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Dealing with insurance adjusters after a car accident

Revised December, 2015

A (PDF) printable version of the Automobile Brochure is available

Table of Contents

  • Introduction
  • What to do if there is an accident
  • Things to avoid at the scene of the accident
  • Frequently asked questions
  • Important tips
  • Your rights under the Fair Claims Settlement Practices Regulations
  • Automobile insurance fraud
  • Auto body repair shops
  • Auto replacement parts
  • How to talk to us


Driving on California's highways can be a risky proposition. Whenever you're in a vehicle, there's a chance you'll be involved in a traffic accident. Whether it's a small fender bender or a major injury accident, knowing in advance what to do can help you avoid costly mistakes. This guide discusses what to do after an accident and what to expect when you file an automobile insurance claim with your insurance company. For your convenience, an accident checklist is contained herein which can be kept in your vehicle for future reference.

When purchasing insurance, carefully review the application before signing it to be certain that the coverages, policy limits, and deductibles suit your needs. After you receive the policy, review the declaration page. It contains important information on who is covered, the vehicles insured, as well as the coverage limits and deductibles. Make sure the information is correct and the coverage is what you purchased. If changes are needed, send your request to your agent and/or insurance company in writing and keep a copy. Use "certified mail/return receipt requested" to verify receipt of your letter.

Become familiar with your automobile insurance policy before it's needed. Read the policy thoroughly so you know what is covered and what is excluded.

Some of the Most Frequently Asked Questions About Automobile Insurance Claims are Discussed Below:

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What to Do If There Is an Accident

Q. What Should I Do at the Scene of an Accident?

A. Immediately stop at the scene.

  • Call 911 if there are injuries.
  • Call the police. In some areas police authorities may not come to every accident scene. They may consider factors such as the severity and location of the accident (e.g., some police authorities will not come to the scene if the accident is on private property). However, you should attempt to notify the police. You should also be aware that most policies require notification of police within a specified time period if the accident is a hit and run.
  • Obtain names, addresses, telephone numbers, and driver's license numbers from all drivers. Obtain license plate(s) and vehicle identification numbers. Ask to see driver's license(s) and vehicle registration(s) to verify that the information is accurate.
  • Obtain names, addresses, and telephone numbers of other passengers and any witnesses.
  • If you have a camera, take photographs of the damage, the position of the cars, and the accident scene (e.g., traffic controls, visual obstacles).
  • If the owner of a damaged car or damaged property cannot be located, leave a note with the names and addresses of the driver and owners of the involved cars.
  • Notify your agent and/or your insurance company immediately.
  • If anyone is injured or the vehicle damage exceeds $750.00, you must report the accident to the Department of Motor Vehicles within 10 days. Failure to notify the DMV may result in the suspension of your driver's license.
Things to Avoid at the Scene of an Accident
  • Do not argue with other drivers and passengers. Save your story for the police and your insurance company.
  • Do not sign statements regarding fault or promises to pay for damage.
  • If another party offers to pay your deductible, don't sign anything releasing him or her from further responsibility. By releasing the other party, you jeopardize your insurance company's subrogation right, and the company may refuse to pay for damage to your car.

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Frequently Asked Questions

Q. What Happens After I File the Claim With My Insurance Company?

A. Your insurance company will contact you for additional information, such as a detailed account of the facts, or a written or recorded statement. An examination under oath may be requested. As part of the investigation, other drivers and witnesses may be contacted. If you have medical payments or an uninsured motorist claim, you must provide documentation of your injuries, medical expenses, lost wages, et cetera.

Q. What Should I Do if the Insurance Company Does Not Contact Me?

A. A claim representative should contact you within a reasonable period of time after you report the loss. However under certain circumstances the insurance company can take up to 15 days to contact you. If you do not hear from anyone, call your agent or insurance company for assistance. If they are not responsive, or you believe there is an unreasonable delay in settling your claim, contact the Department of Insurance.

Q. How Does the Insurance Company Evaluate Vehicle Damage?

A. A qualified adjuster or appraiser usually inspects the vehicle damage. The adjuster or appraiser then writes an estimate based on the initial inspection. If further damage is found during the repair process, the shop will contact the insurer to get the additional cost of repairs approved. Keep in mind the insurer may send out an adjuster to re-inspect the additional damages. If the damage is relatively minor, the company may instead ask you to submit competitive repair estimates. Remember, it is your responsibility to sign and authorize the shop to repair your vehicle once you are satisfied with the final estimate and repair facility.

Q. What Will the Company Pay on a Physical Damage Claim Under a Standard Auto Policy?

A. Generally, the company will pay the lesser of

  • The amount necessary to repair the vehicle or
  • The actual cash value (ACV) of the vehicle.Read your policy to be certain of what is and isn't covered. Pay particular attention to exclusions. For example, there is usually no coverage for stereo equipment, a telephone, or tires and wheels unless the equipment was permanently installed by the automobile manufacturer. Coverage is usually available for such special equipment for an extra premium charge.

