Filing a car insurance claim is not always straight forward as expected. At least this may be the impression of some, after the recent viral sensation of Matt Fisher’s story about his sister, Katie Fisher, who was killed in an accident in Maryland by a driver who ran the red light, it’s a good time to think about the claims process from beginning to end and how insurance works.

Damage at car, taken from car insurance claim
Each claim needs to be documented, calling the police is a good start

When Katie died, she had been insured by Progressive Insurance with liability limits of $100K per person and $300K per accident. She carried equal limits of uninsured motorists coverage liability, although the at-fault driver who hit her only carried $25K in coverage. Thus, her insurance should have paid the remaining $75K difference to settle her estate—except Progressive didn’t do that at all, saying that there was doubt that she hadn’t been at fault in anyway. Oddly, a witness saw the accident, reporting that she had the right of way and that the other driver ran the light. Additionally, for the at-fault driver’s insurance to pay, he would have been found liable—insurers will only pay out under liability insurance if their client is in fact liable.

So Katie’s parents decided they had no choice but to sue Progressive—only to discover that in Maryland, you can’t sue an insurance company by law. To obtain leverage, they sued the at-fault driver, who was insured by Nationwide Insurance.

The viral sensation that followed was on account of the fact that Progressive became involved as a third party when the lawsuit began. Although it was reported that they defended the other driver, that technically wasn’t true, as they had just been involved as a third party attempting to persuade the jury that there was reasonable doubt about Katie’s fault. This angered the Fisher family—and also tons of Progressive customers. Some went as far to cancel their policies while others gave the insurer a piece of their mind on Progressive’s Facebook page. All of this was even further heightened when Matt Fisher published a blog entitled ‘My Sister Paid Progressive To Defend Her Killer.’

But at the root of it all, there were reasons the third party was involved—they were actually just going through a typical claims process when an auto accident of any kind takes place. The case served as a reminder of two things—one, you can never carry enough liability, because if the other driver had carried enough insurance, they may not have ended up in court. Secondly, it’s important what to know when there’s a claim what the regular procedures are. From step one to the end, here’s a breakdown of what to do when in a car accident:

As much as you might hate paying those monthly or bi annual insurance premiums, you are really glad you did if you have an accident. There is nothing good about having an accident, but if you have proper car insurance coverage, it certainly could be worse. Many people who are involved in an accident are in shock and adrenaline is coursing through their bodies right after, even if it is a small fender bender. It can be hard to remember what things

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you need to do when you are involved in an accident. Try to take deep slow

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breaths and remain as calm as possible.

1. Call 911. Really – Do it

  • This is the first thing you should do, even if the other party tries to convince you not to call.
  • You want to make sure everything is reported and recorded accurately for later court or insurance documents.
  • You may be involved in a situation where you were not at fault and the other driver convinces you not to call the cops, but then you find out days later that they called your insurance company and claimed you were at fault.
  • If you were at fault, you still want to contact police, because the other driver might try to sue you for a lot of money and claim they were injured a lot worse than they really were.
  • You need to remember that your insurance policy has limits, so if they try to sue you for $100,000 and your policy limits are $50,000, you will be responsible for the rest. So be sure to always call the police and get full documentation.
  • If you have a camera or a phone with a built in camera, take a lot of pictures. You never know what might come in handy during a court case.

2. If There Are Any Witnesses, Be Sure To Get Their Name, Address, And Phone Number

  • This is crucial in case, again, the other driver tries to make claims or statements that are untrue.
  • You will have witnesses to provide their point of view.

3. As Soon As You Are Able, Call Your Agent or Call the Claims Number On Your Insurance Card

  • If you deal with a local agent, often they will prefer for you to call them first so they can best advise you before you place the claim.
  • Do this no matter if it is your fault or not so you can at least provide your statement.
  • If the other party was at fault, you will also need to call their insurance company to place a claim against them.
  • If the accident was your fault, you do not need to contact the other person’s insurance.

4. If Your Car Is Drivable, You Will Need To Find Out From Your Agent or Claims Representative How You Need to Get Your Estimates For Damage

  • Sometimes they will have recommendations for garages for you to use; however, you are not required to use them.
  • Make sure you read or listen to all information regarding car repair shops. If you decide to choose a different shop and their estimate is higher, you may be responsible for the difference.
  • It’s also possible that if you do use the shop they recommend that you will have warrantees on the work, and they may not if you go to a different shop.

5. Your Insurance Company Is Only Required To Restore Your Vehicle To The Condition It Was In Prior To The Accident

Getting into an accident is unfortunate, and causes much hardship for a few days to a few weeks. Keep in mind these points so that if you should be in an accident, you will be better prepared. A final thought may regard state coverage limits: Compared to the real costs, likely to occur in a real accident, the coverage limits required in virtually all states of the US can be described as low, as the case of the Fisher family might illustrate. Responsible driving does requires more than just getting the minimum insurance coverage required. It should include efficient coverage options to protect both yourself and other motorists.

Image: Flickr.