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You’ll never forget your first fender bender — especially if the car you’re driving is the very first one you’ve owned. But once you get over the initial shock of the accident and make sure everyone involved is OK, it’s important that you get the insurance claims process going promptly to avoid any additional hassle.

Two cars involved in a fender bender.

Knowing what to do at the scene of the accident is an important part of filing a claim and, according to the Insurance Information Institute (III), it can help speed things along when you do. Here are some basic steps to take at the scene:

Call the police to report the accident and any injuries. The police may send out an officer, or direct you to the station to file a report. Be sure to ask how you can get a copy of the report (your insurance company will likely need it). Exchange information and take notes. Share insurance, contact and vehicle information with any other drivers. And then snap pictures, note accident details, and jot down the names and numbers of any witnesses. (Your notes can be particularly important when the other person is at fault, according to Consumer Reports.) Protect your car from further damage. Get your car off the road, if possible, or set up flares to alert other drivers to your position, the III says. Call your insurance agent as soon as possible — regardless of who’s at fault. Even someone who appears unhurt may sue you, the III says, which can put your insurer at a disadvantage if it’s caught off guard. Your agent will ask a few questions, explain what your policy covers and what deductible you’ll have to pay. Then, typically, you’ll have to fill out a claims form.

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What to Expect After You File a Claim

Reporting the accident to your agent will get the claims process going. Many companies have a website where you can monitor the progress of your claim, but here’s how it typically goes:

Call your insurance company. It is important to notify your insurance company right away so they can set up a claim for you and start the investigation into your accident and damages as soon as possible. Get an estimate. You will need to have the cost to repair your vehicle estimated. The insurance company may direct you to one of their drive-in locations, a specific repair shop, or send an adjuster out to look at your vehicle. Choose a repair facility. If you don’t have a shop in mind, you can ask your insurer for a recommendation. But remember that the choice of a repair shop is ultimately up to the insured. Pay your deductible. You’ll have to pay the deductible on your policy before your insurance will kick in for repair costs. But if the other driver was responsible for the accident, your insurer may be able to pursue that party to recover your deductible (state laws vary on how this is done).

An accident is never any fun. And, yes, it can temporarily take the bloom off having a new car. But getting a claim filed promptly and properly can help you get your baby back out on the road quicker, so you can enjoy that new-car feeling again.


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