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Mobile app takes wait, hassle out of filing car insurance claim

Monday - 12/9/2013, 4:00am  ET

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The Snapsheet mobile app speeds filing an car insurance claim (Courtesy Snapsheet)

WASHINGTON - Nobody looks forward to the process of filing a claim with a car insurance company.

Typically, a person whose car is involved in an accident calls his or her insurance company, and is either sent to a pre-approved body shop or arrangements are made to have an appraiser come to the car to write an estimate for repairs.

"The process has worked this way for quite a long time, but it's expensive and time consuming," says Brad Weisberg, founder and CEO of Snapsheet.

Insurance companies that use the service offer customers a chance to use the Snapsheet mobile app.

"You're able to expedite your claim and actually close it out the same day," says Weisberg.

Weisberg says the user snaps cellphone photos of the damaged car from six different angles, and uploads them through the mobile app.

Insurance appraisers gather in a communal viewing room at Snapsheet, outfitted with big computer monitors.

"The photos will come up on these large screens. They zoom in, and write you an estimate, and then we send the estimate back through the mobile app within three business hours," says Weisberg.

The insured is notified by a text message that the claim is ready.

"You can close your claim out by taking a direct deposit payout or booking an appointment with a body shop," says Weisberg.

Is the estimate accurate?

Weisberg says testing and research shows appraisers viewing photographs are only able to write an estimate similar to an appraiser who is standing next to a damaged vehicle.

"There's always the chance of hidden damage behind a panel that you can't see unless you actually tear the car down," says Weisberg.

If a repair shop finds more severe damage than initially expected, the shop files a supplemental claim with Snapsheet.

"They take photo documentation of the additional damage, then we approve it or renegotiate the price with the shop," says Weisberg.

Weisberg says eight insurance companies are using Snapsheet currently, and expects several others to begin in early 2014.

Knowing that the stress and cost of filing a claim is a prime reason customers change insurance companies, Weisberg says reducing the time and hassle benefits the insurance companies in addition to less-harried customers.

"Handling a claim, doing it the right way, with the proper customer service and transparency is very important to them because they want to keep their customers," says Weisberg.

"We've taken a process that is anywhere from 5 to 10 days down to hours," says Weisberg. "I think the fastest claim we've finished was 45 minutes."

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