Adulting 101: Dealing with Insurance Post-Car Accident

In “Adulting 101”, Annie and Juliet cover topics that they wish they knew going into adulthood (like retirement savings), as well as topics they want to learn more about (like recycling). Check out other posts here.

This is a follow-up to a previous Adulting 101 post: Dealing with Car Accidents in the US.

Let’s catch up: the short version of the story is that I was a victim of a hit-and-run. Not all insurance companies work the same way as my insurance company, but I am going to make an assumption that this is a gist of what happens. There are also a lot of new auto insurance companies disrupting the industry, and I am also not certain how they operate.

Picking up where the last post ended –

1. Call your insurance company, and they will assign you claims specialist.

Your insurance company needs to figure out what you need within two categories: auto and medical. I was assigned two field agents (I’m not sure if that is the right terminology for what they do): Williams was my auto field agent, and Amy was my medical field agent.

2. Direct medical fees to your medical field agent (Amy).

I am going to a chiropractor right now to fix me. What I am working on with the chiropractor can be a completely different blog post, but you need to know that there are chiropractors who specialize in auto accident injuries. Look for them.

My insurance is covering $2,000 worth of medical costs – this money can be paid out whether or not I was at fault for an accident. (In this case, I was not at fault… that kid and his family are a bunch of dirtbags.) Be sure to have your car accident claim number and contact information of your medical agent. Medical institutions should direct all payment towards the agent.

In cases where you still need treatment but the allocation has been used up, the medical institution would request payment from the other party. In my case where it’s a hit-and-run… I will have no luck.

3. Get a valuation of your car from the auto field agent (William).

William’s job is to figure out whether the car is worth fixing or not from the insurance company’s point of view. He has a checklist. Some things that he looks at (and takes pictures of):

  • Visible outer damage
  • Odometer
  • The thing near the driver seat
  • Under the hood – How does the engine look? Battery? All the other stuff?
  • Car specifications – Is there a sunroof? Power or manual windows? Power or manual wipers? CD and tape cassette players? Storage compartments?
  • And a couple more things

He sends off his initial assessment and pictures to a third-party, who will give a final valuation of what the car is worth. My car had a valuation of about $4,000.

William also sends the pictures to junk yards and finds the highest bidder for the car. The highest offering for my car was about $900.

Some tips from William:

  • Before anybody from the insurance arrives to inspect your car, clean it up a bit (vacuum and wipe down outside of car). This is cause the third-party is only relying on photos, so you want to present as best as you want and hopefully get a little higher valuation.
  • It’s important to get your engine and battery cleaned every year. This way there are no leaks and your car can last longer. He said the estimated price for this service is $100.

4. Decide whether you want to keep the car within 10 days of getting car valuation.

Refreshing memories: my car’s final valuation was $4,000 and salvage value was $900.

If you want to keep the car:

  1. The insurance company will pay you final valuation minus salvage value: $4,000 – $900 = $3,100.
  2. The insurance company lets the local DMV know that your car needs a salvage title. If you try to sell a car with a salvage title, it lets buyers know that your car is a piece of junk or is a fixer-upper.
  3. Within 30 days, you must get all the important parts of the car fixed; have a certified body shop verify the safety and drivability of the car; and go to the DMV to get a salvage title for the car.
  4. Take off collision coverage on your insurance policy – you do not need it as it is already damaged, so don’t pay for that premium.

If you do not want to keep the car:

  1. The insurance company will pick up the car and give you the money.
    • If it turns out that the insurance company cannot legally take your car – in my instance, it’s because my uninsured motorist claim has a cap of $3,500, and my car was valued at $4,100 – you should contact the auto field agent (William) who helped get a salvage value for your car and get the junk traders information. Why? Because they probably gave you the best salvage value for your car.
  2. Take off the car from your insurance policy.

Related resources about car insurance:


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