How do I File a Traffic Accident Claim?

Bobby R. Goldsmith

In the US, the process of filing a traffic accident claim is fairly simple. Though there are various steps that a person must pursue following a traffic accident, the process itself is usually straightforward given a few general conditions. If there are no serious injuries, the first step is to examine your vehicle and determine the extent of the damage. Take pictures and make notes of all the damage that you see, and be sure that you are as thorough as possible. If you live in a no-fault jurisdiction, the second step is to contact your insurance agent, but if you do not live in such a jurisdiction, you may wish to retain legal counsel prior to initiating contact with your insurance agent.

A car that's been in an accident.
A car that's been in an accident.

Generally, you will not actually file your traffic accident claim at the site of the collision. The claim for the car wreck will be a part of the aftermath, when all parties involved have had a chance to complete a thorough assessment, recount the entire incident in writing, and seek medical treatment if necessary. You will need to gather together the appropriate paperwork, including your insurance policy, your vehicle registration, the insurance and personal information of the other people involved in the accident, and if applicable, a copy of the incident report filed by the authorities.

An insurance claim form.
An insurance claim form.

An incident report will be available in most jurisdictions within 7-10 days following a written request. From there, the process of filing a traffic accident claim is a phone call away, but prior to contacting your insurance company, you should perform an assessment of your vehicle for your own records.

When examining your vehicle during your initial assessment in preparing your traffic accident claim, there are a few things that you should be sure to note. Always work in a systematic fashion, starting at one point and working your way around the entire vehicle. Write down and photograph every scratch, ding, wrinkle or point of damage that you come across, and note whether each was related to the specific accident or not. Make a complete record of any damage to your vehicle incurred during its life of operation. After the assessment is complete, contact your insurance company, and using your notes, describe the damage incurred to your vehicle to your agent or representative

After discussing the matter with your insurance agent, you will be in a much better position to know how to proceed. Since no two accidents are alike, there are numerous possibilities for moving forward on a traffic accident claim. There is a general framework for how claims are submitted, processed and considered depending on the state where the accident occurred, the nature and provisions of your policy and whether there is any criminal investigation into the accident. For serious accidents, you may need to contact an attorney to ensure that your legal interests are properly protected.

Drivers should exchange insurance information after an accident and provide the details to their own insurance company.
Drivers should exchange insurance information after an accident and provide the details to their own insurance company.

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