It looked like a day when nothing could possibly go wrong and then suddenly your car caught fire as you were cruising away on the freeway. What started as small ball of smoke soon exploded into this large fireball hinting to you that it’s time to skedaddle.

You have now completed the mandatory safety measures. You are standing 150 feet away from the car, you have called 911 and the dispatcher has informed the fire department.

You are standing there watching your prized set of wheels engulfed in multicolored flame balls that are occasionally shooting out burning darts of shrapnel and the possibility of dealing with a pesky insurance claims adjuster is probably the farthest thing on your mind now.

But those first few moments after the car catches fire can be crucial in helping you seek swift and timely action from an insurance company and get reimbursed without running from pillar to post.

Here are the first four basic steps that you must take that can help you immensely while dealing with a car fire insurance claim.

  1. Stay there: A lot of car owners feel that once they have called 911, they can leave the scene of the fire. This may be necessary in some situations, especially if you or one of your loved ones has suffered injuries that need emergency medical attention. But if there are no serious injuries, then stay at the site of the incident until the coppers reach.
  2. Take pictures/videos: Document everything that you possibly can from a safe distance. Take pictures and videos of the car on fire, capture the license plate and also any personal items that may be damaged in the fire if possible. If there are location markers or any people who were witness to the incident, take photos of them as well with their consent because it will help you to make a detailed claim. If there was property damage due to the fire, cover it in as much detail as you can.
  3. Do not speak to anybody: If the fire was started due to a collision, it is a common practice to start a blame game where both parties involved in the collision blame each other. However, if you even apologize instinctively, it may be termed as acceptance of your liability in the accident by some courts. So stay quiet until the police arrives.
  4. Contact the insurance company: Contact your insurance company immediately. The sooner you inform them about the fire and initiate the claims process, the faster your claim can be fulfilled. Also, in case of a collision, the other party involved in the accident may make claims for undocumented damages.

What details to collect before contacting the insurance company

Most insurance companies provide insurers with a detailed checklist that lists the information that they must collect before submitting a claims request. But it’s a given that you wont have it handy while you are busy collecting details from a potential witness or trying to photograph the iPad that got toasted in the fire.

So here’s a bunch of information that you are expected to collect before you contact the insurance company.

  • Fire Report: Your fire department or the agency that responded to the emergency will provide you with a fire incident report upon request. This report contains important details about the incident that includes physical descriptions about what was burning, details about the location, details of the agency that requested the dispatch and also about who responded to it. If you do not have a fire report available, seek contact information of the agency.
  • Medical report: If you or one of your loved ones suffered injuries due to the car fire, then seek a medical report on the injuries and submit it with your claim request.
  • Damages: Attach the photographs and the video evidence that you collected earlier with the claims request to list any damage to property or personal belongings. Different states have different laws and coverage for personal items. In addition to what is covered by your comprehensive coverage policy, your home owner’s insurance policy may also offer additional cover.
  • Details of the vehicle: Your claims examiner will need extensive details about the vehicle that got damaged in the fire. This includes the Certificate of Title, any records that indicate recent repairs and modifications carried out in the vehicle. This will help them ascertain if the fire was started due to negligence or an aftermarket product that was installed without informing them.
  • Details of witnesses/other driver: If you have details of any witnesses to the incident, attach it with your claims request. In if the fire was started due to a collision, add the contact details of the other driver as well.
  • Contacts of the finance company: If the car has been purchased through a leasing firm or a finance company, then list down their contact details along with your account number. Oh, I almost forgot to mention this. You have to contact the finance company immediately after the incident and ask them to contact the insurance company directly. Once you have your claims examiner’s contact details, share them with the finance company.

What happens next?

Once you submit the information, the insurance company will most probably send out a questionnaire that seeks more information that may be missing or lacking in the request. Different companies have different methods to weed out the possibility of fraudulent claims and the claims examiner will explain to you how this works.

Some insurance companies also provide the insurers with a rental vehicle that they can use while the claim process is being completed.

Submitting a detailed report and collecting the right information can be vital in ensuring that your claim is not rejected. And contrary to what most people think, it neither is confusing nor difficult. You just need to take a breather, ensure that you and the occupants of the car are safe and then get started.