How to Open a Property Damage Claim

Opening a property damage claim

If you have been involved in a car accident, it is likely that your vehicle has been damaged as well. While focusing on your physical recovery and treatment is important, ensuring that your vehicle is repaired and safe to drive is essential to being able to get back on your feet and return to your normal life.

It is often difficult to balance the importance of seeking medical treatment with the need to have your vehicle repaired. Moreover, if your car is severely damaged, it may not be safe to drive, and you may not be able to get to your doctor appointments. As such, it is important to report the accident and your property damage to the car insurance company as soon as possible.

If you are unable to identify or locate information for the at-fault driver’s insurance company, consider reporting and opening a claim for property damage with your own car insurance. If you do open a claim with your own car insurance, please be sure to let them know that you will be trying to locate and identify the at-fault driver’s car insurance company.

Nevertheless, it is important to report your accident to your own insurance company for several reasons:

  • Many insurance companies require that their insured report involvement in any accidents.
  • Your insurance company will be prepared to help if the at-fault driver does not have insurance or if their insurance has lapsed.
  • Your insurance company will be prepared to investigate the claim if the other insurance company denies liability for the accident and claims it was you that caused the collision.

Open a claim with at-fault insurance

Once you have let your own auto insurance company know that you were involved in an accident, it is time to open a property damage claim with the insurance company of the driver who caused the accident. After you are involved in an accident, the investigating police officer that comes to the accident scene will create a Driver Exchange Form for each person involved in the accident. This form includes contact information for each party involved in the accident as well as their auto insurance policy information. If there are more than two cars involved in the accident, the officer should provide you with each car’s information.

It is recommended that you open liability claims with each at-fault driver involved in the collision. It is likely that only one driver will be determined to be at-fault for the accident, but by opening claims with each at-fault driver’s insurance, you are ensuring that the accident will be investigated by all of the responsible insurance companies.

In order to open a liability claim, you should call the insurance company’s phone number for opening claims. We have provided a list of these phone numbers for common auto insurance companies in North Carolina here. If you have access to the police report for the accident, you may want to use it while opening the claim. Accident reports are usually created within 10 days after the accident.

Once you locate the insurance company’s phone number, call them and you will be directed to a claims representative that can help you to open the claim. Give them any information that is available on the Driver Exchange Form and the police report, if it is available.

If the claims representative asks you a question you do not know the answer to, it is OK to say you are not sure or that you don’t know. Be careful to stick to the facts of the accident and do not provide any information beyond the mechanics of the accident and the information listed on the police report.

For example, if the representative asks you to describe how the accident occurred, you can simply say, “Your insured rear-ended me at a stop light,” without providing further details. If you were injured in the accident and plan to open a personal injury claim, it is recommended that you be cautious when revealing any information about your injuries to the person opening the claim.

In the event that you call the at-fault insurance company and are informed that the driver is not insured with that company or has a lapsed insurance policy, you will need to find out if the driver has any other automobile insurance. Regardless, make sure you get whatever the insurance company says in writing.

Additionally, you may want to call the North Carolina DMV and inquire as to whether the other driver was registered under any other auto insurance policy besides the one on the police report. If there is no insurance coverage on the part of the at-fault driver, you may consider opening an Uninsured Motorist claim under your own auto insurance policy.

Once the representative has enough information from you to officially open the claim, they will assign your case to a claims adjuster. This adjuster will be the main person you speak to regarding your property damage from this point forward. Before you end the call with the representative, be sure to ask for the claim number and adjuster’s contact information for your reference.

Working with the adjuster

After an adjuster has been assigned to your claim, he or she will contact you to begin the property damage claim process. First, the adjuster must attempt to determine if their client or insured was liable for the accident. They may ask you some questions about how the accident occurred as well as read through the police report. Once liability has been accepted, the adjuster will need to assess your vehicle for damage caused by the accident and will have questions for you, such as:

  • Where is your car located?
  • How did the accident occur?
  • Is the vehicle drivable, or was it towed from the scene of the accident?
  • Did the airbags deploy during the collision?
  • What was the extent of the damage to the car? Was there any damage to personal belongings inside the car?
  • Did you sustain any injuries as a result of the accident?

It is essential to understand that, although the insurance adjuster wants to help you repair your vehicle as quickly as possible, they are still working for the at-fault insurance company and do not have your best interest at heart.

Therefore, be careful to stick to the facts of the accident when asked and do not reveal any information about your injuries or treatment (if applicable). Answer the questions they ask that are related to property damage simply and factually. If the claims adjuster asks for a recorded statement, you should refuse politely to make a statement at that time and consider consulting with an experienced personal injury lawyer as soon as possible, as such a statement could later be used against you. However, there are certain circumstances in which you are required by law to give a recorded statement or examination under oath. More information about these requirements can be found here.

Now that the claim is opened, the insurance adjuster should work with you to get your vehicle repaired or replaced, depending on the extent of the damage. For further information related to handling your property damage claim, see our articles on Property Damage or refer to our DIY Guide to Property Damage Claims.

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