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Department of Insurance, Securities and Banking

What to Know About Your Insurance After a Car Accident

Tips for reporting and insurance claims

According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, more than 5 million motor vehicle wrecks occur every year. If you were in an accident, would you know what information you need for an insurance claim? The D.C. Department of Insurance, Securities and Banking offers these tips to get the necessary information following a crash.

Be Prepared

Before you hit the road, it’s important to understand your auto insurance policy. Your insurance follows the vehicle, not the driver. Always keep a copy of your current insurance card in the car with registration and other important documents.

Ask your insurance agent to explain the important elements of your policy to you, including your deductible and liability limits. You may even want to consider adding uninsured or underinsured motorist coverage to your policy if your insurance provider offers it. This clause could help protect you if you are in an accident with an uninsured or underinsured driver, and the accident was their fault. Check out this consumer alert for more information on your policy.

If you are a parent with a teen driver, talk about the risks of unsafe driving before you hand over the keys. Research shows that teens whose parents establish rules associated with driving privileges are less likely to get in a crash. Find tips on how to prepare your teens for safe driving.

After an Accident 

Getting into an accident can be stressful and chaotic; it’s difficult to remember what to do immediately following a wreck. Many people are unsure about what information they need to share with and collect from the other driver. It would be helpful to the driver if you provide your name and insurance information. Divulging more than that, such as your address or driver’s license number, could put you at risk for identity theft.

To help take the worry out of collecting information and filing an insurance claim, the National Association of Insurance Commissioners developed WRECKCHECK, a free mobile app for iPhones and Android devices. This app walks you through a step-by-step process to create an accident report. WRECKCHECK allows you to take photos of the scene and document only what is necessary to file an insurance claim. You can even send the completed accident report to yourself and your insurance agent. If you don’t have a smartphone, you can download a printable checklist here [PDF] to keep in your glove compartment.

Here are also more tips on what to do immediately following an accident:

  • Remain calm and assess the scene. Do not get out of your car if it is not safe to do so.
  • Call the police and inform them of any injuries. If the police are not dispatched, file an accident report. This may assist you with your claim.
  • Be courteous, but do not admit fault.
  • Get names and contact information of any witnesses.

Filing a Claim

It’s best to start the claims process as soon as possible while the details of the accident are still fresh in your mind. When you call your insurance company or agent, have available the police or incident report, your insurance information and a copy of the accident report that you created at the scene. Take notes, including the name and contact information of the person you spoke with, during any conversations you have with insurance companies, claims adjusters or auto shops.

Your insurance company should be able to file the claim and work with the other insurance companies on your behalf. Keep in mind that you may be asked to do an interview with the other driver’s insurance company so that they can investigate the circumstances of the accident as well. A claims adjuster or auto repair shop will likely examine the damage to the car and talk with you about the accident. Your insurance company will use the adjuster’s findings as the basis of their settlement.

Talk to your insurance company about whose coverage will pay for damages to the vehicles, for rental car expenses or medical costs as a result of the accident. Some of these expenses will depend on who is at fault, what coverage you have on your policy, and what state you live in.

More Information 

The D.C. Department of Insurance, Securities and Banking can help you understand the laws in the District of Columbia and assist you in settling a claim with an insurance company. You can reach us at (202) 727-8000.