Auto Claims | (top)

Auto Accident:

  1. Assess the medical condition of all parties involved, both in your vehicle and any other vehicles involved in the accident. If anyone needs medical assistance, call 911 right away.
  2. Contact law enforcement and notify them of the accident. Often it is best to leave the vehicles in the position they were in immediately after the accident until law enforcement arrives, so the reporting officers are better able to assess and diagram the facts of the loss. Disclose all relevant information to the investigating officer.
  3. Exchange information with all involved parties and witnesses to the accident. The law enforcement agency will likely complete a report at a later date, but this information is needed by your insurance company as soon as possible, and is very important in cases of uninsured drivers. The information you should obtain:
    • Name, current address, and telephone number(s) for the driver of the other vehicle(s). If the driver of the other vehicle is not the owner of that vehicle, you should also obtain the same information for the vehicle owner.
    • Insurance company, policy number and agency name for the owner and driver of the other vehicle. It may be helpful for you to simply ask to view the other person's Insurance Identification Card.
    • Name, current address, and telephone contact information for any passengers in the other vehicle(s).
    • Name, current address, and telephone contact information for any witnesses to the accident.
    • The license plate number along with the make, model, and color of the other vehicle(s).
  4. Notify your insurance agent or insurance company. Most insurers put their direct claim reporting phone number on your insurance identification card.

Tips:

  • Do not panic! For most of us, accidents seem very rare, but in truth they happen every day to thousands of people across the world. Try to stay calm and remember that the most important thing is everyone's health and safety.
  • Typically, it is not recommended to discuss the details of the accident with the other involved party. This is because emotions are usually running high right after an accident and everyone may not agree on exactly what happened. Avoid any discussion with the other driver(s) if it appears it will escalate the situation.
  • Keep a safe distance from traffic and roadways. Depending on where the accident occurred, you will likely want to move away from the vehicles and take reasonable steps to warn other motorists of potential hazards.

Auto theft, vandalism, fire or hit and run:

  1. Leave the vehicle exactly as you found it and do not move it. Depending on what is known about the circumstances of the loss, there may be evidence at the scene that will help investigators determine what happened, how it happened, and sometimes even who committed the damage. For stolen vehicles, try to locate as much information about the vehicle as possible, such as the certificate of title, all available keys and a list of the people who had access to them, a list of any personal property inside the vehicle and the name and contact information for any applicable financing or leasing company.
  2. Contact law enforcement or the fire department, depending on the loss, and notify them of the incident. For a theft, vandalism or hit and run, law enforcement will want to look at your vehicle and take a report for investigative and insurance purposes. For fires, the fire department will need to put out any active fires and will want to investigate the vehicle after it is safe to approach in order to determine the cause of the fire if it is not immediately known.
  3. Speak to anyone who might have witnessed the loss, including neighbors, delivery people and any patrons of local establishments if your vehicle was parked near any businesses at the time of the loss. Especially in cases of hit and run, someone may have gotten license plate and vehicle information of the liable party and may not know who to give that information to.
  4. Notify your insurance agent or insurance company. Most insurers put their direct claim reporting phone number on your insurance identification card.

Tips:

  • Do not panic! Finding your vehicle on fire or a CD player ripped out of the dash can be distressing, but remember that ultimately, it is just a vehicle and it's more important that you are safe. Stay calm and call the applicable authorities as soon as possible so that you can begin to find out what happened to your vehicle and why.
  • Do not approach a vehicle on fire! If it is very small and contained you may be able to quickly put it out yourself, but if a fire is anywhere near the engine or gas tank, or has engulfed more than ¼ of the vehicle, stay away from the vehicle and wait for the fire department to arrive. That may be difficult to do, but again, it's only a vehicle and your safety is the most important factor. Be sure to keep all people in the area away from the vehicle as well and try to minimize the number of objects near the vehicle.
  • In cases of theft or hit and run, do not make assumptions about who might have caused the damage. Unless there is factual evidence to link a person to a scene, the police are unable to charge anyone. Your best course of action is trying to find any witnesses to the loss and any evidence that will link the suspected person to the scene at the time of the loss.

