How To File An Auto Insurance Claim In Pennsylvania
There are few processes Pennsylvania citizens love less than filing auto owners insurance claims. The process is often more complicated than necessary, taking up more time than it should. While every insurer likely has its own internal procedures for handling accident and disaster claims, as a policyholder, you should understand the basics. The claims process often involves at least eight steps. Knowing the information and routines required in each part of the process allows for greater understanding and less aggravation when all is settled.
Find Your Information
The primary concern for any policyholder before filing a claim is to locate the necessary policy information. When making a claim, you will need to know the name of the insurance company and agent. You will also need to locate the correct customer service line to avoid time-consuming transfers and waits. Finally, you will need to have your policy and account number on hand for the claims representative. It is wise to keep all insurance forms in a safe and permanent location within your home to ensure quick retrieval and access when necessary.
Understand Your Coverage
It is crucial to understand your policy agreement. Your agreement is a contract between the insurance company and yourself. It will outline the extent of your coverage and spell out your liabilities through deductible arrangements. If you are unclear on anything within your plan, talk to your insurance agent. Be sure to receive clear and direct answers to your questions. You want to understand your policy, so there is no question about coverages later on. Do not wait to get clarification during the claims process.
Know the Timeframe
There is a timeframe for filing insurance claims, but it varies from policy to policy. Make sure to receive clarification about filing deadlines to avoid any costly missteps. Once notified, the insurer has a total of ten days to get you the necessary claim forms. File the forms as quickly as possible, but make sure that all information is correct before submitting, inaccurate information can cause delays. Before deciding on your claim, the insurance company will inspect the damage, typically within 48 hours of filing.
Keep Accurate Records
Your responsibility as a policyholder is to mitigate further loss and keep accurate records. Make a list of every person you talk to about your claim, including the date and times of contact. Photograph the damage for proof of loss. Save all receipts, estimates, and documents received for the repair of your vehicle. Do not throw away any damaged property or make permanent repairs until the agent inspects the damage. You can make minor or temporary repairs to prevent more damage, but keep receipts and take pictures of the damage before any repair.
Settle With Your Insurer
In most cases, your insurance company will respond to your claim within a week, after considering the inspection report from the insurance adjuster. Pennsylvania requires insurance companies to respond within 15 business days, by law. However, while there is a strict timeline for accepting or denying a claim, an insurer may need more time, depending on the complexity of the claim or veracity of the report.
Allow for Additional Time
Questionable or complicated claims may require more than the standard 15-day allotment for a decision. Insurance companies can request more time, but they must stipulate the reasons for the delay. They must also notify the policyholder. Unfortunately, a decision can be postponed for some time. Still, you must be notified of the status of an ongoing investigation 30 days from the initial claim, and then every 45 days after that. If you are frustrated or do not understand the delay, you can contact the Pennsylvania Insurance Department to discuss the reason for the delay.
Understand Potential Denials
Sometimes, you will receive a denial of your claim. There is any number of reasons for a claim denial, but you should get a letter explaining the reasoning. Make sure the written notice you receive uses specific policy language to describe the denied claim. You will also want to contact your insurance agent with any questions you may have. It is vital you understand why your insurer is denying coverage. You want to make sure that they are adhering to the contract you signed.
Work With a Reputable Repair Shop
Regardless of the ruling on your claim, you want to work with a reputable repair and autobody shop. Your insurer will only approve a claim for the limits in your policy, and then they may not supply the maximum funds. Working with an experienced and professional repair shop means finding a company that will help you make the most of your repair budget, ensuring you leave the garage with a safe and reliable vehicle.