When the unexpected happens, it’s a stressful and scary experience. While some unfortunate events are unavoidable, being prepared and having a general understanding of your insurance policy can help ease the stress in these trying times. Filing an insurance claim as soon as possible after an accident or natural disaster occurs will expedite the process of getting your coverage back on track. However, this can seem like a daunting task for most, especially if you’ve never had to file an insurance claim before. Let’s take a closer look at how to file an insurance claim, including what to do if you have been involved in an accident or your property has been damaged.
What Is an Insurance Claim?
An insurance claim is a formal request by a policyholder to an insurance company for coverage or compensation for a covered loss or policy event. The insurance company validates the claim (or denies the claim). If it is approved, the insurance company will issue payment to the insured or an approved interested party on behalf of the insured.
Insurance claims cover everything from death benefits on life insurance policies, and routine and comprehensive medical exams to even car accidents on insured cars, whether comprehensive or third-party insurance. In some cases, a third party can file claims on behalf of the insured person. However, in the majority of cases, only the person(s) listed on the policy is entitled to claim payments.
When to File an Insurance Claim
The general rule of thumb when it comes to filing a claim is to do so as soon as possible after an incident occurs. If you wait too long to file, your insurance company might deny your claim because you waited too long to file. Getting the other party’s information is highly recommended if you have been involved in an accident. It’s the law to do so. If you’re in an accident, it is best to file a claim right away. Although laws vary, your insurance company may deny your claim if you leave it too long before filing a claim.
Here are three specific scenarios when you should strongly consider filing a claim:
- When someone is injured– If you’re in a car accident and you, the other driver or a passenger in either car gets hurt, that’s an automatic reason to file a claim.
- When it’s not clear who is at fault– Sometimes there’s some confusion about who’s to blame for an accident. In that case, you’ll let the insurance companies for both parties figure it out.
- When you suffer a “total loss” or can’t afford to pay for the damages– When your car is completely totalled, you’re probably staring at thousands of shillings in damages. Those are some pretty hefty costs you probably won’t be able to handle yourself. So filing a claim makes sense.
Every situation is different, so it’s important to get in touch with a representative from your insurance company or an independent insurance agency to help you weigh the pros and cons of filing a claim in your case.
However, it’s a bit harder to determine the right time to file a claim when it comes to natural disasters and other unfortunate events. That being said, you should file a claim as soon as you can after the incident occurs. Doing so will speed up the process of getting your insurance back on track.
How to File an Insurance Claim
So, let’s say you’ve just been in a huge car accident and the front of your car is smashed in like a broken accordion. You’re okay, thank goodness, but it’s pretty clear your car is going to be a total loss probably and you’ll need to file an insurance claim.
What exactly do you do? We’re glad you asked! Here are some important steps to take to file your insurance claim.
- Call the Police if Necessary – If a crime was committed, someone was hurt in an accident, or there is significant damage, don’t just stand there, get help! And while you don’t necessarily need a police report to make an insurance claim, having one doesn’t hurt.A police report will paint a picture of what exactly happened in an accident or at a crime scene and include information that’ll make the insurance claim process much easier.
- Document Everything and Exchange Information –Now it’s time to document what you can from the accident scene and gather information from all the parties involved. Think of it as a scavenger hunt. Make sure you get the following:
- Name, address and phone number of the other driver(s) and a photo of their driver’s license, if possible
- Insurance policy numbers
- Year, make, model and license plate numbers of all the vehicles involved
- Photos of the accident from all sides and angles
- Detailed notes from any conversations you had with the people involved in the accidentIf you’re hurt and need medical attention, you’ll also want to hang on to any physician reports, medical bills and other documentation you receive for treatment of your accident-related injuries.What about homeowners insurance claims? Take photos of the damage done to your home or make a list of items that were damaged or stolen in a robbery. And if you have to stay at a hotel while repairs are being made to your house, keep the receipts as proof of costs.
- Contact Your Insurance Company – Once you and everyone involved in the accident are safe, get in touch with an agent from your insurance company and ask what else you’ll need to file your claim. Your agent knows the ins and outs of the claims process and will be able to give you the direction you need.Here are some basic questions you’ll want to ask your insurance agent:
- Who do I report my claim to? – If you’re in a car accident and the other driver is at fault, you’ll likely file a claim with their insurance company. But, in most other cases, you’ll file a claim with your insurance provider. No matter the case, you’ll still want to call your own insurance company and keep them in the loop.
- How long do I have to file a claim? – Depending on your insurance company and the type of policy you have, you can have as little as 30 days or as long as three years to file an insurance claim. Either way, once you get a good handle on the damage done and have all the necessary information you need, you should file try to file your insurance claim as soon as reasonably possible.
- What will I need to file an insurance claim? – When you file a claim, you’ll be asked to provide some basic details, such as where and when the accident or incident took place, contact information for everyone involved and a description of what happened. You might also be asked to give an estimated cost of the damage from the accident if you have that available. When making a homeowners insurance claim, you’ll need to fill out a Proof of Loss statement and list any stolen or damaged items and how much it would cost to replace them.
- Filing Your Insurance Claim – Okay, you’ve called all the right people. You’ve gathered all the information you could. Now it’s time to file your claim.Most insurance companies will allow you to file a claim online or through a mobile app, by phone with one of their agents, or by filling out a claims form and sending it to them via email.
What to Expect After Filing an Insurance Claim
After you submit a claim, an insurance adjuster will come to inspect your property, review the damage, and ask you questions about the damage and condition of the property before the damage was done.
You can provide estimates from your research about the costs of repairing the damage to ensure you get a fair settlement.
An insurance adjuster works for the insurance company.
After the adjuster submits a report on your claim, your insurance company may issue a settlement, which is the money they agree to give you to fix or replace your damaged property, for example, fix a hole in your roof, repair your car, or replace your belongings.
When the unexpected happens, it’s important to know what to do next. Filing an insurance claim can help get your coverage back on track and cover the costs associated with an unfortunate incident. When you file an insurance claim, remember to be as detailed as possible, provide all the necessary information, and follow up with your insurance company regularly.