All other auto losses (hail damage, deer hit, cracked windshield, etc):

  1. Generally, for these types of claims, you will find the damage after the fact or the damage at the time of the loss is not very extensive and your vehicle can driven from the scene to your home. It is fine to do this and not to call police. In fact, unless you hit an animal that is blocking a roadway, there is not always a need to contact law enforcement for these types of losses.
  2. Assess the damage and notify your insurance agent or insurance company. Most insurers put their direct claim reporting phone number on your insurance identification card. Because these types of losses are not as urgent as other types, you do not have to do this as soon as you find the damage, but you will want to do this before the damage gets any worse (i.e., a chipped windshield that turns into a cracked windshield due to changing temperatures or a slight dent in the grill that starts to rust with time and wet weather).

Home Claims | (top)

Homeowners and renters insurance claims can range from theft to vandalism to wind or hail damage. Some helpful steps to take:

  1. Assess the medical condition of all parties involved. If anyone has sustained a serious injury requiring medical assistance, you need to call 911 and request emergency medical responders right away.
  2. Call the applicable authorities so they can inspect the damage, make a report and investigate further, if needed. For situations such as theft and fire, you will want to leave the home exactly as you found it. Depending on what is known about the circumstances of the loss, there may be evidence at the scene that will help investigators determine what happened, how it happened and sometimes even who committed the damage.
  3. After the home has been inspected by law enforcement or the fire department, take all reasonable measures to protect the property from further damage. This may include covering holes in the roof, walls, doors and windows with plastic or boards or extracting water from a flooded basement or bathroom. Be careful not to risk your own safety in making these temporary repairs. Do not discard any damaged property or begin permanent repairs without prior approval from your claims representative.
  4. Notify your insurance agent or insurance company. Most insurers put their direct claim reporting phone number on your insurance identification card.

Tips:

  • Stay at least 10 feet away from any downed power line. Never assume a downed power line is safe to approach. Secure the area around the downed power line so others are kept a safe distance away and contact your local power company as soon as possible to alert them of the situation.
  • If you detect the smell associated with a natural gas leak, get yourself and everyone else away from the premises as quickly as possible. Although natural gas does not have any odor, a distinctive smell similar to rotten eggs is added to help with the detection of a leak. Contact your natural gas provider as soon as possible to alert them of the situation.
  • Do not discard any receipts associated with the loss such as those associated with temporary repairs and additional living expenses. Also, do not discard any damaged property or begin permanent repairs without prior approval from your claims representative.
  • If there is a flood in your home, check for any broken water pipes and, if you find one, make sure the damaged supply line is shut off as quickly as possible. If a pipe bursts, even a two minute delay can result in an additional thirty gallons of water spilled, which is equivalent to the amount of water in a full bathtub.

Claims Articles | (top)

We understand the overwhelming stress arising from motor vehicle accidents, destructive storms, and other incidents that damage your home, auto, or business. Unfortunately, many of us will encounter these situations at least once during our lifetime. It is important you understand how to properly react if you are ever involved in one of these types of situations. The following are some tips, advice, stories and action steps you can read in order to minimize your risk and maximize your safety.

Natural disasters can strike any time
Tornado Preparation and Safety Tips
It is always a good idea to prepare for the unexpected. Emergencies and disasters can occur anytime and anywhere.
Lightning Strikes
Lightning safety
Some damages caused by lightning, are covered by standard homeowners insurance policies. Here are some tips to protect against power surges and lightning strikes.
Prevent Dog Bites
Take steps to prevent dog bites
Did you know that dog bites cause about 800,000 injuries requiring immediate medical care in the United States each year?
Lawn Mower Safety
Lawnmower safety
Each year, approximately 75,000 people are injured seriously enough by lawnmowers to require emergency room medical treatment.
Pool Safety
Pool safety
Swimming pools are fun, but also potentially dangerous to young children. Learn ways to keep your loved ones safe.
Grilling Safety
Grilling safety
Americans enjoy more than three billion barbecues each year. But barbecuing can be dangerous, even deadly, if you are not careful.
Mold Protection
Mold protection
When trying to keep your home mold-free, a strong offense is your best defense. Caught early, mold can usually be removed by a thorough cleaning with bleach and water.
Home Security Tips
Home security tips
Burglars won’t find your home an “easy mark” if they are forced to work in the light, if they have to take a lot of time breaking in, or if they can‘t break in without making a lot of noise.

Glossary | (top)

Actual cash value:
Cost to replace property with new property of like kind and quality, less depreciation.

Additional living expenses:
Extra charges covered by homeowners policies over and above your customary living expenses, usually used when you insured require temporary shelter due to damage by a covered peril that makes your home temporarily uninhabitable.

Adjuster:
An individual employed by an insurer to evaluate losses and settle policyholder claims.

