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Auto Accident Payment Recovery

Car accidents are stressful enough without having to deal with proving to the other driver’s car insurance company that you weren’t at fault and are due reimbursement or compensation for accident-related costs.

Continue reading to learn steps to take to simplify the process of getting compensation for your costs.

Initial Steps When Reporting an Incident

Generally, you won’t deal directly with the other driver involved in the car accident. You’ll handle matters with your car insurance company and/or the other driver’s car insurance company when reporting an incident and going through the reimbursement process.

In fact, the only time you should have to interact with the other driver is when you’re gathering important information at the accident scene, such as each other’s:

  • Names and addresses.
  • Car insurance information.

It’s also a good idea to gather the names of:

  • Any witnesses. Asking for statements can help, too.
  • Police officers, if applicable.

You’ll also want to collect evidence of:

  • Each vehicle’s location.
  • Damages to both vehicles.
  • Each vehicle’s license plate.

You can provide written descriptions, but photographs often prove more helpful.

NOTE: You might even be able to complete accident claim details at the accident scene using mobile smart phone apps.

Second—assuming you’re not at fault-—contact the other person’s auto insurance provider and file the report.* Each insurance company has its own filing process, so you’ll need to talk with an agent who can explain the filing and compensation process to you.

Keep these tips in mind as you work with the agent:

  • Don’t be surprised if the agent tries to prove that you were completely at fault.
    • It’s common for insurance agents to initially side with their policyholders and dispute your claims for compensation.
  • Stay in constant contact with the agent. Make sure the agent stays on top of your claim.
    • DON’T allow yourself to fall by the wayside. If you’ve collected the proper evidence, your case should be irrefutable. Losing contact with the claims adjuster could hurt you.

* If you’re unclear about fault, you can always file your claim with your own company, and they will work with the other driver’s insurer to determine fault and compensation.

The Role of Fault

The other driver’s car insurance claims adjuster will evaluate your claim and work to determine who was at fault.

It’s easier and quicker to file a claim and receive compensation when the car accident was clearly not your fault.

Remember: Collecting the proper information and evidence helps prove your innocence (see “Initial Steps When Reporting an Incident” above).

However, if the other driver and/or the driver’s insurance company tries to dispute your claim, you might have more work on your hands.

At this point, you can:

Remember to stay the course. Keep in contact with the claims adjuster and always provide everything he needs in a timely manner.

Reimbursement for Property Damage and Theft

Once your car insurance provider determines you weren’t at fault, the claims adjuster will begin evaluating property damage and theft reimbursement.

This is where all those photos (or, at the least, written documentation) come in handy.

Your documentation, along with the inspection of your vehicle, will help your claims adjuster determine compensation for your damages and loss.

Also, if you make repairs at any time during the claim, keep receipts and before-and-after pictures.

Diminished Value

Depending on the insurance company and your state, you might be covered for your vehicle’s diminished value. Overall, the idea is to indemnify you—that is, to make you whole by paying for your damages—after a loss.

Obviously, your car’s value diminishes after an accident. So, the claims adjuster will determine the value of your car and how much it will cost to repair it. While each car insurance company has its own process, the following sites are good starting points:

Don’t just accept the adjuster’s figures before talking to a qualified mechanic. A trained mechanic might see that it would actually cost more to repair your car.

Once you and the insurance company have come to a number you’re both comfortable with, you have to determine if your car is worth repairing. Your insurance company may actually declare your vehicle a total loss (see below).

Total Loss

Generally, car insurance companies label a vehicle a “total loss” when the cost to fix the vehicle to its pre-damaged state is more than the cost of the vehicle’s worth, or actual cash value (sometimes referred to as “fair market value”).

NOTE: During cases of theft, car insurance companies generally compensate you for the fair market value IF you have comprehensive coverage.

Reimbursement for Medical Costs

When you’re found to be NOT at fault, the other person’s car insurance policy pays for your medical costs; however, if the other person doesn’t have enough (or any) coverage—or the company refuses to pay—consider contacting a personal injury attorney.

NOTE: Situations such as this are when it pays to purchase your own uninsured and underinsured policies.


Depending on your situation and your insurance company, you might have to pay your insurance deductible before you’ll receive payment on your claim.

However, if you’re found not at fault, you might be able to get your deductible back through subrogation. Simply put, subrogation means your auto insurance company gets recovers the money it paid you on your claim from the other driver’s insurer (once it was determined you were not at fault).

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