Q. What Is Actual Cash Value (ACV)?

A. Actual Cash Value - Unless otherwise defined in the policy, actual cash value in California means fair market value. The fair market value of an item is the dollar amount that a knowledgeable buyer (under no unusual pressure) is willing to pay, and a knowledgeable seller (under no unusual pressure) is willing to accept.

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Q. What Is an Appraisal Provision?

A. Most standard policies contain an appraisal provision, which can be helpful in the event that you do not agree with your company on the amount of loss. Read your policy to see if it contains one. Under this provision, either of you can demand an appraisal. Each party selects a competent appraiser. The appraisers then select an umpire. If the appraisers cannot agree on the amount of loss, their differences are submitted to the umpire. An amount that any two agree upon is binding. Each party pays its appraiser; the umpire fee is shared.

Q. How Is the Check or Draft Prepared?

A. The check may be made payable to the insured and any lienholder, such as a bank or finance company. If the vehicle is repaired, the company may also include the repair facility as a payee.

Q. Who Is Responsible for the Balance of a Car Loan?A. The borrower is responsible for the balance of the loan, even if the vehicle is stolen or damaged beyond repair. If your claim payment is less than the loan balance, the lender will expect you to pay the difference. Coverage commonly referred to as "gap" insurance can usually be purchased to protect against this situation.

Q. Will the Company Pay for a Rental Car While Mine is Being Repaired?

A. Yes, if you have purchased rental vehicle coverage. Review your policy before you rent a vehicle. Although policy limits vary, the company pays up to a specified amount per day for a specified number of days. The coverage ends when your vehicle is repaired, the loss is paid or after the specified period, whichever comes first. If your vehicle is stolen, the policy may automatically provide transportation expenses. Again, review your policy to be sure. This type of coverage usually begins 48 hours after the theft and ends when your vehicle is recovered, the loss is paid or after a specified period, whichever comes first.

Q. What Is a Collision Damage Waiver and Will the Company Pay These Charges for the Rental Vehicle?

A. The terms of the rental agreement make the customer responsible for collision damage while he or she has possession of the vehicle. Additionally, rental companies insure themselves for damage to the vehicle caused by collision. For an additional fee, the rental company will waive all or a portion of the customer's obligation to pay repair costs for damage to the vehicle caused by collision. Both the amount of the fee and the language of the waiver vary. Coverage for collision damage to the rental car under your personal automobile policy depends upon the policy language. Read your policy carefully. Ask your agent or company before you rent a vehicle.

Q. What Is the Salvage Value?

A. This is the remaining value of your damaged vehicle if your vehicle is determined to be a total loss. It is usually determined through bids from salvage buyers. The company may sell the salvage to the highest bidder. However, it is not obligated to do so. If you decide to keep the damaged vehicle, the highest salvage bid may be deducted from your settlement. In effect, you are "buying back" your vehicle for the salvage value. If you retain possession of the salvaged vehicle, it is your responsibility to file a salvage certificate with the Department of Motor Vehicles.

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Q. What Is Subrogation?

A. Subrogation is the right of the insurance company to recover from a third party the amount of damages it paid to you. For example, if another party is at fault in an accident that damages your car, and you have a collision claim, your company will ask the other party to reimburse the money it paid on your claim. The policy requires your cooperation with the company's subrogation efforts. Also, you cannot do anything that jeopardizes the company's right of recovery. For example, you cannot sign an agreement releasing the other party in exchange for payment of your deductible.

Q. Is the Company Required to Help Me Recover My Deductible?

A. Yes and no. The insurance company must advise you as to whether or not they intend to pursue subrogation. If the company pursues subrogation, they are required to include your deductible as a part of the process. However, if the company does not pursue subrogation they are required to advise you of that fact so that you may pursue your deductible on your own. If their efforts are successful, in whole or in part, the company will reimburse you in accordance with the recovery. For example, if 100 percent of the paid claim is recovered, you will receive 100 percent of your deductible; if the recovery is 65 percent, you will receive 65 percent of your deductible. Any expenses or fees (e.g., legal fees, incurred by the company in its recovery efforts) will be apportioned between the company and you, if recovery is made. However, if you choose not to have the company include your deductible in its efforts, you can seek recovery directly from the other party on your own. But before you do, discuss the matter with your company to avoid jeopardizing its recovery.

Q. Is the Car Covered Outside of California?

A. Most policies provide coverage in other states, U.S. territories and possessions, and Canada. As is the case in California, many other states and territories have enacted financial responsibility laws requiring drivers to carry a specified amount of automobile insurance to cover losses resulting from ownership or operation of a motor vehicle. If the financial responsibility requipments where you are traveling are higher than your policy limits, your company will meet the higher requirements. Most policies do not provide coverage in Mexico, so if you plan to drive your car there, it's wise to buy that coverage separately. Check your out-of-state coverage before you travel.

