The moments right after you’ve been in an accident can be hugely stressful. You’re not sure you’re all right or whether others involved are all right.
You try to remember what information you should collect, whom to notify and what follow-up steps you should take. It seems as though a mountain has been put in front of you and you need to start climbing.
At such a time it would be a real help to have a checklist. You can prepare one, either on paper or electronic versions on some phones, so that you’ll be ready if an accident happens.
The National Association of Insurance Commissioners, or NAIC, has drawn up such a checklist, called Wreck Check. It can be printed from NAIC’s website (www.naic.org), where you can also find information about the free mobile versions.
You prepare the checklist by filling in your vehicle information (make, model, vehicle identification number) and your insurance data (carrier, policy number, agent’s name and phone number). When an accident happens, you don’t have to waste time — the basics are in place.
You’re ready to begin collecting the pertinent information about the accident: time, place, license plate of other vehicle(s) involved, damage to the vehicles and damage to any property. Take note if there are injuries, and if emergency responders such as fire or ambulance personnel are involved, get that recorded as well.
Maine law requires you to report an accident that results in bodily injury, death, or apparent property damage of $1,000 or more. Maine law also states that someone involved in an accident may ask to see the other driver’s license. Do not allow anyone to photograph your license “for the sake of convenience.” If that data falls into the hands of an identity thief, you could be in for a series of headaches. You also don’t need to swap addresses, and phone numbers are seldom needed. Use your prepared information and keep your identity safe.
A police-prepared accident report is not always necessary for filing an insurance claim, but police should be notified of any accident. Even if they don’t respond, you may want to turn over your information to an officer so an incident report can be generated for insurance purposes.
A related kind of checklist is available from the Consumer Federation of America, or CFA, at www.consumerfed.org. It’s titled “Guide to Navigating the Auto Claims’ Maze: Getting the Settlement You Deserve.” It contains lots of useful advice, including reporting the accident to your carrier as soon as possible (they can’t start to work on paying you until they know what happened). The guide also notes it’s your choice — not the insurer’s — where the repair work is done.
The other driver’s insurance company might ask you to make a recorded statement; think carefully before agreeing. Insurers often transcribe such statements, which could be used against you later on. While CFA recommends against allowing a recording to be made, you should certainly cooperate with the insurer in providing information.
There are also tips on getting the kind of settlement you want. If there’s a problem, you may want to go higher up the food chain than a claim adjuster’s supervisor to resolve your concerns. Filing a complaint with the Maine Bureau of Insurance is an option if you aren’t satisfied with the insurers’ solutions. Bureau personnel can also assist consumers with insurance-related questions (www. http://www.maine.gov/pfr/insurance, 1-800-300-5000).
Consumer Forum is a collaboration of the Bangor Daily News and Northeast CONTACT, Maine’s all-volunteer, nonprofit consumer organization. For assistance with consumer-related issues, including consumer fraud and identity theft, or for information, write Consumer Forum, P.O. Box 486, Brewer 04412, visit http://necontact.wordpress.com or email firstname.lastname@example.org.