Last updated on February 15, 2019 by Accident Monitoring Team
Getting a car insurance inspection after an accident, and everything that follows afterward is part of what can be a confusing process. This is often even more difficult for you if you’ve been injured in the same accident that damaged your car, as you might have lots of other things on your mind as well.
Despite that, your insurance company is still going to need to inspect your car after it’s been involved in an accident. This is an important step in getting your car repaired or replaced, so here’s what you can expect, and what you need to know about the entire process.
No two car accidents are ever alike. As a result, there are numerous variables that can affect the entire process of getting a car insurance inspection after an accident. Between having your vehicle repaired or replaced, dealing with lost wages as a result of recovering from injuries received during the accident, and everything else that goes along with the wake of a traffic collision, there’s almost never a cut and dry example of what will happen afterward.
That being said, there are a number of things that will need to be resolved after a car accident, and these things are universal enough to provide some useful background that can help you prepare for any eventuality. These elements common enough to have at least a few occur if you ever end up in an accident yourself.
Whose Fault Is It, Anyway?
One of the most important things to determine, especially in states that do not have “no fault” insurance, is which driver was responsible for the accident occurring. Once fault is decided, it makes a major difference in whose insurance company foots the bill for compensating others for injuries and damage.
It’s often that getting a car insurance inspection after an accident can help determine fault. Based on the damage your vehicle sustained, and where the damage occurred, this information can help back up a claim against an at-fault driver. This is especially true in the context of things like police reports, accident photos, and eyewitness accounts. Comparing the damage done to your vehicle to that done to the other car or cars involved in the accident can also help corroborate your version of events.
What Happens When It’s the Other Driver’s Fault
Determining fault is important because this can affect how much reimbursement you get from the at-fault driver’s insurance. Unfortunately, in some cases, the amount of money you’re entitled to is limited by the extent of that driver’s policy. In other words, if the at-fault driver has maximum cover for just $10,000 in property damage, repairs that cost over and above that amount will not be covered by the at-fault driver’s policy.
This is why it’s important to ensure that your own insurance coverage is sufficient enough to bridge the gap between damage done to your vehicle and the financial responsibility of the at-fault driver’s insurer. There are a number of ways to do this, which include purchasing underinsured or uninsured motorist coverage. Maintaining collision and comprehensive insurance can also help cope with costs over and above the policy limits of an at-fault driver.
Sometimes, You’re the One At Fault
It might not be a pleasant thought, but there’s always a chance that you’ll be the one making a mistake behind the wheel. If an investigation of an accident raises suspicions that you might be at fault, and the results of your car insurance inspection after an accident reinforce those suspicions, you (and your insurance company) may be on the hook to pay for any damages that occurred during the accident.
There are a number of ways that you could be determined to be at fault. They include:
- Causing the car accident directly, through action or inaction
- Causing an accident to not just another vehicle but any other inanimate object
- An accident happening while your vehicle was stationary
- An accident happening to your vehicle while it was unattended
In these instances, there are some options open to you. You can have your insurance company pay for the damages up to and including your policy limits. Be aware that this means you’ll need to pay for the repairs of not just any vehicles you’ve damaged but your own car as well. This is, of course, why many motorists pay for comprehensive or collision coverage as well. Bearing that (and this is not necessarily a recommended option), you can pay some, or even all, of the damages out of pocket directly.
The Benefits of Collision and Comprehensive Coverage
While there are exceptions to this rule, collision coverage is an excellent way to help you pay for at-fault accidents. This means that if you’re responsible to pay for the repairs to other vehicles, or if your vehicle was the only one involved in the accident, collision coverage can help you cope with those costs.
Comprehensive coverage works in a similar manner, though it’s more specific: it can aid in covering car repair costs when your vehicle was parked and unattended when the accident occurred. If a thunderstorm brought down a tree branch on your hood, or if hailstones cracked your windshield, comprehensive coverage is one likely way to help pay for repairing such damage.
Like most insurance coverage, relying on either collision or comprehensive cover might require you to pay a deductible. Both forms of cover are often optional, though if you’re still financing your vehicle it’s often a requirement of the payment agreement to maintain both collision and comprehensive. This is as much to reduce the burden on them as it is to help you in the event of an accident.
The Steps to Making Insurance Claims
It’s time to directly discuss what happens during an accident claim process. Again, this is a generalized outline, as each accident, and each claim, can and will be different. However, these are the most common steps you’ll encounter.
The Insurance Inspection
Inspections are often the very first step of the car insurance claim process. Whether it’s suspected that you were at fault or if the other driver, if there is one, caused the accident, every vehicle involved in a collision needs to be thoroughly inspected by an insurance company representative.
In many cases, a car insurance inspection after an accident is performed by a trained inspector that works directly for the insurance company. In other instances, an insurer will accept a report filed by a mechanic from an auto body or repair shop. Insurers sometimes like to work with specific repair shops, so you may need to check with your insurance company to find out which auto body shop they’re affiliated with in your area.
Estimating the Damage
Once your car has been inspected and documented sufficiently, your insurance company will now go through the process of determining how much it will cost to repair all the damage your vehicle sustained. This process often occurs either during the inspection or right after it, as it also requires a trained inspector or auto repair shop mechanic.
It’s important to point out that a mechanic and an insurance inspector might not see eye-to-eye on the cost of repairing your vehicle. This often results in the two discussing the difference and working together to find an estimation that seems fair to both of them. This doesn’t always happen, though — something that’s covered below.
Paying for Repair Costs
After inspections and estimates have been finalized, it’s time to determine who’s going to foot the bill for the repair work on your vehicle. If you’re at fault, it will be your insurer paying out; if there was another motorist responsible for the accident, it will be their insurance provider writing the check. Wherever the money is coming from, you do have some options as to what you want to do. These options include putting your own money down first and waiting for the insurer to repay you, or waiting for the insurance company to cut a check to the repair shop.
Each approach has distinct benefits and drawbacks. Paying out of pocket first could leave you at a disadvantage if the insurer and the auto repair shop don’t agree on the total repair cost. Having the insurer pay the repair shop directly may not always be an option, as each insurer has differing repair policies. Make sure to check ahead of time with the insurance company before making a final decision.
When Things Don’t Go Smoothly
As mentioned above, sometimes an insurer won’t agree with a damage estimate conducted by an auto repair shop. It often doesn’t matter if it’s your own insurance company or someone else’s — every insurer is going to want to spend as little as possible on repairs, no matter what. This means you might end up in a dispute with the insurer when it comes to how much they’re willing to pay to cover repair costs.
If you find yourself in such a situation, it’s always a good idea to have a lawyer on your side. In addition, you have the following options:
- Mediation – an attempt that uses an unbiased third party to lead a discussion between all parties that satisfies everyone.
- Arbitration – like arbitration, but the third party makes a legally binding decision that you are compelled, as a matter of law, to agree with.
- A court trial – as a final alternative, you (and your attorney) can rely on the decision of a judge when it comes to the amount of money you’re owed. In the case that your claim also encompasses personal injury elements, you may have a jury present as well.