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Even if you’re staying at home to help flatten the curve of the COVID-19 pandemic, you might get unexpected car damage and need to file a car insurance claim. For example, a large branch could fall on your car, or you could get into a fender bender on the way to a curbside grocery pickup.
What to do at the Scene of an Accident
If you get into a car accident, maintain at least a 6-foot distance between the driver of the other vehicle and their passengers, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) guidelines.
You can verbally exchange information from a safe distance, or you can take a photo of your insurance card and exchange it through text messages. If you need to call the police to the scene, you can wait in your car and the police officer can help facilitate the exchange of insurance information.
If your car is undrivable because of the damage, you may need to call for a tow truck. If possible, try to arrange a ride home with a family member or someone you live with. If you need to ride home in an Uber or with someone else, be sure to practice the CDC’s guidelines to protect yourself and others.
How to File A Virtual Car Insurance Claim
In a typical car insurance claim scenario, an adjuster might come to your home to inspect the car damage and give you an appraisal.
But auto insurance companies are adjusting to new norms amid the pandemic. Many urge their policyholders to file and manage claims online or through the companies’ mobile apps. You can also call the insurance company to file a claim over the phone, but wait times may be longer than usual.
Many auto insurers were already investing in virtual-claims technologies before the COVID-19 pandemic. Here’s what some major insurers can offer.
Allstate has “Virtual Assist” to expedite car insurance claims. Virtual Assist allows body shops to create an initial estimate and get approved for additional repair as they work on your vehicle. You can submit your initial claim using Allstate’s “QuickFoto Claim” within its mobile app. Allstate can send you payments instantly through its QuickCard Pay. The company expects to handle 90% of its auto insurance claims using virtual tools.
American Family customers can access their accounts online or with the MyAmFam app to make a claim or check the status of a claim.
Amica’s app offers the ability to upload documents, photos and media to file a claim. You can enroll for text messages and email notifications for the claim’s status, and message your claim handler. You can also sign up for direct deposit for claim payments.
Farmers Insurance has temporarily moved to a “technology first” approach in processing claims, according to Trevor Chapman, a Farmers spokesperson. Customers can file claims remotely through Farmers.com, the mobile app, or by calling their agent or the 24-hour call center.
You can also use Farmers’ photo-estimating tool to get an appraisal. If you need an in-person appraisal, you can remain in your vehicle during the inspection process and communicate via text and phone with the claims representative.
Geico encourages customers to check their claim status through the Geico mobile app or the company’s website.
Liberty Mutual says its auto-repair appraisers will not be visiting customer homes or auto body shops except in emergency situations. If you need to file a claim, you can upload photos of your car damage online or through the Liberty Mutual app, which includes an assisted-photo tool and step-by-step guide for taking damage photos.
Travelers Insurance has several virtual options, including virtual inspection tools that allow adjusters to view damage without being on-site. You have the option to utilize real-time video chat and apps to guide you through the claim process. You can also upload photos and videos of damage at Travelers.com.
What About No-Contact Auto Repair?
If your car is in need of repair, you’re going to need to get it over to an auto repair shop. The good news is that many auto repair shops have taken steps to limit person-to-person interaction and reduce the chances of COVID-19 exposure.
“We have been able to quickly launch some new programs to our Carstar franchisees,” says Dean Fisher, president of Carstar North America, a network of independently owned collision repair facilities. Fisher says that these services include increased cleaning and sanitizing, vehicle drop-off and pickup guidelines, and photo-based repair estimates.
It’s a good idea to ask your auto repair shop what steps they have taken to limit in-person contact. If you’re not comfortable with the answers, consider a different shop.
To give you an idea of what types of questions to ask, here are some recommendations from VeriFacts Automotive, a company that offers guidance to collision repair facilities.
- Limited interaction. Ask about discussing your vehicle using virtual methods, like Skype, Zoom or Google Hangouts. If you do need to visit the shop, ask to schedule an appointment during off-peak hours and maintain at least a 6-foot distance from others.
- A clean, sanitized environment. An auto repair shop should ensure that its visitors’ area is sanitized, including computer terminals, equipment, counters, entryways and bathrooms. Bring your own pen in case you have to sign any forms.
- Drop-off and pickup services. If possible, Verifacts Automotive recommends leaving the car in a secure location with the keys in a signed, sealed envelope inside the car. You can also ask your shop if they are able to pick up your car at your house and drop it off after repair.
- Sanitized vehicles upon arrival and return. Ask your shop if they plan to sanitize your car, including the steering wheel, dashboard, knobs, gear stick, door handles, armrest and cup holder.