You’ve probably heard of people having to wait close to forever to get an insurance claim paid. Maybe you've been in that unfortunate situation yourself. It's never fun having to wait patiently for the money you need to get your life back to normal.
This article will give you suggestions for how to speed up the claims process so you can get paid sooner.
Auto Insurance Claims
What happens at the scene of the accident is probably the most critical part of getting a car insurance claim paid. Assuming you're physically able to after the crash, you need to do the following:
- First and foremost, be safe. It's best to photograph the vehicles before they're moved, but if it's unsafe to leave the vehicles where they are, move them before snapping any pictures of the damage
- If you have a camera, take photos – lots of them. Take shots of every vehicle involved and be sure to get some from all four sides of the vehicles. Step back and take some shots that capture the overall scene. If there are any physical objects that bear on the accident – stop signs, low-hanging tree branches that obscure drivers' view, lamp posts with their lights burnt out – take photos of those, too
- If you don't have a camera but you do have pen and paper, sketch the scene to the best of your ability, including the relevant features mentioned in the previous bullet point
- Get vehicle and driver information from all other drivers involved. Be sure to get the names and numbers on the driver's licenses; the proof of insurance card's number, name of insurer, and telephone number of the insurer; and vehicle registration information
All of this information will help your insurer speed the processing of any claim you make against them (for more detail, see The First Steps You Need to Take After Wrecking Your Car).
Contact Your Insurer Promptly
You will also want to contact your insurer as soon as possible and tell them what happened. Ask them if they want to inspect the vehicle before any repairs are made. Don't make any repairs before you get the go-ahead; otherwise, the insurer could deny the claim or, at the very least, it could be delayed.
Gather the Documents
Further, you need to collect:
- All repair bills for your car or for anything in the car that was damaged (like a laptop or a pair of glasses). Note that some insurers keep lists of preferred repair shops that will charge less and whose bills they'll accept more rapidly. Ask about this when you contact your insurer
- All medical bills that are a result of the accident
- A copy of any police reports
If you don’t submit these items with your claim, it will be held up.
Filing online is often faster than doing so on paper. Like almost everyone else, claims adjusters pay more attention to their email inboxes than their physical mailboxes. To the extent that you can, use the online forms from your insurer's website.
In some cases, a mix of the two approaches might be appropriate. It may be best, for instance, to fill out and submit the online form but follow it up with copies of relevant photographs and invoices sent by courier. But you might also want to scan and send all the documents electronically as well.
While you're online, see if you can find a list of what you are required to submit. Read it carefully and make sure your submission isn't missing anything.
Many insurer websites also allow you to keep track of your claim online. Keep an eye on it so you can spot any problems quickly and deal with them as soon as they arise instead of waiting a week or longer to receive the insurance company's letter in the mail (for related reading, check out 5 Ways New Technology Will Change the Way You Buy Insurance).
Don't Be Afraid to Ask Questions
If you have questions about how to fill out a form or what additional documentation you should send, get in touch with your agent. They're likely your best source of information. The second best source is the insurance company's claims department. After all, they know exactly what they're looking for and can advise you accordingly.
Don't be afraid to ask! It's better to take a little extra time to get it right instead of sending the wrong information or omitting something important.
Call the Adjuster
Finally, if the resolution of your claim is dragging on, don't be bashful about raising the issue. Call the claims adjuster who has been assigned to your case and ask them for the delay. Find out whether there are any problems with your submission and whether you need to supply any additional information (to reduce your odds of needing to file a claim, see 9 Ways to Keep Your Car from Being Stolen).
Homeowner’s and Renter’s Insurance Claims
In general, the same rules apply here as with auto insurance claims:
- Photographs are invaluable
- Online filing is usually faster
- Claims can often be tracked online
- Check with your agent about what to include
But there are a few helpful things you can do that are specific to this type of claim:
- Make a list of everything that was damaged (as a result of fire, water damage, or other causes) or stolen. Don't throw away the damaged items until the insurance company has had an opportunity to inspect them
- If temporary repairs are required – for example, to prevent a damaged roof from letting rain into your home – raise the issue with your insurer. But be proactive, too. You are required to mitigate damages, meaning that you need to protect undamaged property from undergoing later damage as a result of the initial occurrence
Provide the Right Information
Check online for claim forms and talk to your agent or the claims department to find out what information they need. In general, you'll need to provide information on:
- Date of loss
- Type of loss or damage
- Location of damage
- Any related injuries
- Identities of any other people involved
- Condition of the home after the loss
- Descriptions of damaged contents
- Whether temporary repairs are necessary
- Police or fire report, if any
Medical Insurance Claims
One key difference when it comes to filing medical insurance claims is that they are often submitted by your healthcare provider's office (find out How Your Health Insurance Pays Healthcare Expenses). Nevertheless, you are ultimately responsible for the bill and, therefore, have an interest in seeing that it is dealt with promptly.
In general, the following must be included in any submission you make to your insurer:
- Your policy number
- Copies of all related medical bills, including itemized billing information if you were hospitalized and the operative report if you had surgery
- Referring physician information, including name, address, and phone number
- Dates and locations of treatment and diagnoses
- Diagnosis codes (these can be obtained from your doctor)
- A police report if the claim is the result of a motor vehicle accident
Don't wait longer than you have to. Take these proactive steps so you can get the payoff you are owed without any delay.
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Whether you're just starting to look into life insurance coverage or you've carried a policy for years, there's always something to learn.