If driving to and from work sites, transporting products, or hauling heavy machinery and equipment happens at your small business, then you need a commercial auto insurance policy. You probably have a personal auto policy, but that’s often not enough to ensure coverage if you’re using vehicles to conduct your business.
A commercial auto policy, on the other hand, will protect you and your business from the financial risk that comes with owning and operating one or more company vehicles. If you or one of your employees gets into a car accident while driving a company vehicle, a commercial auto insurance policy can help offset the costs to repair vehicle and property damages as well as medical bills. It can also shield you from liability.
But before you can receive any compensation, you have to file a claim. Being familiar with the commercial auto claims process can help you get your claim settled more quickly. While there are often delays in the process outside of your control, knowing what to expect can make it go more smoothly.
Getting into a car accident can be scary and overwhelming. If you or an employee is involved in a car accident involving a company vehicle, the first thing to do is make sure everybody is okay. Hopefully, the driver (or any passengers) can call for police or medical help if needed. Getting everyone and the vehicle(s) to a safe place out of the way of other traffic is also a top priority. Someone should then call 911 or a non-emergency police number to get law enforcement on the scene for a police report.
Having a police report may not seem necessary at the time but it’s a good piece of documentation to have for yourself, your business, and your insurance. Whether you get a police report or not, make sure to document:
After gathering this information, it’s also helpful to take pictures and record anything else that could be helpful or important. In times of stress, our memories can become unreliable. So, having photos and videos of the damage as well as taking written notes while still at the scene of the accident can be helpful when filing your claim.
While it does vary, most commercial auto insurance policies include a 30-day window in which you must file a claim in order to receive compensation. Even with such a large window, it’s important to report your claim as soon as possible. Delaying reporting the claim to your insurance company can hinder a quick and frictionless claims process.
There may be times when you weren’t at fault for the accident and you want the other driver to file a claim so their insurance will pay. Even in this scenario, it’s still a good idea to call your insurance company. Your commercial auto insurance carrier may be able to open a claim with the other driver’s insurance company on your behalf, which means you’ll have professionals in your corner trying to keep the claims process on track.
Regardless of who was at fault, or if that still needs to be determined, it’s best to get in touch with your insurance company right away to avoid any risk of a claim denial due to waiting too long. If you have an insurance agent, this is also a great time to bring them into the loop because they can work on your behalf to keep the claims process moving smoothly.
Once the claim has been filed, your insurer will assign an adjuster to your account. The adjuster will investigate the claim and ultimately determine who’s at fault and how what type of payments should be paid out. This can mean looking at the damage to your vehicles and others’ vehicles, getting repair estimates, and approving medical treatment. To do their jobs, adjusters may need to visit in person and look at the company vehicle firsthand.
Once the adjuster determines the correct amount and type of payment under your commercial auto insurance policy, you can start receiving benefits. Depending on the situation, you may decide to have benefits assigned directly to a repair shop to make the vehicle repair process move more quickly.
In general, insurance premiums are based on risk and loss history. So, it’s possible that your commercial auto insurance rates could go up after you file a claim. If you’re not at fault for the accident and the claim is made by the other party to their insurance, this is unlikely to impact your own insurance rates. If your rates do go up, remember you can always shop around with different commercial auto insurance carriers and get quotes to see if there’s a better price for you. This is another time when bringing your insurance agent into the conversation can help—either to find you a better price or to give you guidance about switching carriers.
Like other types of auto insurance policies, you have the option to purchase commercial auto insurance that covers more than just collisions. You may want to check your policy to make sure it covers theft, vandalism, hail damage, and other hazards. While you might pay a little more for a policy that covers a long list of circumstances, it’s better to be sure what your coverage includes before you need to use it.
The cost of a car accident can put your small business in a tough spot, especially if you’re trying to cover large repair bills without the help of your commercial auto insurance. By filing a commercial auto claim, you can receive compensation and get back to running your business while spending less out-of-pocket. Just remember to document the accident to the best of your ability and to file your claim as soon as possible to ensure a quick turnaround on your payment. Even when accidents involve lengthy procedures, and even court cases, working with your commercial auto insurer can get you back on the road quickly while the insurance company battles out the details behind the scenes.