The Dallas Morning News published an article in February 2010 of insurance don’ts that I filed away because it’s worthy of being repeated. This list applies to both car and home insurance claims, so let’s take a look at 7 things to avoid doing.
Assume it’s Nothing: You’re in an accident. You get out of the car, maybe there’s some scuffed paint, a small dent, or your bumpers hit and there’s no obvious damage. Don’t assume there’s no damage. Just because you can’t see it doesn’t mean there isn’t any. Get all the information needed to file a claim including driver’s name, driver’s license number, make of car, and insurance information. Then have your car checked out by your mechanic because you don’t want to be driving with a cracked axle or bent frame. That’s not safe for you or your family.
Be Embarrassed: Get the information you need to pursue a claim. If they are unwilling to provide it, call the police as Texas law requires they provide it. Use your smartphone’s camera and take pictures of the damage and anything that supports your claim. If police show up, be sure to request a copy of the police report. This may be helpful in supporting your claim and showing it’s not your fault.
Apologize: Don’t admit fault or apologize for the accident. Whoever apologizes is admitting fault and it will be their insurance that will pay for damages. There are instances where fault is not easily determined and that’s best left to your claims adjuster. Let them determine that for you.
Pick the Tow Truck that Shows Up: Don’t hire any tow truck that shows up to the accident scene. While most are licensed, some aren’t and their rates may be a shocker. If your policy has roadside assistance coverage or you have a service like AAA, call them. They’ll send out a licensed tow truck and there won’t be any surprises on the rate.
Start Home Repairs or Clean up Immediately: Just because you had a water leak, don’t start pulling up carpet and padding and hauling it out to the curb. If at all possible, wait to start repairs after the claims adjuster has reviewed everything. You’ll put yourself in a better position to collect the full amount you’re entitled to. If you have to start repairs immediately such as repair broken windows or a hole in the roof, take pictures to thoroughly document your claim and keep copies of all receipts. If you’re not sure whether you should file a claim, get 2 or 3 estimates and compare the cost of repairs to your home policy’s deductible. That will answer most questions.
Say “Flood” or “Whiplash”: If you’re water heater fails and dumps several inches of water in your home, that’s not a flood. A flood officially occurs when water from rising creeks, streams, rivers, or lakes enters the home from outside. If you’re rear ended, a sore neck does not automatically indicate whiplash. Only a physician can determine whether or not your sore neck is officially whiplash. These words can raise a red flag for insurance fraud, lead to an investigation, and slow your claim being paid.
Fail to Document Your Belongings: Most people could not remember everything they own if it were suddenly lost in a fire or major storm. Take the time to document what you own. Keep receipts of all major purchases (furniture, jewelry, electronics, etc.) and take digital pictures with your smartphone or digital video camera. The receipts will help you with the replacement cost and the pictures or video will help you remember what you owned. Together, both will assist you in the claims process.
There was one recommendation in the original article I disagreed with, and that was to not buy roadside assistance (towing, unlock a car, change a flat, etc.) from your insurer. The reasoning was if you filed a claim for a tow, your rate would increase on the renewal. That’s not true. Insurance rates aren’t static, they change and they do so for a variety of reasons. Having one tow claim is not going to impact your rate. You could have no claims, towing or otherwise and still see your rate increase due to what’s going on in your market area.
What do you think? Share your questions, comments, or experiences with us in the comments section of our blog or on our Google + and Facebook pages. We’ll all learn something from each other.