California's financial responsibility law is set forth commencing with Section 16020 of the California Vehicle Code. Among other things, it requires all drivers to be able to pay damages resulting from ownership or operation of a motor vehicle. Drivers must show ability to pay damages (called financial responsibility) of at least $15,000 for each person injured or killed in an accident, of at least $30,000 for injury/death to two or more persons in one accident, and of at least $5,000 for property damage from any one accident. If you are cited by a peace officer for any moving violation, or are involved in an accident, you may be asked for written proof of financial responsibility. This can be done by recording the name of your insurance company and policy number on the vehicle registration card issued by DMV. This proof of insurance should be kept in the vehicle or in the driver's wallet or purse so it will be available when driving any car. For further information, contact the CA Department of Motor Vehicles.

Q. What Should Be Done if a Lawsuit (Summons and Complaint) Arises Out of an Accident?

A. Notify your agent and insurance company immediately. Keep a copy for yourself and mail or deliver the original documents to your company. Do not give statements or discuss the accident with anyone except a verified representative of your company. If the lawsuit arises out of a covered loss, your company will provide legal defense.

Q. Is a Newly Acquired Vehicle Covered?

A. Most policies provide 30 days automatic coverage for a vehicle that replaces a vehicle already on your policy. The coverage normally is the same coverage you had on your previous vehicle. Notify your broker-agent as soon as possible of any replacement vehicle. If you wish additional coverage, there is usually a requirement that you notify your agent or your company within a designated time period.

Most policies also provide automatic coverage for a newly acquired vehicle that is an addition to the vehicles you already have on your policy. There are usually specific conditions that must be met. For example, the purchased vehicle must be reported to your agent or company within a designated time period (e.g., 30 days) or there may be a requirement that in order for coverage to automatically apply, all of your other owned vehicles must be insured with the company.

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Important Tips

  1. Read your policy. Don't wait until after an accident.
  2. If you don't understand your policy, ask your agent and/or company for clarification.
  3. If you have an accident, call the police. If there are injuries, call paramedics.
  4. Get as much information as possible at the accident scene to furnish to your agent and/or insurance company.
  5. Immediately notify your agent and/or insurance company of an accident.
  6. Cooperate with the insurance adjusters/investigators to aid in their efforts.
  7. If you don't understand something about the claims procedure (e.g., amount of settlement offer), ask your agent and/or insurance company representative to explain.
  8. Notify your agent or company in writing of any change in your vehicle ownership.

Your Rights Under the Fair Claims Settlement Practices Regulations

In general, insurance companies are required to do the following:

  • Advise you of all benefits, coverage, time limits or other provisions of your insurance policy.
  • Acknowledge claim, start investigation, provide forms and instructions, and provide reasonable assistance immediately but in no event later than 15 days after receiving notice of claim. (Notice of claim is any written or oral communication to the insurance company which reasonably apprises the insurer that you wish to make a claim.)
  • Respond to communications received from you immediately but in no event later than 15 days.
  • Accept or deny the claim immediately but in no event later than 40 days after receiving proof of claim. (Proof of claim is documentation in your possession which provides any evidence of the claim and supports the magnitude or the amount of the loss such as estimates of repair or police report indicating theft of your vehicle, et cetera.)
  • Unless the insurer has provided you with the name of a specific towing company prior to your using a towing facility, the insurer must pay reasonable towing expenses.
  • Offer a fair settlement. If you suffered a total loss, settlement must include taxes, license and transfer fees. The settlement must reflect the value of a comparable vehicle of like kind and quality. If you retain the salvage, deductions from the settlement for salvage must be fair, measurable, and discernable.
  • Once the claim has been accepted, the insurer must pay the claim immediately, but in no event later than 30 days from the date settlement was reached.
  • Advise you whether or not they will pursue subrogation. If the insurance company pursues subrogation, they must include your deductible unless you have already recovered your deductible.

The above represents a paraphrased brief overview of some of the Fair Claims Settlement Practices Regulations effective 5/10/97. View a complete copy of the California Code of Regulations.

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Automobile Insurance Fraud

Red Flags

Automobile insurance fraud in California historically has taken several forms. The most common fraud schemes involve automobile property and automobile accidents.

Automobile Property- This type of fraud most often involves dishonest auto body and repair shops and/or insureds who may employ a variety of illegal or questionable techniques including:

  • Reporting parts of vehicles as damaged or lost when in fact they were not damaged or lost prior to the shop receiving the vehicle.
  • Making final cost in excess of the original estimate of damage.
  • Billing for repairs that were not authorized.
  • Charging for genuine parts when aftermarket or used parts from a junkyard were used.
  • Pounding out dents or using bondo when charging for brand new auto parts.
  • Falsely reporting stolen vehicles or vandalism of vehicles in order to collect insurance monies.

