Our southeast Missouri personal injury lawyers know how overwhelming it can be to deal with insurance paperwork following a car accident. In this post, we offer some helpful tips and useful information to make the process less daunting.
Organize Your Paperwork
The first pro-active step to take (for your own protection and peace of mind) is to organize and read through your policies. It's important to keep this paperwork organized efficiently: as tempting as it may be to simply shove it in a drawer, it's helpful to be able to locate your policy information quickly. This simple step can save you time and stress if an accident happens.
Keep a separate file for all of your policies. Ideally, it's best to keep them in a fire-proof, water-tight location. If the worst happens, you want to have your policies safe and accessible. Use a file that is easily portable, in case you have to leave quickly in an emergency.
Review Your Policies
An insurance policy is a legal document: it's a formal contract. And like other kinds of legal documents, many people find them confusing. It helps to simply know what you're looking at when you review your policy.
It's important that you know what kind of protection your coverage provides: take some time to ensure that you have enough coverage to protect yourself, and that you understand your rights. Ask yourself these questions:
• Will the money paid out provide enough to repair or replace my vehicle, if needed?
• Can I afford the deductible?
• And, importantly, will the policy cover any medical expenses?
Most often, the first page of a policy is a Declarations Page. This page will usually include your name(s), your covered vehicle(s) and the policy number. It should also include key facts about your insurance policy, such as the policy terms, effective dates, expiration date, coverage information and respective dollar amounts, including your deductible.
Following the Declarations Page is the Policy Form. This is the meat of the policy. The Policy Form explains the terms and conditions, and normally includes descriptions of coverage and definitions of key terms. It should also outline the responsibilities of the insuring agent and you, the insured.
One of the most important pieces of information you will find in the Policy Form is the exclusions. Exclusions spell out what the policy will not cover and when they will not pay (which is important information to know in the event of a Cape Girardeau auto accident).
With each policy period, a new Proof of Insurance or Proof of Financial Responsibility card is normally included along with the insurance paperwork. This card must be carried in your vehicle: it serves as proof that you have Missouri's required insurance coverage on your vehicle. The card will indicate the dates of coverage and your policy number, along with important phone numbers to call if you are involved in an accident.
Many insurance companies will also include a helpful packet which tells you what to do if you are involved in an accident. Normally, this packet will provide phone numbers, instructions regarding who to call, and most importantly, what information to obtain from any other parties involved. Keep this protected: store it in a safe, easy to find location in your vehicle. (You can check out Missouri State Highway Patrol's information brochure for additional help.)
If the worst happens, and you find yourself overwhelmed, at a loss, or at odds with an insurance company, it is not too late to get help. Often, contacting a lawyer is the best protective measure you can take.