How To File Your Claim After A Wreck

Being in an auto accident is one of the most jarring experiences a person can have in a day or even in their life.  From a minor nuisance that takes up valuable time to a life altering situation, car accidents are something everyone tries to avoid, which is why they are called accidents.  We do not intend for them to happen. In fact, according to Forbes magazine, “There are about 10 million accidents of all kinds each year, from parking lot scrapes to multi-car pileups, according to the National Safety Council.”  This means you will have an accident in your life.

Knowing accidents happen and being in one are two different things.  When you are involved in an accident, there may not be time to stop and think.  The first instinct will be the health of everyone involved.

The normal human reaction to any stressful situation such as a car accident is flight or fight.  According to one source, “The fight-or-flight response (also called the fight, flight, freeze, or fawn response in post-traumatic stress disorder, hyperarousal, or the acute stress response) is a physiological reaction that occurs in response to a perceived harmful event, attack, or threat to survival.”  This reaction has existed since the risk of attack from wild animals was real.  Below is a chart of what happens in the body during an accident.



When the body is in peril, such as a car accident, thinking about tasks such as filing insurance claims for property damage or medical bills is nowhere on the flight or fight scale.  Therefore, it is important to know the ins and outs of filing an insurance claim before an accident occurs.  Below are several tips on what and what not do to when filing an insurance claim.

Gather Information

You always want to have the other party’s insurance information.  This is something your insurance company will ask for in order to communicate with the party’s insurance company.  The information will allow them to gather any witness statements, coordinated payments, and work with any legal aspects of the accident.

Write Down What Happened

Being in an accident causes confusion.  The flight or fight response takes over followed by exhaustion.  However, it is very important to document what happened as soon as possible.  If you are not able to physically write down what happened, dictate it to someone and have them write it. This information is critical to your insurance claim.  Your insurance provider will use your statement to determine fault and what they will and will not pay.  This could also be needed for any legal proceedings.

Call Your Insurance Company

This is one of the first calls to make after 911 and family.  Get the information to your insurance company quickly.  This will allow them to start working on your case immediately and get you any financial assistance or damage assistance sooner rather than later.  This could mean helping with medical cost, paying for a rental, or paying to fix the damage to your car. 

Don’t Guess About What Happened

You are going to be angry and will want to talk about what happened.  But, when insurance adjusters, doctors, lawyers, or law enforcement officers ask for your story, stick to the facts.  Guessing or adding emotion only muddies the water. These professionals may be sympathetic, but at the end of the day, they have a job to do, which involves using facts to make important decisions about your case.

Don’t Get Caught Off Guard by an Accident.  Be Prepared by Following These Tips

Don’t Put Off the Car Inspection

If your car was damaged, get it inspected through your insurance.  Even a little bump can cause internal damage to a car.  Plus, the longer you wait, the less important your claim may seem.  In addition, it can take time to for the claims adjuster to get out and see your vehicle, so do not put this off.  Get your car looked at.  This information will also come in handy for any legal proceedings or payment to you if your car is totaled.

Take Pictures

Do not rely on the insurance company to take the best pictures.  They are working on a short timeline, so they may miss something.  Take your own pictures of any damage to you or your car.  You may need these during the claim and/or legal process.

Don’t Hesitate to File a Police Report

The police are there for a reason.  They legally mitigate an accident scene so you do not have to.  Let them handle the gathering of insurance information.  Also, file a police report if you feel there was any negligence involved, or even if you are unsure.  Doing this will keep the law on your side. Plus, the insurance company uses the police reports during the claims process to help figure out fault and payout information.

See a Doctor

You may have been in a minor accident and feel a small pain in the neck that you think will go away.  Do not accept it.  See a doctor as soon as possible after any accident that does not put you in the hospital.  Even if you are in the hospital, you will want to see your doctor for a follow up.  The smallest aches and pains after an accident could be a symptom of something worse like a cracked bone, torn tendon, or whiplash, so do not wait to seek medical attention.  It could save your life.

Hire a Lawyer 

Most lawyers give free consultations.  Take advantage of this.  Even if the accident was minor, you never know what the other party might try to do. Some people like to milk accidents for money or fake injuries.  Although most people are trust worthy, it is not worth finding out the hard way.  Contact a lawyer and find out the full picture of your legal situation.

Know Your Policy

Your insurance policy should be kept somewhere safe, your emergency contacts should know where you keep it, and you want to know as much about this policy as possible.  This is important so you know what you’re entitled to as far as damage coverage, coverage for the other party, medical coverage, claim forms, how to file claims, and much more.  The more you know or, if you can’t personally file your claim, the more the other person helping you knows, the smoother the process and the better the results.  Insurance adjusters handle many claims at once, so you do not want to suffer due to an oversight you could have caught.

Keep Records

Keep track of every step you take in the claim process.  This includes, dates of conversations and actions, documents submitted or received, what you spoke about, next steps, and medical paperwork.  Keep everything in an organized, easy to access place.  You can use an old fashioned paper filing system or, if it is possible, use an electronic system such as Evernote.   Keep these documents and records for at least a year.  Depending on the severity and complexity of your case, you will mostly likely be referring to these documents through the whole claims process.

Don’t Forget, What is in Your Wallet Counts

What is in your wallet can be the difference between confusion and clarity, or life and death at an accident.  When first responders arrive, they are going to need to know basic information such as age, weight, medications taken, and blood type.  Having a card in your wallet with this information is critical to getting the right care. You can create such a card for free.

Likewise, having your insurance information in your wallet and glove compartment is just as important.  This lets the officer process the accident and it is required by law to have your policy in your car in many states.  In addition, in this modern age of smart phones, it is probably a good idea to have your phone passcode on your information card.  Medical or police personal may need to access your phone.

Have an Emergency Contact 

Even though the majority of accidents are not fatal, that does not mean they cannot put you in a state of inability to care for yourself.  Have an emergency contact who has access to your medical and insurance information, including policies and phone numbers. This person may need to do much of the legwork you would do if you were able to care for yourself.  They may also become an advocate for your care, claim, and legal proceedings should your injuries be so severe that they impair your ability to do so.

This may seem like a lot of things to consider.  But, as the saying goes, “Better safe than sorry.”  It is in your best interest to be prepared and know what to do in case of an accident, no matter the severity.  Accidents do happen, and the stress of managing the aftermath can be worse and keep you in fight mode if you are not prepared.

André Bélanger, a graduate of Loyola University, is a highly-respected criminal defense attorney serving the people of Baton Rouge, Louisiana, and surrounding areas of Ascension Parish and New Orleans, for one of Baton Rouge’s top-25 law firms. In his 18 years of practicing law, Mr. Bélanger has handled thousands of criminal cases at both the pre-trial and trial stage, including approximately 200 trials. This trial experience includes homicide defense and prosecution, large drug conspiracies and fraud cases making Bélanger one of the few attorneys capable of handling even the largest, most complex federal cases. Having spent years devoted to developing a top-tier regional law practice for federal court and state court litigation, Mr. Bélanger is admitted to practicing law in all federal courts in both Louisiana, Mississippi, the United States Supreme Court and the U. S. Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals. A strong commitment to the justice system, Mr. Bélanger has begun to forge his trial skills in the criminal courtroom in an effort to establish his own personal injury trial practice. This is a major boon for his clients, as few personal injury “trial attorneys” have appreciable jury trial experience.