Your Insurance Agent's Role in the Claims Process
The role played by your insurance agent will be different from one company to another, and could differ dramatically if you are purchasing coverage through an independent agent. If you have to file an insurance claim, contacting your agent is important to keep them apprised of the situation, but there may be a different contact with the insurance provider that will actually handle the claims process.
Dedicated agents, sometimes called captive agents, work for the insurance company who wrote your policy. Some companies prefer for you to contact your agent and let them handle the claims process, others have call centers where claims can be handled by staff trained expressly for the job. Unless you have been instructed to do otherwise, contact your dedicated agent first and let them decide how the claim should be handled.
Independent Agents and Brokers
If your policy was purchased through an independent agent or insurance broker, they may only be able to direct you to the insurance company that owns your policy. Independent agents do not work directly for the insurance company who wrote your policy, they sell a variety of policies from different companies. It is still important to let your agent know what has happened and how it turns out, but their role in the claims process is minimized. Nevertheless, a good independent agent will guide you through your process as much as possible and can help you ensure your rates stay competitive after the claim.
The Role of Adjusters
An insurance adjuster is sometimes confused with the agent. The role of the adjuster is to inspect the scene and appraise the costs associated with repair or replacement of damaged property. This is the person you are most likely to see at the scene of an accident, not your agent. Additionally, the adjuster may offer you a settlement on the spot, which an agent would not be authorized to do. Adjusters are employees of the insurance company, trained in evaluating the accident or damage and making an accurate estimate of the amount of damage involved.
Check Your Policy
Before it becomes necessary to file a claim, read your policy. It will tell you how to begin the claims process, the information that will be needed, and what your responsibilities are during the claims process. Calling your agent is a good idea regardless of how the policy instructs you to proceed, but they probably do not have an important role to play in the process.