Appraisal:
A survey to determine a property”s insurable value, or the amount of a loss.

Appraisal Clause:
The terms and conditions of your policy of insurance may contain an appraisal clause. This may be requested by you or the insurance company in cases where the amount of loss is disputed. Each party chooses their own appraiser and a third appraiser is chosen, called an umpire. The decision determined as a result of the appraisal process is binding.

Arbitration:
Procedure in which an insurance company and the insured agree to settle a claim dispute by accepting a decision made by a third independent party.

Catastrophe:
Term used for statistical recording purposes to refer to a single incident or a series of closely related incidents causing severe insured property losses totaling more than a given amount, currently $25 million.

Cause of loss:
The means by which property is damaged or destroyed, such as wind, hail, theft, etc.

Claim:
A request to an insurance company from the policyholder asking for a payment based on the terms of the insurance policy.

Claimant:
Party presenting a claim against an insurer’s policyholder.

Collision deductible:
A Collision deductible covers damage to your car resulting from a collision with another car, object, or as a result of flipping over. Coverage is included whether you are at-fault or not-at fault.

Comprehensive deductible:
A Comprehensive deductible covers damage to a vehicle caused by miscellaneous hazards other than collision, such as fire, theft, explosion, windstorm, hail, water or contact with an animal.

Declaration page:
Part of a property or liability insurance policy that states the name and address of policyholder, property insured, its location and description, the policy period, premiums and supplemental information. Referred to as the 'dec page.'

Deductible:
The sum of money the insured must pay before the insurance company begins to pay.

Depreciation:
Reduction in an item’s value based on the item’s age, condition and useful life expectancy.

Diminution of value:
The reduction of a value in a vehicle after it has been damaged in an accident and repaired.

Endorsement:
A written form attached to an insurance policy that alters the policy’s coverage, terms, or conditions.

Exclusion:
A policy provision that eliminates coverage for specified exposures such as certain risks, people, property classes or locations.

First party coverage:
Coverage for the policyholder or the policyholder’s property.

Fraud:
Intentional lying or concealment by policyholders to obtain payment of an insurance claim that would otherwise not be paid or to obtain more money than legally owed.

Gap Coverage:
An automobile insurance option, available in some states, that covers the difference between a car’s actual cash value when it is stolen or wrecked and the amount the consumer owes the leasing or finance company. This coverage must be written in conjunction with comprehensive and/or collision coverage.

Generic auto parts:
Auto crash parts produced by firms that are not associated with car manufacturers. Insurers consider these parts, when certified, equivalent to those that come from the original equipment manufacturer (OEM).

Independent adjuster:
An independent contractor who adjusts claims for different insurance companies.

Inland marine coverage:
This type of coverage is attached to a homeowners policy and insures individual items of personal property. Among the items often insured with inland marine coverage are expensive jewelry, musical instruments and furs. Also known as a floater or schedule.

Insurance:
A risk management technique that transfers the potential financial consequences of certain specified loss exposures from you to an insurance company.

Insurance policy:
A contract that states the agreement of rights and duties between the insurance company and you.

Liability:
Coverage for damages and injuries that you are legally responsible for causing. Includes bodily injury and property damage coverages.

Limits:
Maximum amount of insurance that will be paid for a covered loss.

Loss:
A reduction in the quality or value of a property, or a legal liability.

Loss adjustment expenses:
The sum insurers pay for investigating and settling insurance claims, including the cost of defending a lawsuit in court.

Named peril:
A specific risk or cause of loss covered by an insurance policy, such as a fire, windstorm, flood, or theft. A named-peril policy covers you only for the risks named in the policy in contrast to an all-risk policy, which covers all causes of loss except those specifically excluded.

Named Insured:
The person or entity listed on a policy declarations page and a spouse living in the same household.

Negligence:
Failure to act with the legally required degree of care for others, resulting in harm to them.

No-Fault Insurance:
Auto insurance coverage that pays for each driver’s own injuries, regardless of who caused the accident. No-fault varies from state to state.

Notice of Loss:
A written notice required by insurance companies immediately after an accident or other loss. Part of the standard provisions defining a policyholder's responsibilities after a loss.

Original equipment manufacturer parts (OEM):
Auto parts made by the manufacturer of the vehicle.

