Identifying a Car Insurance Company Using a Policy Number
No one ever hopes that they will be involved in an accident, but if you have one, you hope that it will be relatively stress-free. Unfortunately, this isn't always the case. It's not uncommon for an individual who was involved in a car accident to give the other party incomplete insurance information. Sometimes this is done purposefully because they don't want to file a claim on their insurance and admit fault or they're hiding the fact that they are uninsured. If you find yourself in this situation and have just a policy number to find an insurance company, all hope isn't lost. There are a few steps you can take to get the information you need.
Verifying a Policy Number
First, make sure that you have the entire number. If you're given letters preceding or following the numbers, include those in your query as well. Some companies use letters in their policy numbers as state identifiers or to specify policy type. While you may see something like "CAPD 123456789," you shouldn't ever see a mixture of letters and numbers like "12B64F8332XA984Y." A combination of sixteen letters and numbers is most likely a VIN number for a vehicle, not a policy number. Although the length varies by company, most policy numbers are nine to ten digits long.
Unlike the string of numbers at the bottom of your check, any beginning or ending zeros should be included when giving a policy number. Not all insurance companies have flexible search capabilities for their databases, so giving an incomplete policy number won't return any results.
In the event that the policy number you've been given looks incomplete or incorrect, try to get a copy of the police report if one was made. Although the other driver wrote down their information to give you, police officers are required to take down insurance information from an ID card themselves so it's much more likely to be accurate. The police report should also include the name of the other driver's insurance company so this may be all you need to find the information you're looking for.
Where to Look Up a Policy Number
If you know the name of the insurance agency where someone is insured, your best bet is to call the agent. While he or she won't be able to give you any more information about the policy, they should verify what company the policy is through if you're needing to file or inquire about a claim. After an accident, it isn't uncommon for a driver to give out the name of their agent instead of their insurance company if they use an independent agent. Although they may have used the same agent for many years, it's possible their insurer has changed several times since independent agents can write policies for multiple companies.
Without even an agent name to search for, try calling your agent. Explain your situation then ask if they have any idea what company the policy may belong to. Usually with incoming insurance information from new customers changing carriers, insurance agents are exposed to multiple types of policy numbers every day. After seeing them so often, some agents are able to tell at first glance what company a policy number belongs to. Or, your agent may be willing to do a little research to help you find out.
For residents of states that require insurance reporting, you may be able to call or visit your local DMV and have them search for the insurance company by giving them the policy number you have. They may also require the name or vehicle description of the other party before they will release any information. However, if you don't have to report your car insurance to your state, this method of research will most likely not be feasible. Unfortunately, at this time not all states keep current databases of all drivers with active insurance.
How to Avoid This Situation in The Future
Not all car crashes are avoidable. However, you can prevent getting the runaround in future accidents by taking a few steps. Here are some tips to help you in the future:
- Make sure you get all of the information for any other involved drivers when you are in a car accident. Get their name, phone number, policy number, insurance agent name and number, insurance company, vehicle year make and model, and license plate number. With all of this, you should be able to easily contact their insurance company.
- Instead of writing down their policy details, take a picture of their insurance card and vehicles with your phone. Be sure to take pictures of both front and back and note whether or not the date on the card is current. Offer to let the other driver take a picture of your ID card as well as a sign of good faith.
- Always file a police report when possible. Since the police are required to take down the insurance information of both drivers, you have a guaranteed source of accurate insurance identification.