What Is a Car Insurance Claim?
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 auto insurance claims payments are made by U.S. insurance companies each year. 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 injuries or physical damage.
- Which insurance company to file a claim with depends on who or what caused the damage.
- To file a claim, call the insurance company and provide them with your information and any documentation related to the accident.
- Auto insurance claims raise premiums by an average of 12% to 45%, depending on the circumstances and insurance company.
5 Steps to File a Car Insurance Claim
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. Wait for an 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.
4. Get a report from the insurance adjuster
Once the adjuster has considered the facts of the incident, including your coverage and the vehicle’s damage, they will provide an initial estimate of the cost of repairs. Your insurance company will take this estimate—or an estimate from a repair shop—into account when determining how much they will pay for vehicle repairs.
5. Accept payment
The adjuster will authorize a final payment. You’ll then sign a release accepting the offer as payment in full for the claim.
Company Contact Information for Car Insurance Claims
When to File a Car Insurance Claim
You should file a car insurance claim when your car needs to be repaired or replaced after sustaining damage, or when you’ve been injured in an accident. If the damage to your car likely costs less than your deductible and no one else was involved, you don’t need to file an auto insurance claim as your insurer will not make a claim payment.
Below, you can see when it makes sense to file a claim with different types of insurance coverage.
File a claim with your own comprehensive insurance when something other than a collision causes the damage.
File a claim with the other driver’s liability policy when an accident is the other driver’s fault.
File a claim with your collision policy when an accident is your fault. If fault is unclear, file a claim with both insurers. Once fault is determined, you’ll get coverage under one or both policies.
Uninsured or Underinsured Motorist Insurance
File a claim with your uninsured/underinsured motorist coverage after an accident with an uninsured/underinsured driver who is at fault.
Personal Injury Protection and MedPay Insurance
File injury claims with your insurance company under personal injury protection (PIP) or MedPay insurance if you have either type of coverage.
Learn more about when to file a car insurance claim.
How Fault Impacts Car Insurance Claims
Who is at fault for an accident matters, since the at-fault driver’s insurance company will be responsible for covering the damage. Once a claim is filed, the insurance adjuster will investigate the wreck and determine who was at fault. It’s possible for fault to be shared between drivers, in which case the damages would be based on the state’s negligence laws.
Learn more about how fault impacts car insurance claims.
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 auto insurance 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 auto insurance claim is successful.
To learn more, check out WalletHub’s guide to filing bodily injury claims.