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How do I File a Car Accident Claim?

Filing a car accident claim does not just involve knowing how to respond after an auto accident occurs. It can also involve preplanning. In the United States, most drivers are required to carry their current vehicle registration and car insurance information in their vehicle. To ease the stress of dealing with an accident, you can clean out your glove compartment and use it to store only your important papers and documents. It can also save time to keep a list of emergency phone numbers in the glove box such as the local police and a tow truck company you are familiar with. Generally, it is also useful to keep a small disposable camera, pen, and notebook in the glove box for record keeping after an accident occurs.

Once a car wreck take places, you should stop your vehicle to assist in making a car accident claim. If your car is blocking the flow of traffic or in an unsafe spot, you will want to maneuver it out of the way to a legally acceptable spot such as the shoulder of the road. It is important to note, however, that in some states it is not legal to move your vehicle after an accident occurs. Therefore, you should know the laws that apply in your state and act accordingly. To make others aware of the situation and avoid additional accidents, you can turn on your hazard lights or use road flares.

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After stopping, you should try and determine your location by looking around for nearby road signs or landmarks. Typically if serious injuries have occurred, you should call 911 immediately. If no one is injured, the police should be contacted so you can officially report the accident. At this point, it may also be a reasonable option to go ahead and contact your insurance company.

While waiting for assistance to arrive, you can begin the process necessary to file a car accident claim. You can take out your notebook and write down everything you remember happening, such as the date, the direction of traffic flow, and anything else you believe to be pertinent. Exchange contact information, drivers’ license numbers, and insurance information with the driver of the other vehicle. If the individual driving is not the vehicle’s owner, you will likely need to get information for the owner as well to avoid problems when you make a car accident claim. If there are any witnesses on the scene, you might want to take their contact information since this information may be needed by the police and your car insurance carrier.

At this point, you may want to go ahead and pull out your disposable camera. Try and take pictures of the other car's license plate number, any damage received to either vehicle, and any injuries suffered by you or passengers traveling with you. For accuracy, insurance companies usually recommend that you take pictures before either vehicle has been moved.

When the police or medical professionals arrive, write down their contact information to add to your notes. In some areas, the police will not report to the scene if both vehicles are drivable and no serious injuries have occurred. In these situations, it is usually advisable to go to the police station and complete a vehicle incident report. You will probably want to complete this step as soon as possible since most insurance providers impose a time limit on the amount of time you have to make a claim after an accident occurs. Even if no immediate emergency medical assistance was required, you may still want to go to the hospital for an evaluation, as car accident injuries such as whiplash may not present immediately but could show up several days later.

To pay out the car accident claim, the car insurance companies will want to investigate the traffic accident and determine liability. All of the information you have collected can be provided to help them with this process. If there are any medical bills, towing fees, or repair bills for work done on your vehicle, provide them with copies. Lawyers typically recommend that you take notes on all calls with the insurance agent and keep copies of all documents and photos, especially when filing a claim against the driver of the other vehicle. If you have trouble getting a fair settlement offer from the insurance company, you may want to contact an accident attorney to negotiate on your behalf.

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