It is always important for the consumer to review carefully all paper work from auto body and repair shops in order to protect against potential fraud. Also, consumers should be cautious of any auto body or repair facility that makes referrals to medical or legal offices. This practice may be an indicator of "capping." Capping (a felony in California is the illegal referral of clients to legal offices for a fee.

Automobile Accidents - Automobile fraud often involves organized auto accident rings. Staged auto accidents, which are not accidents at all, follow several basic schemes including:

  • Suddenly stopping for no apparent reason
  • Intentionally disregarding the right-of-way
  • Giving up the right-of-way in order to cause an accident
  • Claims report list passengers who were not in the vehicle at the time of the accident
  • Witnesses are listed who were not at the scene of the accident
  • Injuries claimed are excessive compared to vehicle damage
  • Driver has a temporary vehicle registration
  • Prior damage to the other vehicle
  • Contact by an attorney without being solicited

If you have been in an auto accident, be cautious of any unsolicited referral to a body shop, law office or medical office. Organized accident rings and cappers actively solicit others in the community to participate in the creation of accidents. Often these accidents only exist on paper (referred to as paper accidents), and no innocent parties are involved. Paper accidents have gained in popularity among fraud perpetrators, as they are less dangerous from a bodily injury standpoint, and there is less likelihood of police involvement.

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Auto Body Repair Shops

Under California Insurance Code §758.5 an insurance company cannot require that an automobile be repaired at a specific repair shop. However, an insurance company can recommend that an automobile be repaired at a specific repair shop under the following conditions outlined by law:

  • The consumer specifically requests a recommendation from the insurance company to a repair shop.
  • The consumer has been informed in writing of the right to select a repair shop of his or her choice.
  • If the consumer agrees to use the recommended repair shop, the insurance company must restore the damaged vehicle to its condition prior to the accident or loss with no additional cost other than as stated in the policy or as otherwise allowed by law.
  • If the company makes an oral recommendation to a repair shop, and it is accepted by the consumer, then the company must follow the oral recommendation with the prescribed written notice within five calendar days as specified by law.

If the vehicle is repaired in a shop chosen by the consumer, then the insurance company must pay the reasonable costs to repair the vehicle in a workmanlike manner. The insurance company is prohibited from limiting or discounting reasonable repair costs based on charges that would have occurred if the vehicle had been repaired at the company's recommended repair shop. Also, the insurance company must stand behind the repairs of the recommended shop if the vehicle is not repaired properly.

Auto Replacement Parts

In some cases an auto repair may include replacement of damaged parts with after-market parts. After-market parts are parts which are not made by the original manufacturer. After-market parts may be equal or better in quality than original equipment manufacturer parts. Although non-original equipment manufactured replacement parts can be used to repair your vehicle, any such part must be comparable to original equipment manufactured parts in terms of kind, quality, safety, fit and performance. Consumers should take note of the following:

  • An auto repair shop is required to provide a written repair estimate of the cost of repairs prior to initiating repairs to the vehicle. Once the work is completed, the shop must then provide a written repair invoice. State law requires that the type of auto parts used in repairs must be identified on the repair invoice. Consumers should carefully check their invoice to ensure that the auto body shop has identified each auto part replaced as being used, reconditioned, rebuilt, an original equipment manufacturer part, or an after-market part.
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How to Talk to us

Do you have a question, comment or concern? There are several ways to talk to us:

  • Call our Consumer Hotline at (800) 927-HELP
  • Telecommunication Device for the Deaf dial (800) 482-4TDD
  • Telephone lines are open 8:00 AM to 5:00 PM Pacific Time Time, Monday through Friday,excluding holidays
  • Write: California Department of Insurance 300 South Spring St., South Tower Los Angeles, CA 90013
  • Visit us in person on the 9th Floor at the address above. Office Hours: Monday through Friday 8:00 AM to 5:00 PM Pacific Time, excluding holidays.
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UPDATE: If you’re looking for a rideshare friendly policy, we’ve actually got a list of insurance options by state available here: http://therideshareguy.com/rideshare-insurance-options-for-drivers/

More and more states/companies are adding options every day so make sure you bookmark that page and check back often as we are constantly updating it!

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I get e-mails all the time from drivers who get into accidents while driving for Uber and Lyft and have no idea what to do.  Unfortunately, accidents do happen and instead of waiting until it’s too late, I can’t stress how important it is to take a proactive approach and figure out what you need to know ahead of time.  

Today, RSG Senior Contributor, Scott Van Maldegiam, takes a look at what happens after you get into an accident while driving for Uber or Lyft.  Scott has years of experience in the insurance industry and his review is one of the most thorough guides I’ve seen on the subject to date.

As with many things in life, it isn’t a matter of “if” but a matter of “when”.  When the time comes and you have an accident while rideshare driving, you will want to be prepared.  You can ignore the risk and pretend that you’re the best driver on the road, but at the end of the day, the more you drive, the more likely it is that you will get into an accident.

