Automobile insurance is designed to protect consumers from serious financial losses that can result from an accident. You may feel uncomfortable when filing an insurance claim, especially if you are unfamiliar with the process.
The following tips can go a long way in increasing your satisfaction with your claims experience if you ever have an accident:
* Know what your insurance covers. The whole insurance hassle will be less painful following your accident if you're already familiar with the details of your coverage. Basically, first-party coverage, which protects you and your vehicle, includes separate coverage for comprehensive, collision, primary medical and in some states Personal Injury Protection. Third-party liability coverage provides protection for bodily injury and property damage you cause others up to the limits of coverage when the accident is your fault.
* Check your policy for specifics. Don't wait to find out after an accident that you are not automatically covered for emergency roadside assistance, towing or replacement rental car reimbursement while your car is in the shop being repaired. Check out options available for only a couple dollars a month that can save you hundreds or thousands of dollars down the road.
* Know what your deductible is and any other additional charges before authorizing work. Expect your insurance adjuster, claims representative or repair facility appraiser to review the damage with you and explain the repair process, including the use of original, recycled or generic auto parts. Before authorizing repairs, know what your deductible is, as well as any additional charges you will be expected to pay once repairs are complete.
* Do business only with a reputable company. Obtain insurance from companies, independent brokers or direct marketers that have a proven track record of handling auto insurance claims effectively. Get a referral or contact the State Department of Insurance.
* Report a car accident from the scene, if possible. If your car is not drivable, your agent or claims center may be able to save you time and money by having the car towed directly to the repair facility instead of to a temporary storage facility. In addition, arrangements may be made immediately to provide you with a replacement rental car, if your policy includes this coverage.
* Ask about warranties on repairs. Ask whether your insurer has a repair facility referral program that offers a written limited or lifetime repair warranty backed both by the repairer and insurer for as long as you own your vehicle.
* Read your policy. Remember to read your auto insurance policy or talk to your insurance agent or representative once a year to see if your policy needs to be updated. As your needs change, your coverage may also need to be adjusted.
Contact the Insurance Information Institute for more information at, www.iii.org or by calling (212) 346-5500.