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ISSUED 2/11/2011 FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

ALWAYS DRIVE CAREFULLY BUT MAKE SURE YOU ARE PREPARED JUST IN CASE SNOW-COVERED ROADS LEAD TO AN ACCIDENT

Accidents are often on the upswing during the winter and it’s no surprise since snow and ice-covered roads test even the most skilled drivers. So, it’s essential that motorists understand what to do in the unfortunate event that they are involved in an accident.

“It’s always important to drive carefully and to be particularly cautious during bad weather. It’s also important to know how to file a claim just in case you’re in an accident or your car is damaged in some other manner. Knowing how to use your insurance can go a long way in helping you avoid unnecessary problems,” Insurance Superintendent James Wrynn said.

Motorists should always have their insurance identification cards on hand, as well as the phone numbers of their insurance company and agent, Wrynn said.

In addition, he urged motorists to keep these pointers in mind in the event they need to file a claim:

  • After taking care of any injuries first, report the accident to police regardless of the circumstances and find out how to get a copy of the police report.
  • Write down the names, addresses, phone number of the other drivers involved, as well as those of any passengers or witnesses. Always write down the make, model and license plate numbers of the other vehicles.
  • Ask to see the other driver’s insurance card to get the name of his or her insurance company and the policy number.
  • Ask to see the other driver’s license and write down the license number.
  • If possible, photograph the accident scene.
  • Notify your insurance agent or company as soon as possible, even if you believe you are not at fault.

After filing a claim, policyholders have the right to choose where they want to have their vehicles repaired. Insurers may ask policyholders whether they want recommendations on where to have car repairs made. However, insurers cannot require policyholders to use particular shops.

If the cost of repairing a car is greater than its value, an insurer may choose to declare the vehicle a total loss. The insurer is required to pay you the value of the vehicle at the moment before the crash.

Insurers may determine value in several ways, but policyholders should always independently research auto values before agreeing to a settlement. If you don’t agree with the insurance company’s offer, you should try to negotiate a settlement with the company.

Consumers who need help understanding their insurance needs should contact their insurance agent, broker or company. They should also feel free to use Insurance Department resources. Detailed information about personal auto insurance, including coverage for rental cars, is on the Department’s website at http://www.ins.state.ny.us/cauto.htm.

Consumers may also speak with Consumer Services Bureau personnel between 9 a.m. and 5 p.m., Monday through Friday toll-free at 800-342-3736.

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