Cheap car insurance after drink driving

How to Handle Rideshare Insurance After a Car Accident With Uber or Lyft

Understanding what to do in the event of an accident and how the process works will help to relieve some of the stress that is involved with each and every accident.  This article should help prepare you for the inevitable but working with a good personal agent is probably your next best bet.

More and more states are starting to offer rideshare friendly policies which means there are more and more agents that you can contact for help.  You can find a full list of rideshare insurance options by visiting our Rideshare Insurance Page where we also have recommendations for local agents who know what type of policies drivers need.

Insurance Basics – things to know before you have an accident

Let’s talk a bit about how insurance works in general when you get into an accident.  I will be talking exclusively about states that assign fault.  No fault states simplify things as your insurance company will always pay your damages regardless of fault, but most states assign fault and financial responsibility.

If you are at fault

This means that you and your insurance company bear the brunt of the financial responsibility.  Here are the different pieces of the insurance policy and what they apply to:

  • Liability – This part of your policy will cover damage to other cars, property and people that were involved in the accident.  Any injured persons that were in your car that are not direct family members are covered by liability as well.  There is no deductible for any liability claims.
  • Collision – This part of your policy covers damages to your own vehicle.  There is usually a deductible associated with collision insurance and varies policy to policy.
  • Medical – This is one of the most misunderstood parts of insurance.  Medical insurance covers yourself and anyone else in your car for medical expenses prior to assignment of fault.

If the other driver is at fault

This is certainly a better situation than the first example, but this is where most people get confused.  Coverages are used differently.

  • Liability – Not used here since you were not at fault.
  • Collision – This coverage is used temporarily until your insurance coverage can get payment from the other insurance company.  With most insurance companies, you will be subject to a deductible until the other insurance company pays.
  • Uninsured/Underinsured – This coverage is to protect you and your passengers should you get into an accident with an uninsured driver.  This coverage will pay out in the case the other person is at fault but does not have insurance.
  • Medical – This covers you and your passengers until the other insurance company pays.

If the other driver is at fault, your insurance company should pay for the damages (mostly) and has a legal right and responsibility to collect from the insurance company of the at-fault party.  This is a valuable service that insurance companies perform if you allow them to,  if the damages are higher than your collision deductible and/or if there are injuries.

If fault needs to be determined, then it is handled like the other person is at fault until responsibility for the accident can be assigned.

What do you do in the case of an accident

With all the boring, but important, background information out of the way, here is what you should do if you get into an accident while in a ride request with Uber, Lyft or Sidecar.

  • Keep your wits about you – The first few minutes after an accident are very important.  Here is what you need to gather.
    • License plate – Make sure you get the license plate of the other car in case they decide to take off.
    • Exchange information – Take pictures of the other person’s insurance card and drivers license.  Allow them to do the same.
    • Listen – It is more important to gather information than it is to provide information.  If you aren’t sure what happened, don’t be afraid to say “I don’t know.”  Also, pay attention to what the other party or parties are saying about the accident.  People who know they are at fault but don’t want to admit it will often lie to get out of the accident.  These lies usually contradict the evidence but it is especially important to note if the other party changes their story multiple times after the accident.
    • Witnesses – If there are witnesses, ask for their information and if they are willing to speak to police and insurance companies if asked.  If the other party is protesting that they were at fault and they clearly were, you would surprised how many people will come to your aid.
    • Police – Yes, they should be called, but do not rely on their information to help at all when determining fault or assisting in recovery of damages.  I have had more than one occasion where the police were actually a hinderance to the insurance claim process.
    • Note: If you get a ticket for causing an accident than you may want to consider using a service like GetDismissed.com to help prevent it from adding a point to your license since any tickets won’t end up being covered by your insurance ocmpany.
    • Be nice and keep an open mind – Regardless of who was at fault, be nice.  Emotions will be high so it is best to bring calm to a situation that can be the exact opposite of calm.
    • Do not admit fault – Unless fault is obvious, do not admit fault.  You don’t have to blame the other person, but it isn’t necessary to fall on the sword either.
    • Notes or recording – Recording your thoughts soon after the accident will help you remember small details.  Things happen quickly.  Taking a few moments to replay what happened in your head soon after the accident is a very good idea.
  • If driving as a rideshare driver, provide the rideshare insurance as primary insurance, not your personal policy.  Rideshare insurance is primary insurance when you have an active ride request (or are en route to a rider) so be sure to use Uber’s, Lyft’s, etc. insurance.

In order to find your Uber proof of insurance, go to the waybill from the menu on the driver app and scroll down to the bottom of the waybill.  You will see Uber’s insurance information there and that is what you will provide to the other driver.

With that out of the way, you will now want to contact your rideshare company.  You can call Lyft’s emergency hotline (855-865-9553) but with Uber, you’ll have to e-mail your local Uber office.  They will assist you in starting the process of your claim with James River.

