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We’ve all seen it, or been there ourselves. Two dented fenders on the side of the road, hovered over by two miffed drivers with cell phones, exchanging contact and insurance information.

So -- what’s next? How to make sure you recoup your losses if the accident wasn’t your fault? The first thing to do is take photos of the accident, and your car. Cell phone pictures will do the trick. Be liberal with the photography; you can’t have too many photos.

You should also ask around and see if anyone witnessed the accident. Gather contact information for anyone willing able to describe the events that led up to the collision, no matter how small. Don’t necessarily views these testimonials vis-a-vis the other person in the accident; instead focus on gathering evidence for your car insurance company.

The next thing to do, after you collect yourself and make sure you get safely, is phone your insurance company. It’s important to make this call the day of the accident, while the incident is still fresh in your mind. Additionally, there is often a statute of limitations on your claims -- usually twelve months -- so it’s best to get the process started as soon as possible.

Your case will next be turned over to a case adjuster. His/her job is to shepherd you through the process; you’ll shared all the information your gathered from the accident with the adjuster. Though adjusters can be incredibly helpful, it’s remember that they ultimately represent the interests of the insurers. That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t be candid with them, but you remain aware of their inherent subjectivity.

Whether or not you were at fault in the accident, it’s important to remember that case adjusters are used to negotiations. If you’re making a claim, you’re likely to have a good idea of how much you’re owed. Stand pat on this figure. The insurance company is likely to make a low offer. You should also put your request in writing, in what is called a Demand Letter. Just type up all of the facts involved in the accident, including your firm demand.

Get in touch with your case adjuster every few weeks to check on the status of your claim. Be pleasant, but persistent in your efforts.

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