and want to get checked out by a Doctor. In my case, I didn’t start feeling pain until late Friday night and into Saturday morning when my left shoulder and neck- which had been jerked side to side during the impact- started to feel a little stiff and sore. It has since resolved itself with some light stretches and a couple of doses of ibuprofen.

However, if you’re in noticeable or substantial pain at the scene of the accident- or if you’re feeling too rattled to drive your vehicle to your destination safely- say something. Tell a responding officer, or a witness, or call a friend/loved one to come and help you. Do NOT ignore it and do NOT attempt to drive if you don’t think you can. Getting into a second accident right after the first is not a good look for anyone. There’s no shame in getting help if you need it.

REPORTING THE CLAIM TO INSURANCE COMPANIES:

1. Report the claim as soon as you can, and stay patient while you do: I always recommend calling in a car accident claim as soon as possible- while details are still fresh in your mind- to get them assigned accordingly and processed ASAP to cut down on unnecessary waiting time to get your vehicle repaired, medical bills paid, etc.

The sooner, the better- but be sure that you’re calm and you’ve got the time/patience to talk to the companies at length and provide as much information as possible. It can be daunting- especially knowing that you’ll have to do it more than once (reporting it to your own carrier, and then the other driver’s carrier, and so forth…) but it will ultimately save you a lot of aggravation moving forward.

Also, sidebar- but if the person taking down the information about your accident/damages doesn’t get something right (in my case, it was the location and the actual accident description)– do NOT be afraid to repeat yourself again, and again, and again if necessary- in order to make sure the facts surrounding the accident are being reported and relayed correctly.

2. Write everything down: Much like you did at the scene of the accident- documenting everything you discuss with the insurance companies is crucial, too. Who did you report the claim to? What’s your claim number? Your Adjuster’s name and telephone number? The other driver’s claim number? The other driver’s Adjuster’s information? Appraisal numbers? Contact numbers for the appraiser? Rental confirmation codes? The list goes on.

It’s a lot of information- and you’re going to have to refer to it more than once- so if you take clearly labeled and detailed notes, you’ll be doing yourself a huge favor in the long haul. Keeping the claim information on hand means you don’t have to waste so much time talking to automated answering services of dodging the run around with company operators. You can be connected- and quickly- to representatives and Adjusters who will be able to pull up the claim and assist you moving forward!

AFTER YOU REPORT THE CLAIM:

1. Be patient: From experience, it’s frustrating to have someone report a claim and then call the assigned Adjuster an hour later wondering why nothing has been done for their vehicle damage/injuries. Chances are, your Adjuster is reviewing your policy, confirming your coverage, making the necessary contacts and assigning the correct appraisers/team members to work on a claim with them.

Give them a chance to familiarize themselves with your accident before you start blowing their phone/e-mail up with questions and concerns. If you still haven’t heard anything within two business days after reporting an accident- then absolutely make contact- but other than that? Chill.

2. Read each form you receive in the mail- and cooperate with any investigations: It’s standard procedure for insurance companies to send out forms and seek statements from drivers involved in accidents- especially if there’s disputes in liability or conflicting stories. As frustrating as it is- cooperate fully with all companies investigating the accident and be prompt with returning calls, completed paperwork, etc.

The more efficient and upfront you are, the better the outcome and the quicker the results. A lot of times when claim handling gets held up or delayed- it’s because one of the involved parties is slacking or being unresponsive. Don’t be that person. Be the person who is helpful and on top of things.

3. If it’s too much for you to handle- seek out some help: Your insurance company is there to help you out during stressful times like accidents and injuries- so never be afraid to reach out to your own Adjuster to ask any questions that come to mind or check in/monitor your claim status. Many companies also offer helpful resources on their websites, as well- so utilizing those can make all the difference.

And I say this as an absolute last resort- but obtaining an Attorney/Legal Representative is also an option if you’d rather have someone handle all the paperwork on your behalf (and potentially take a good chunk of any settlements you receive.) It’s entirely up to you, of course- and how much of the work you’re willing to do yourself.

4. Take some time to treat yourself/do something good for your morale: Listen, car accidents are an ordeal in themselves- and dealing with the aftermath can wear you out. Don’t forget to take care of yourself. Eat a nice meal. Watch a funny movie. Get your nails done or buy a video game to keep yourself entertained.

Whatever it takes to get you feeling good, less stressed and like yourself again- go for it!

I hope those help anyone who find themselves in my current predicament down the line. Despite my schedule getting botched up as a result of this accident- I’m surprisingly calm and optimistic about the whole thing right now. Things happen, and sometimes those things aren’t exactly ideal- but thankfully no one was seriously injured and I can still drive my car to/from work right now- so it could always be worse.

I’m off to get these tasks done- but I hope everyone has a great Monday!

xx

– Ashley –

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