South Carolina is an "at fault" state, meaning that the person at fault in the accident is responsible for paying for damages (or his liability insurance, on his behalf). If the other driver was at fault, he or she should contact his insurance company and they should contact you to settle your claim. However, the other driver's cooperation is not required; you can contact the other company directly. You should have received the contact information at the time of the accident. Frequently customers ask us if they can file under their own full coverage. While you can do so, there are three drawbacks: (1) Your claim will be reduced by the amount of your deductible, (2) you may not be covered for some expenses other than direct damage to your car, or may be limited for such things as rental car coverage, that would be fully covered under the other driver's liability coverage; and (3) doing so may adversely affect your rates, as a payment under your policy would appear as an "at fault" accident.
If you are at fault, or no one is at fault (for example, a road hazard), you should file with your insurance company. Virtually all auto insurance companies have toll-free, direct lines for you to call, so they can start handling the claim immediately. Most of these are available 24-hours each day. The information should appear on your insurance card, but here are numbers for our most common carriers. Have your policy number available and call:
Whether or not you are at fault, if the police responded you should have received a FR-10 (Green Form). You must forward this form to us, for us to complete and send to the highway department within 15 days of the accident. This is to prove to the highway department that your car was insured (they take your word for it when you register, but require proof from all parties involved in an accident). Failure to do so will start the highway department on a process to suspend your tags. If you bring this form to our office, we will make you a copy for you to keep with your records.
Workers Compensation insurance is regulated by state law. To file a claim, the employer must complete an Employer's First Report form and return it to our agency. This link allows you to print this form, complete it by hand, and return it to us by mail or fax (#1-803-256-4226), or you can scan it and email it to us.
With all other types of insurance, you should contact our agency to file the claim. It is best that you call, so we can get as much information as needed and clear up any questions at the onset. We will then file the claim with the insurance company; an adjuster will contact you to arrange handling of the claim. Generally the adjuster will call you within two business days; with a few types of claims, such as small theft or lightning claims, the company may mail you a form to complete and return. This avoids your having to take time to meet the adjuster, but does add a day or two of mailing time to the process. Of course, in emergency situations such as a total fire, it should be just a matter of hours until you are contacted.
Different types of insurance treat claims in different ways. In general, PERSONAL AUTO policies are affected by accidents, not claims. Depending on the particular company, a "not at fault" accident may have a small affect on future premiums....or no affect at all. An "at fault" accident will affect your future premiums, whether the claim is filed or not. HOMEOWNERS companies, on the other hand, do not generally adjust their rates based on claims. However, their guidelines permit a certain number of claims (for example, 1 or 2 in a 3-year period); if exceeded, they may not renew the policy. Companies issuing new policies have stricter guidelines, so frequent claims may result in your having to purchase coverage through a company with more liberal underwriting guidelines, but more expensive premiums. COMMERCIAL POLICIES also view claims frequency, though not as strictly as homeowners policies.
Especially at this time, with the insurance market tight and companies using stricter underwriting guidelines, it may be advisable to forego filing small claims, or to have an expert check your damage before filing the claim to make sure it will significantly exceed your deductible before filing the claim. This will save your insurance for the major disasters which you could not otherwise bear---which is the main purpose of insurance.
So if you have a small claim that will not significantly exceed the amount of your deductible, you may wish to contact us to discuss it before filing the claim with the insurance company. We will explain any possible ramifications, so you'll have the best information before deciding whether to file the claim.