Personal injury protection coverage (PIP):
Personal Injury Protection (PIP) coverage pays for medical expenses and lost wages, within the stated limits, for you and members of your household. This coverage is also referred to as ‘no-fault’ coverage, as these costs are paid no matter who is at fault. This is a mandatory coverage in all no-fault states. In Minnesota, you may elect stacking protection for this coverage, which increases your selected limits by the number of vehicles you are insuring.

Policy:
A written contract for insurance between an insurance company and you stating details of coverage.

Premises:
The particular location of the property or a portion of it as designated in an insurance policy.

Proof of loss:
Official documents showing the insurance company that a loss occurred.

Replacement cost:
Insurance that pays the amount needed to replace damaged personal property or dwelling property without deducting for depreciation.

Reserve:
A company’s estimate of what it will pay for a claim.

Salvage:
Damaged property an insurer takes over to reduce its loss after paying a claim. Insurers receive salvage rights over property on which they have paid claims, such as badly-damaged cars.

Subrogation:
The legal process by which an insurance company, after paying a loss, seeks to recover the amount of the loss from another party who is legally liable for it.

Third party coverage:
Liability coverage purchased by you as a protection against possible lawsuits filed by a third party. You and the insurance company are the first and second parties to the insurance contract.

Total loss:
The condition of an automobile or other property when damage is so extensive that repair costs would exceed the value of the vehicle or property.

FAQ’s | (top)

A: Possibly. Your premium rates are determined by a variety of factors and your claim adjuster won’t immediately know if a claim will affect your premium in any way. In some cases, a claim will cause a premium to rise; in other cases, it won’t. Typically, comprehensive auto claim losses will not adversely affect your premium rate, but each individual situation is unique.

A: No. Liability insurance only provides coverage for damage to the property of others. If the other party to the accident is deemed to be at-fault, his or her insurance will pay for the damage to your vehicle.

A: Generally, there’s no way to know from sight alone. A vehicle can be drivable and still be a total loss, just as a vehicle with dents all over the body cannot be. A qualified shop estimate or claim adjuster’s appraisal is the only way to know for sure. If the cost to repair the vehicle exceeds the value of the vehicle prior to the loss less any applicable salvage, the vehicle is deemed to be totaled.

A: First, determine if the items are in a condition in which you’d like to keep them and/or have value. Items recovered from a theft can be damaged in a variety of ways and may not be in useable condition. Contact your claim adjuster to see what you should do. Often, insurers will let you choose between keeping the old item or the replacement item (or insurance payment if you have not yet replaced the item). They would then take possession of whichever item you did not want as salvage.

A: No. A renters policy provides coverage for your personal property and liability coverage for anything that happens inside your rented residence. Physical damage to the structure, such as walls, doors, and windows are the responsibility of your landlord.

A: Fires can make value determination very complicated for obvious reasons. The most helpful thing you can do both for yourself and your claim adjuster is to inventory what you own now, before a loss has even occurred. Make a list of all the items in your home and include things like their brand, model info, age and original cost, if you know it. You can also take pictures or video the rooms in your home to show your belongings. Keep a copy of the documentation in a safe, or at a different location, such as your workplace or a family member’s home.

A: Your adjuster will usually advance a certain amount of money to help you get back on your feet and purchase things like clothing and toiletries. This amount will count as part of your total personal property settlement and is not part of additional living expenses coverage, which pays for temporary housing, food and additional travel you incur as a result of not living in your residence.

A: That depends on your insurer. Depending on the size and location of the loss, your insurer may want you to work with a designated contractor or shop of their choice.

A: If your vehicle is safe to drive, reimbursement begins when your vehicle goes into the shop for repairs. You should not get a rental vehicle until you confirm that the shop has the necessary parts and is ready to begin repairs to your vehicle. If your vehicle is disabled or unsafe to drive, a rental vehicle can be authorized from the moment your claim investigation begins.

A: If your vehicle is being repaired, you can keep the rental vehicle until your vehicle is back on the road or until your coverage limit runs out, whichever comes first. If your vehicle is a total loss, your claim adjuster will advise you when to return the rental vehicle. The amount of authorized rental time is often limited, so you should begin shopping for a replacement vehicle as soon as you learn your damaged vehicle is a total loss.

A: Usually you can rent a vehicle comparable in size to your own vehicle. However, you should always consider your rental reimbursement limits when choosing a rental vehicle. If the daily rate of your rental vehicle is more than your daily limit, you will have to pay the difference.

A: Usually this coverage is not necessary if you have comprehensive and collision coverages on your auto policy. Insurers do not reimburse the cost of additional insurance you purchase from the rental company.

