2008 Insurance Guide
insurance
20 things to know about auto insurance

15. Call your agent soon after an accident. "Most insurance companies have time limits, usually 48 hours," says Worters. If you want to be certain the company will cover your accident, make that call a priority.

16. When you make a claim, start a file. Include a copy of your accident or incident report. Write down your policy number and your claim number. The latter can be the "key to the vault" when it comes to getting information from your insurer, says Hungelmann.

Also vital is the name of your claims adjuster and a cell phone number. Typically, an adjuster is "next to impossible to reach because he's out in the field," says Hungelmann. And get the supervisor's name and number, too. "Every adjuster has a supervisor," says Hungelmann. "They just don't tell the customer that."

Supervisors are "rarely out in the field," he says. So he or she "will be able to help you with your claim."

17. Do your part in furthering the claims process. Every company has its own system, and the amount of damage to your car can impact the process, too.

Some companies could ask you to get a couple of estimates, but most have preferred shops that they work with and trust, says Hungelmann. Usually, you'll have a choice of several in your area, he says.

This can be beneficial if the shop uncovers hidden damage that wasn't included in the estimate. The shop will usually phone the company directly, get an OK, fix it, "and you won't have to get involved," says Hungelmann. Many times, if you go with the recommended shop, you will also get a guarantee on the repairs good for the life of the car, he says.

But you have the option of taking the car wherever you want, he says. "And it's up to the insurance company to work out the price with the shop."

18. Include everything in your loss estimates. For instance, if your car is totaled, you may be entitled to recover the sales tax and registration fees for your replacement car. Contact your agent and your state insurance department to find out what you should include in your estimates.

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