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Knowing How to Handle Claims Will Help Consumers Avoid Unnecessary Problems

Automobile insurance is a valuable form of financial protection for anyone who drives a car. But it’s essential that motorists understand their auto insurance and know what to do if they must file a claim.

“It’s always important to drive safely, but 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. It will go a long way in helping you avoid unnecessary problems,” New York Insurance Superintendent James Wrynn said.

Wrynn said motorists should always have their insurance identification cards on hand and the phone numbers of their insurance company and agent. In addition, he offered these tips:

If you’re in an accident

  • 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.
  • 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.

Getting your vehicle repaired

Policyholders have the right to choose where they want to have their vehicles repaired after a collision. The insurer may ask policyholders whether they want the insurance company to recommend a collision repair shop, but cannot require policyholders to use that shop.

If there is a total loss

Your insurer may choose to declare the car a total loss if the repair cost is greater than the car’s value. The insurance company 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.

Additional information

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 Consumers may also speak with Consumer Services Bureau personnel between 9 a.m. and 4:30 p.m., Monday through Friday toll-free at 800-342-3736.


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