A: Typically, you’ll want to make sure a claim has been set up with the other driver’s insurance company. If they determine their driver is 100% at fault, they’ll pay for all your damage and expenses. If you have collision coverage and the other driver is not insured or their insurer feels you are partly or fully at fault for the accident, you can use your own coverage to ensure your damages are compensated, less your stated deductible. If your insurance company feels the other driver is at fault, we will either enter the subrogation process and possibly arbitration process with the other insurer to get your deductible and our payment back. If the other driver does not have insurance, we will pursue other ways of collecting reimbursement. If we are successful in either case, your deductible will be reimbursed.

A: File a claim on your policy. A claim adjuster will investigate the loss and come to a liability decision. If we disagree with the other insurer, we will deny payment for their damages and will fight for our position in arbitration. If we agree with their liability decision, we will pay their damages.

A: First, the claim adjuster reviews the insurance policy and the coverage in effect for the loss to determine what types of damage or injuries are covered. The adjuster then attempts to contact everyone involved in the loss – drivers, passengers, witnesses, etc. – to get everyone’s account of the events of the loss. In an auto accident, if there are conflicting versions of what occurred in the accident, the adjuster conducts an in-depth interview with each person involved to help resolve disputes over the facts of the accident. Finally, the adjuster gathers and reviews additional relevant information, such as the police report, applicable state and local traffic laws, and photos of the scene and the vehicles involved, and makes a liability decision on the loss. At that point, the adjuster will instruct all parties involved of that decision and how to proceed.

A: In order for an insurer accepting liability to pay for your injuries, you must sign a release that frees them and their insured from any further payments for your injuries. The release essentially states that you will not hold the insurer or their insured responsible for any further financial obligation. Some injuries, such as those requiring surgery or months of chiropractic treatments, cannot be settled around the time of the loss and because of this, you will not be able to sign a release with the insurer, which means they cannot yet pay for anything to do with your injuries. Your own coverage can step in and take care of medical bills until you are better and able to sign the release from the other insurer. When that insurer settles with you, they will reimburse us for any payments we made on your behalf.

A: Sometimes you insurer will have to hire independent parties to help investigate and reach settlement on a claim. If your vehicle is involved in an accident in a state your insurer doesn’t operate in and your vehicle is not drivable, your insurer will hire an independent adjuster (an adjuster who does not work for any specific insurer) who works in the area to handle your loss. Or, if you lost an extensive antique collection in a house fire, your insurer may hire a replacement sourcing company to help get accurate replacement values on your items. Your claim adjuster should alert you to the involvement of any third parties and if you get a call from someone you don’t recognize and don’t trust, contact your claim adjuster right away.

A: Unfortunately, there’s no way to know this. Claim payment is based on many factors, including investigating liability, the size of the loss and coverages in place at the time of the loss. While your sister’s windshield claim might’ve been paid in a day, that doesn’t mean your lightning damage claim will be paid in the same amount of time. Your claim adjuster can try to give you an expected timeline, but each claim situation is unique.

A: While police officers can assist a claim investigation by collecting information and evidence from the scene of an accident, they are not trained mechanics or claim adjusters and do not know exactly how much it may cost to repair a vehicle. They usually make their best estimate on an accident report, but ultimately only a qualified mechanic or claim adjuster can assess exact amounts of physical damage to a vehicle.

A: Probably not. There generally are two types of agents: captive agents, who are contracted to work with only one specific insurer, and independent agents, who represent many different insurers. Whichever you choose, the agent is usually operating out of a small office in your town, which could be several states away from the company’s headquarters, where the majority of their staff, such as claim adjusters and underwriters, are located. However, there are claim adjusters who work “in the field”, which means they live in your town and work out of their home. While they don’t share an office with your agent, they probably have a regular working relationship with your agent. Whether or not a field adjuster is assigned to a claim depends on the size and type of loss.

A: No, your deductible applies only when your policy provides comprehensive or collision coverages for your vehicle. Liability coverage and injury coverages typically do not have deductibles.

A: No, your insurer can not require you to use only certain kinds of auto repair parts. However, if the insurer’s repair estimate is based on a certain part and you want something different, they can ask you to pay the difference if the part you want is more expensive. Many insurance companies offer a warranty for any defects with the aftermarket parts used in the repair of your vehicle for as long as you own it.

A: No-Fault claims in the state of Minnesota must be made within six months of the accident.