After the accident is reported, Uber or Lyft will most likely suspend your account until you can prove your car has no damage.  When you start a claim, you are letting them know that your car is damaged, so it makes sense.  In order to reactivate your account, you will need to provide proof that the damage is minimal enough as to not affect the customer experience or proof that repairs have been made.  For me, it was less than two hours from the time I provided proof via email until I was reactivated.

James River will then ask you to get an estimate of the damages.  James River will only become involved in the process if:

  • You are at fault or
  • The damage to your vehicle is higher than the deductible.

If the damage is lower than the deductible and the other person is at fault, then you are on your own to recover the damages.  From here, if James River is handling the claim, the process is simple as they handle everything.

Things become more difficult in situations where you are not at fault and damage is less than the deductible.  (The deductible for Uber is $1,000 and the deductible for Lyft is $2,500.)

Related Article: Lyft’s $2,500 Collision Deductible Explained

As a rideshare driver…

There is a lot to think about here, so here are a few things you should remember as a rideshare driver about preparing for the eventual accident.

  • Deductible – Have the amount of the Lyft or Uber deductible saved.  It is highly likely you will need this money in order to get back on the road quickly even if you aren’t at fault.  Lyft’s deductible is $2,500 which is admittedly high.  Uber’s is more reasonable at $1,000.
  • Down Time – An accident will take you off the road.  If the damage is so minor that it doesn’t affect your passengers experience, then you can be back on the road quickly.  If the damage is more severe, you could be off the road for weeks.  There are many variables involved with repairing vehicles including part availability.  Plan on 4 weeks and work with your repair shop to try and cut that time down.
  • Report the accident – The way to report the accident differs between the rideshare companies.  With Uber, you send an email.  They will then request you to fill out an incident report.  With Lyft, they ask you to call 855-865-9553.
  • Which insurance to report the accident to – What “period” you are in when the accident occurs affects who you report the accident to.  During period 1 (online without an active ride request), Uber and Lyft insurance is primary in some states and contingent in most others.  If insurance is contingent in your state, that means that it is secondary and will only cover you if your own insurance company doesn’t cover you.  During Period 1, if you are going to contact insurance at all, you need to contact your personal insurance company.  They will likely ask you if you are an Uber or Lyft driver (this is a standard insurance question now) and if you haven’t told your insurance company that you are a rideshare driver, you do run the risk of your claim being denied and/or dropped.  During periods 2 and 3 (active ride request with or without the passenger in the car), you should contact Uber or Lyft as they are the primary insurance at that time in all states.
  • Communicate with your personal insurance agent – Your personal insurance agent can be a great source of information.  While they won’t be the person to facilitate your claim, they will point you in the right direction and keep you on the right track.  We have created a list of good reliable insurance agents so this is a great place to start when looking for rideshare friendly policies.

Handling the claim without James River or your personal insurance company

The operative word is Diligence.  If you want to recover your damages, you need to stay on top of the other person’s insurance company.  Things that will help and things to watch out for are:

  • Witnesses – I cannot stress enough how much witnesses can help.  If it becomes your word against the other driver’s, it becomes more difficult.
  • Labor rate – This is a common way for insurance companies to low ball the claim amount.  Don’t let them do it unless you know your shop can do it for that amount anyway.  This can be a bit of a game since body shops know to price high in order to counteract the labor rate issue.  Yes, there are pricing standards, but….
  • Persistent – Call the other insurance company.  Be nice but force them to commit to a timeframe.  If the timeframe is too long, let them know that.  Follow-up with them when they miss deadlines and they will.
  • Don’t threaten – There are subtle ways to let them know this can be done the easy way or the hard way.  Express, after they have missed the third deadline, that you have been patient but they continue to say one thing and do another.  Ask them to confirm things that you both agree on.  They are not used to dealing with reasonable people.  This is one situation where honey will get you a lot further than vinegar.
  • Last resort – Of course if you can’t get them to make a payment, then you will need to seek representation.

Personal examples

I have learned how to handle accidents from the accidents my family has had.

  • My wife was in an accident many years ago where she was clearly not at fault.  It happened in a parking lot so the police did not write any tickets but took a police report.  The other party had friends on the police force so they went to the police station and modified the police report to make it look like my wife was at fault.  Thankfully, the story they concocted was so unbelievable that their own insurance company saw that it was a lie and paid us a higher amount so the claim would exceed a threshold where they could raise their rates.
  • I was in a three car accident about five years ago where I was rear-ended while sitting at a stop light.  It was a bad accident where the person in the third car went to the hospital.  The person in the second car which was the car that hit me changed her story three times while at the accident site.  She told the final version to the police officer.  The real story was that she hit me and then the final person rear ended her.  Her insurance company claimed the third car pushed her into me.  I knew this wasn’t true since I felt two impacts.  The case went to arbitration and the middle car was assigned responsibility for my damages which were over $4000.  My insurance company paid out for all damages minus the deductible right away but withheld the deductible amount ($500) until they received payment after the arbitration which was 9 months after the accident.

