A car insurance claim is a request for financial compensation that a driver files with an insurance company after their vehicle is damaged or they are injured in a car accident. More than $170 billion in car insurance claims payments are made by U.S. insurance companies each year.
There are several factors that come into play when deciding where and when to file an auto insurance claim. While the process can vary between states and insurers, the basic steps are usually the same.
Key Things to Know About Car Insurance Claims:
- When to file a claim depends on the extent and cause of the damage as well as whether or not you are injured.
- Which insurance company to file a claim with depends on who or what caused the damage.
- If the other driver is at fault, you can file a bodily injury or property damage liability claim with their insurance company.
- If you are at fault, you can file a collision, personal injury protection, or MedPay claim with your own insurance company.
- To file a claim, call the insurance company and provide them with your information and any documentation related to the accident.
- Follow up with the insurance adjuster to give them your side of the story before they determine fault or offer you a payment amount.
- Car insurance claims raise premiums by an average of 12% to 45%, depending on the circumstances and insurance company.
When to File a Car Insurance Claim
You should file a car insurance claim if your car is damaged or if you were injured in an accident. The claims processes for each scenario look different depending on the severity of the damage or injuries, who caused the accident, or what caused the damage if it wasn’t a collision.
When Your Car Is Damaged
If your car needs to be repaired or replaced after sustaining damage, the process of filing a claim will be determined by what caused the damage.
- Something other than a collision: If your car is stolen, vandalized, or damaged by weather, file a claim under your own comprehensive insurance.
- An accident that is clearly the other driver’s fault: File a claim with the other driver’s insurance company under that driver’s liability policy.
- An accident that is clearly your fault: File a claim with your own insurance company under your collision policy.
- An accident where fault is shared or unclear: File a claim with both your own insurer and the other driver’s. Once fault is determined, you’ll get coverage under one or both policies.
- An accident where the other driver is uninsured/underinsured: Your own insurance company will cover your losses if you have uninsured/underinsured motorist
When You’re Injured
When you’ve sustained an injury in an accident, your claim options depend on how you were injured and whether you live in a no-fault state.
- You live in a no-fault state: No-fault states require drivers to file injury claims with their own insurance company under personal injury protection (PIP) or MedPay insurance even if they are not at fault. If your injuries are severe or you suffered significant financial loss, you might be able to file a lawsuit against the at-fault driver depending on your state’s requirements.
- It’s the other driver’s fault: File a claim with the other driver’s insurance company under that driver’s liability policy.
- The other driver is uninsured or underinsured: Your own insurance company will cover your losses if you have uninsured/underinsured motorist, PIP or MedPay.
When There Is Only Minor Damage and No Injuries
Severe damage or injuries can make the auto insurance claim process a complicated one. But if no one is hurt and the damage to your car isn’t severe, your options are pretty straightforward.
- If it’s the other driver’s fault – When your losses are covered by the other driver’s liability policy, you don’t pay a deductible. So even when damage is minor, file a claim under that driver’s liability insurance.
- If it’s your fault – If you can live with the minor damage, or if the cost of fixing it will be not much more than your deductible, consider not filing a claim. The small reimbursement after your deductible may amount to less than your future increases in insurance rates.
Automobile Insurance Claims Process
1. Contact Your Insurance Company
Contact your agent or insurer to report the accident as soon as possible. Be prepared to provide the following information:
- Which covered vehicle was involved
- Who was driving
- Location and time of the accident
- A basic description of the accident and the severity of the damage
- The name and insurance information of the other driver
- Names and contact information of others involved in the accident and witnesses
Take notes and write down the claim number you’re provided, plus the name and direct phone number of the person you talk to.
2. File a police report
Your insurance company will request a police report number. If you did not get a police report at the scene, you can still go to a local police station to file a report.
3. Follow up with insurance adjuster
The insurance company will assign an adjuster to your claim. The adjuster will most likely contact you for additional information. Stick to the facts and avoid speculation when describing what happened. Provide any photographs you took at the scene and the contact information of any witnesses.
Remember that the conversation will be recorded and will be used when determining who was at fault. If you are filing a personal injury claim with the other driver’s insurance company, you may want to contact an attorney before this step.
In addition to gathering information about the accident, the adjuster will either inspect the damage to your vehicle or will ask you to take the car to a certified repair shop that will perform the inspection.
Your adjuster will consider and evaluate the facts and your policy, inspect the damage, and potentially make an initial payment.
The adjuster will authorize a final payment. You’ll sign a release, accepting the payment as payment in full for the case.
Procedures vary depending on your insurance company and your state – if you have any questions ask your adjuster.
Car Insurance Claims Contacts: Top 10 Insurers
|Claims Website||Claims Phone|
|Liberty Mutual||800-2CLAIMS (225-2467)|
|American Family Mutual||800-692-6326|
How Fault Impacts Car Insurance Claims
Who is at fault for an accident matters, since that driver’s applicable insurance coverage will be responsible for paying for any losses. Here are some important things to know about how fault is determined and allocated:
Adjusters will determine fault
Each insurance company’s adjuster will weigh the statements of each driver and any witnesses along with any other evidence and make a determination of who is at fault for the accident.
Fault is sometimes shared
If you are found to have contributed to the accident in even a small way, the amount you can recover from the other driver’s insurance company could be reduced proportionally.
Your insurance company will represent you in court
If you are at fault and you are sued by the other driver in a personal injury case, your insurance company will represent you in court and in any negotiations for a settlement.
You have to deal with the other driver’s insurance company if that driver is at fault
You may be able to get assistance and advice from your insurance broker or insurance company, but ultimately, you’ll file a claim with the other insurer and will get coverage under that driver’s policy.
You may want legal representation when the other driver is at fault
Property Damage Claims: Getting Car Repairs
Your insurance company will usually provide detailed instructions for getting your car repaired. Don’t fix anything before the adjuster can inspect it, unless waiting will lead to further damage in the future. You’ll be able to choose your own repair shop and have the final say in which parts you accept for your car, although taking the insurance company’s recommendations can sometimes save you time and money.
If you’re not satisfied with the way the insurer is handling your claim, you have options moving forward. You can directly contact the company to appeal any decisions you don’t agree with or report them to your state’s insurance regulator if you believe they are acting in an unethical manner. As a last resort, you should consider retaining an attorney to help settle the dispute.
To learn more, check out WalletHub’s guide to filing property damage claims.
Bodily Injury Claims: Getting Medical Care
It’s important to prioritize your health when getting medical care after a car accident. Don’t avoid treatment for your injuries, as this could lead to medical complications later on. Many health care providers will be willing to directly bill car insurance companies, but in some cases, you’ll need to submit the medical bills to the insurance company for reimbursement.
If you have serious injuries caused by another driver, it’s a good idea to contact an attorney to represent you as you file a bodily injury claim. Personal injury attorneys provide initial consultations for free and will represent you on a contingency basis, which means they only get paid if your claim is successful.
To learn more, check out WalletHub’s guide to filing bodily injury claims.