Imagine having a car accident. Even worse: imagine having one 200 miles from home. Whether it’s a small fender bender or a total loss, do you know how to get your claim handled when you’re out of town?
“The process to report the claim is pretty standard regardless of where you are when you have a claim,” says Jim Brown, manager, material damage, “but what happens afterwards depends on the damage to the vehicle.”
Immediately after an accident, notify the police so they can prepare an accident report. If there is a question of who is at fault, this report will be helpful to the insurance companies. Also be sure to record the other driver’s information, including driver’s license and license plate numbers.
Next, contact your agent or insurance company. Most carriers offer several methods to report your claim. For example, if you are with an agent-represented company and it’s during business hours, you may choose to report the claim directly to your agent. If you’re with a direct writer or it’s after business hours, you can call the company toll-free or submit the claim online.
Once the claim is reported, your insurance carrier will determine the course of action.
“The individual who is taking the loss report will size up the claim and assess if someone needs to go out and see the car,” says Brown. “If you’re insured with ERIE and the accident occurs in an area where we do business, unless the damage is very minor, we’ll probably send an adjuster out. If you’re in an area where we don’t write — such as Florida, for example — we’ll probably use an independent adjuster to appraise the damage.”
If it was a minor accident and the car is drivable, your insurance carrier may tell you to wait to get the car repaired until you get home. More severe accidents will be handled by local body shops. In some cases, the insurance company may need to arrange a rental car for you. Just remember: if the repairs are going to take a while, you’ll need to travel back to pick up your vehicle.
“When you’re planning a road trip, be sure to take with you important numbers such as roadside assistance, your agent’s telephone number and the toll-free number for your insurance carrier,” says Brown. “Many people are pretty flustered after an accident and it’s better to be prepared.”