If you are still with me after this marathon article, you understand the importance of insurance and knowing what to do.  Please share any personal experiences or any questions you may have in the comments.

-Scott @ RSG

UPDATE: If you’re looking for a rideshare friendly policy, we’ve actually got a list of insurance options by state available here: http://therideshareguy.com/rideshare-insurance-options-for-drivers/

Make Every Mile Count

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More and more states/companies are adding options every day so make sure you bookmark that page and check back often as we are constantly updating it!

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Scott Van Maldegiam

I'm Scott, a full time health benefits consultant and rideshare driver. I spent 11 years working for Motorola and Tellabs using my EE degree and MBA before transitioning into the mortgage industry where I spent 6 years. I then spent 5 years in the cycling industry before transitioning into health insurance. Car insurance ireland 2016 worldCar insurance group 7 uk property

Latest posts by Scott Van Maldegiam (see all)

  • Top 10 Rideshare Vehicles to Insure - October 21, 2016
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  • What Can Happen If You Don’t Have Rideshare Insurance? - June 15, 2016


Car insurance ombudsman nzzAmp pearl car insuranceI’ve had a valid driver’s license for 11 years with a perfectly clean record – no accidents, no speeding tickets, and not even a warning – so I was completely blindsided the day my SUV was rocked by the sound of a truck colliding into my driver’s side door, almost taking off the front bumper of my car. My kids and I were completely fine, but since it was my first accident, I was in a state of shock as I pulled my car into a nearby parking lot. Oddly, it wasn’t the fear of getting hurt, or the concern for my car that stands out about that day, but the disconcerting feeling of being in unfamiliar territory with no idea what to do. Immediately the other driver was out of his car and at my door, which wouldn’t open from the inside. I had to climb out of the passenger-side door to meet him, and he was ready for a fight. It was then that I had my “baptism by fire” and had to learn how to deal with car accidents, auto insurance, and other drivers.

Lessons Learned From a Minor Car Accident

While every situation is different, there are at least five important things to consider when you experience an accident. By taking the time to think about them in advance, you can save yourself mountains of grief in the event that an accident takes place.

1. Watch Your Words

“Admit it was your fault” were the first words out of the other driver’s mouth. Call it the Canadian in me, but my first instinct was to apologize profusely, even though I knew it wasn’t my fault. From what I could gather, I had been in the left turn lane when the truck crossed over from the right lane, trying to turn without checking his blind spot. Luckily, I clamped my mouth shut and ignored the man as I checked on my daughter. But I was confused – why was he insisting that I say it was my fault before we even assessed what happened? When I didn’t respond, the man got on the phone to report the accident to the police – the right thing to do. Soon after, an officer showed up and began working on his report. While the officer walked around the vehicles to assess the damage, the other driver kept needling me, “So, you admit it was your fault, right? Just say it was!” I simply said “I don’t know.” When the cop overheard the man, he chastised him for his behavior. The officer then took me aside and told me that in the event of an accident I should only exchange insurance information, and should never accept fault. I know this may sound naive, but I had no idea. The police officer let me know that the insurance companies would manage everything, and I didn’t need to answer the other driver’s questions. I learned two important lessons that day: You should never accept fault at the scene of an accident, and you should watch your words when speaking to the other driver. Getting upset, yelling, and placing blame only made the other man look bad to the police officer. Auto car insurance renewalTrunki sale sainsbury's car insurance

2. Treat Law Enforcement as an Ally

I was so relieved when the police officer showed up to take his report, mostly because I knew that determining fault was out of my hands. I began thinking of the officer as my ally – someone who would keep me safe and determine fault from a neutral perspective. I’ll confess that I was visibly shaken when the officer arrived, so it was hard for me to explain exactly what happened. I did my best, and he pieced together the rest based on the damage done to our respective vehicles. He knew that the other car had turned into me due to the tire damage along the side of my car. The other driver wasn’t pleased to give his side of the story. He was despondent about the accident, combative about my role in it, and downright angry when he received a citation. I wouldn’t go as far as to say that he wouldn’t have received the citation had he been more cooperative, but I do think that his attitude toward the officer affected the final report sent to our insurance companies. When speaking with a police officer at the scene of an accident, remember these points about making your statement:

  • Tell the officer the direction in which you were headed.
  • Note any signaling you saw or used before acting (e.g., a turn signal).
  • Mention any injuries that you or those in your car experienced due to the collision (including soreness or whip lash).
  • Share details about what you did leading up to and following the accident, without making assumptions about the actions of the other driver. For instance, you shouldn’t say, “I guess he forgot to signal and wanted to turn left.” This type of statement could be completely incorrect, and it makes you look like you’re placing blame.

Be honest and calm when giving your statement – law enforcement is your friend in these situations. As a neutral third-party, a police officer can help sort out the confusion and keep you safe through the process. I know I’m forever grateful for the cop who showed up at my accident scene – he was courteous, helpful, and kind.

