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A car accident is a frightening and overwhelming experience, especially when the damage is severe enough to total your vehicle. But what happens when the accident wasn’t your fault? Working with the other driver’s insurance company can be a challenge. Keep reading to find out your next steps after an accident that totals your car.

Exchange Information

After a collision, it’s always best to call the police and exchange information with the other driver(s) involved. The police can arrive on the scene and complete a report that outlines all the details while they’re fresh in everyone’s minds, as well as interview any witnesses to get more information. Responding police officers may also take photos, but you can take photos yourself as well to have for your records. The police report will become critical in determining who is at fault in the accident.

When you exchange information, make sure to get the name of the insurance company that insures the other driver(s), as well as their policy number and agent, if available. You may also want to request their contact information, such as their name and phone number, in case you need to make contact after you disperse from the scene of the collision.

Determining Fault

While the police may make a determination as to who is at fault for citation purposes, the insurance companies will work together to make their own determination as well. In some cases, this determination will not match who law enforcement determines to be at fault. The insurance determination is what matters when it comes to who will pay for the damages.

Filing a Claim

When someone else involved in the accident is deemed to be at fault, the next step is filing a claim with their auto insurance company. This process is called filing a third-party auto claim while filing a claim with your own insurance company is a first-party claim. However, it’s important to check the laws in your state. Some states are considered no-fault states and these states require drivers to file first-party claims with their own insurance companies first.

Should I Call My Insurance Company if I’m Not At Fault?

You may choose to file a claim with your insurance company anyway, as they can become your advocate during the investigation and determination process. If your insurance adjuster determines that the other driver is at fault, they will likely fight the other driver’s insurance company to pay for the damages.

Technically, the at-fault driver is responsible for informing their auto insurance provider of the accident, but some are reluctant to do so as they don’t want their rates to go up. You can always contact the insurance company after the accident to make sure they have reported the situation. When reporting an accident, it’s best to state the facts and avoid bringing your opinion into it. Supply any information you may have gathered, such as photographs, a copy of the police report, and witness statements.

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When Is a Car Considered Totaled?

Insurance companies must determine the total value of the vehicle(s) involved. This value should include any modifications made to the car, such as upgraded wheels or tires, a nicer stereo system, or exterior enhancements for storage purposes.

When calculating the total value of the vehicle, an insurance adjuster will also calculate the total cost associated with all the repairs needed to restore it to its pre-accident state. In order to make this calculation, the vehicle owner will typically have to take it in for an estimate from an auto body shop that is approved by the insurance company. If the vehicle is not safe to drive, the insurance company can arrange for it to be towed from the site of the accident to the auto body shop.

Each state has a law in place that dictates when a car should be totaled. When the total cost of repair amounts to a certain percentage of the vehicle’s total value, the car is totaled based on the state law.

Receiving Compensation

A totaled car often can’t be repaired, so the insurance company of the at-fault driver should provide payment that you can use to purchase another vehicle. The settlement offered may not be enough to replace your car or purchase a similar vehicle, so make sure you understand what the company is offering to you before you accept.

Will the Other Insurance Company Give Me a Rental?

During the waiting period, when the companies are determining fault and reviewing the information, you should be able to get a rental car for as long as it takes to receive the payment. Before obtaining a rental car, make sure to check with the insurance company as they may require you to go through certain providers in order for the cost to be covered.

Will My Premiums Go Up if I Am Not At Fault?

In most cases, your insurance premiums shouldn’t increase after an accident in which you were not found to be at fault. However, if you have to file a claim with your insurance company because the other involved driver left the scene or wouldn’t provide you with their information, you may find that the carrier raises your rate.

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What to Do If the Other Company Won’t Pay

In theory, the other driver’s insurance company should step up and take care of the costs associated with your totaled vehicle, any necessary medical care for injuries sustained, and the rental car you needed to get around during the determination and review period. However, this isn’t always the case. Some insurance companies are more likely to side with their insured individuals, particularly if the story they tell differs from what actually occurred.

If you’re struggling to get an insurance company to pay for the damages associated with an accident in which you weren’t at fault, you can start by involving your own insurance company. Some drivers choose to work with lawyers who specialize in automotive cases, although they will take a portion of the settlement if they win your case.

Dealing with the aftermath of an auto accident is challenging, but your insurance provider can help you through the process. At American Auto Insurance, we provide affordable and highly rated insurance policies to drivers throughout Illinois. Contact us to learn more about obtaining coverage through our company.