WHEN AND WHY SHOULD I FILE A CLAIM?
Before reaching for the phone to submit a claim against your insurance policy, you need to make sure you have all applicable information available and ready. The first thing you should do is assess the damage to make sure that the cost of repair will exceed your deductible. This will most likely require the expertise of a professional. Plan a trip to your local body shop for an estimate, or have a professional repair person come to the property for an analysis of the damage. Generally speaking, the time you spend researching may end up saving you hundreds in potentially increased insurance costs. If the cost of repair is less than your deductible, there is no need to file a claim.
However, if another person is injured, and/or property that does not belong to you is damaged, you should always file a claim and your insurance company needs to know about this accident as soon as possible.
WHEN SHOULD A POLICE REPORT BE FILED?
In Texas most cities now follow the rule of thumb that should your car remain in driving condition, and there were no injuries as result of the accident, the police will not respond to the accident site to complete a report. Instead, the police dispatcher you talk with will most likely advise you to move your vehicles to a safe place and exchange insurance information with everyone involved. Because of this, it is important to make sure you do the following in these situations:
· Ask to see their proof of insurance and driver’s license. DO NOT trust unverified information, or simply take their word that they are insured.
· Have the other person call your cell number and leave you a message so that you will have a verifiable phone number.
· Write down the license plate number of the other vehicle to be able to verify the registered owner if needed.
· Try to collect the names and contact information of independent, unbiased eye witnesses who might be able to verify your account of the incident.
· Keep this Auto Accident Report Form handy in case of an accident
If your car is not drivable or you are not sure of its driving condition, let the police know you are unsure if you can safely operate the vehicle and it may need to be towed. When an officer is dispatched to the scene to take the report, keep in mind that the police officer is not an eye witness to the accident. Therefore, the report is just a summary of information gathered by the officer and will not be considered a valid determination of who is at fault. The officer may indicate his opinion of of who was at fault in the incident, and may report any factors discovered during questioning of one or more drivers in the accident.
A filed police report can be of great benefit when available, as the incident is recorded by a professional immediately after it has occurred. When no report is filed, it is common for stories to change and become convoluted or exaggerated over time. So, respective insurance adjusters commonly trust the word of their insured party, and may deny your claim based on lack of provable information.
Cell phones can be an extremely powerful tool in these cases as the majority of phones on the market today come equipped with video recording capability. Immediately after an accident has occurred, check to make sure that no one is injured. Then, before any vehicle is moved from the scene, try to video record the location of all vehicles, and try to interview the other driver on video if they’re cooperative; especially if they are admitting fault. NEVER engage if the other driver is agitated or aggressive.
HOW MUCH IS MY DEDUCTIBLE?
In Texas, almost all companies now require the deductible on wind, hail and/or wind-driven rain is no less than 1% of the dwelling coverage amount. So, on a dwelling with an estimated value of approximately $275,000, the deductible would be a minimum of $2,750.
Many homeowners know they have a large deductible as part of their policy; however, they may not realize their deductible has risen over time or due to an increase in the property value. Therefore, minor wind or hail storms may not cause damage to your roof that exceeds the deductible, and as such, a claim should not/cannot be filed. It is important to have a contractor check the extent of your damage before filing an unnecessary claim.
Auto claim deductibles are often a bit more cut and dry as vehicles depreciate over time, so the deductible on the policy is usually a set number versus a variable percentage of value.
If you are unsure of the amount of your deductible, contact your agent. He or she will be able to help you determine the amount of your deductible, as well as whether or not filing a claim is necessary.