3. Take Pictures and Memorize Details

While the police officer wrote up his report, he escorted the other driver and me around each of our vehicles. My car sustained most of the damage, with almost the entire front end visibly smashed. The other driver complained that his side mirror was damaged, but the officer recognized that it was merely folded in. That’s when I got out my phone and started snapping pictures. I had a gut feeling that the other driver wasn’t going to play by the rules, and I wanted to be sure that I had all the details right. I snapped pictures of the damage to both cars, pictures of the intersection and traffic signals, as well as pictures of our insurance cards and the other driver’s license plate. I made a point to record and memorize street names and the length of the turning lane. Later, when both insurance companies called to get my side of the story, I pulled up the intersection on Google Earth and was able to give an exact report, knowing that I had all the details right. This only served to further my case, helping show that I was an attentive and conscientious driver. I’ve since downloaded my insurance company’s app onto my cellphone so that I always have quick access to the claims department, as well as an e-copy of my insurance – something I wish I had prior to my accident. Of course you should always have a copy of your insurance in your car, but having one on your phone adds an extra layer of confidence in the event of an accident. Suncorp car insurance phone numberDollar a day car insurance medicaid

4. Choose Your Claim Method

There are several different insurance claim methods you can use to submit a claim:

  • Not-at Fault Claims. My insurance company recommended that rather than spending money out-of-pocket to pay for repairs and a temporary rental car, I should have my car repaired through one of their certified body shops that they would cover directly. This would enable them to then work with the other party’s insurance company to have the expenses reimbursed. This saved me the trouble of paying for the repairs and personally working with the other man’s insurance for reimbursement.
  • At-Fault Claims. Had I been at fault, I wouldn’t have been reimbursed for the cost of my deductible. Because the other driver was at fault, his insurance paid my insurance back for the repairs, including my deductible. If you’re at-fault for an accident, your insurance companies will cover the cost of your repairs, but you won’t get your deductible back, and your insurance premiums could increase.
  • Total Loss Claims. If your vehicle is damaged beyond repair, or if the repairs cost more than your car is worth, you’re probably eligible for a claim that covers your total loss. This amount is determined based on the make, model, year, and condition of your car. In this event, you simply fill out an information packet that your insurance company sends to an agent who inspects your car to confirm that it is a total loss. The insurance then cuts a check for you.

Because of my situation, I filed a not-at-fault claim, choosing to have my insurance company arrange and pay for the repairs. There are a few clear benefits to this choice:

  • Your insurance company has a vested interest in making sure you’re satisfied with their service, so they work much faster than an insurance company for whom you aren’t a customer.
  • The claims process can take months. In my case, the other driver continued to fight the fault assigned to him, so it ended up going into arbitration – a method by which a neutral third party is assigned to look over the case, assess police reports and costs, and assign fault. The arbitrator eventually found in my favor, but if I had paid out-of-pocket for repairs, it would have taken almost a year before I recouped my costs. I’m glad I was only out a $500 deductible for that long, rather than thousands of dollars in repairs.
  • The repair process was relatively painless. I dropped my SUV off at the body shop, paid my deductible, and all the repair invoices were then submitted to and paid by my insurance company. I didn’t have to keep receipts, shop around for the best deal, or pay more than the initial deductible.

Not all claims go this smoothly, but given the choice between having my insurance company take care of everything, or paying for it myself, then working with my insurance company to be compensated through the other driver’s insurance company, the in-house method was definitely easier. Still, it’s a good idea to ask your claims adjuster which method works best for your situation. There’s no one-size-fits-all solution, and your adjuster might suggest a different route based on the other driver’s insurance, the extent of the damage, and your own level of insurance coverage.

5. Stay Calm

I didn’t feel like staying calm while working through the aftermath of my accident. From the accident’s initial shock, to the months of dealing with insurance companies, to the constant conflicting stories being issued by the other driver, it was tempting to fly off the handle and tell the other driver’s insurance just what I thought of him. But if there’s one thing that I learned through the experience, it’s that you catch more flies with honey than with vinegar. Car accidents are awful, but getting upset, yelling, placing blame, and pointing fingers won’t serve you well. The police officer and claims adjusters I worked with responded well to a calm voice and a practical attitude. In my case, the other driver tried contacting me several times after the accident was deemed his fault. I ignored the calls and checked with my insurance company. Sure enough, they let me know that there’s no reason for the people involved in the accident to speak to one another after the accident – all communication should go through the insurance companies. By keeping a steady head, the stress of the accident and its aftermath do eventually subside.

Final Word

I feel lucky that no one was hurt and that my SUV has since been repaired and is running smoothly. It was actually the mental aspect of the experience that I found most difficult. While I wish I had been more prepared, I’m glad for what it’s taught me. For one, I’m a much more attentive and defensive driver, and that’s a good thing. What’s more, I have a better understanding of the insurance process and I now know what to say (and what not to say) if I ever find myself in a similar situation again. Have you ever been in a car accident? What did the experience teach you?

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