Insurance » Auto Insurance » How To File Car Insurance Claim – Full Guide
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How To File Car Insurance Claim – Full Guide

What do you do if you need to file a claim with your insurance company? Well, it doesn’t have to be as difficult as you might think. Here's how to make it.

You can trust the integrity of our unbiased, independent editorial staff. We may, however, receive compensation from the issuers of some products mentioned in this article. Our opinions are our own.

Table Of Content

If you get into an accident and you have any type of car insurance you can file a claim with your insurance company.
If you have to pay for repairs to your vehicle or if you have any other expenses including medical, property damage or even missing out on work you can benefit greatly from this if you end up needing to spend more than your deductible would be.
But it’s important to check things out before you find yourself in this situation.

Your Car Insurance Claim

If you make a claim to your insurance it means you’re asking them to pay for your costs. Those costs could be associated with a number of different things, but the point is that you’re requesting they take care of it for you.

When it comes to the specifics of your car insurance claim there are many things you’ll want to look at. That’s because there are many different types of car insurance that you might have.

  • Liability Insurance – If you cause damage or injury to someone else including physical injury, property damage or any other type of structural damage you would use this type of insurance to take care of it. In all states but New Hampshire you’re actually required to have at least some level of liability insurance.
  • Comprehensive/Collision Insurance – This type of insurance is meant to protect your vehicle. With the collision insurance you’re protected if you’re driving your vehicle and any type of damage occurs to it (whether an accident or not). With comprehensive insurance you’re going to be protected if any damage happens to your vehicle that’s not related to you driving it (like if your car is broken into).
  • Personal Injury/Medical Payments – This type of insurance is going to cover physical injuries that happen to you or to the people who might be in your vehicle. It doesn’t even matter who is at fault for the accident, the insurance will take care of it for you.
  • Uninsured/Underinsured Motorist – If the person that you get into an accident with doesn’t have insurance or doesn’t have enough insurance to take care of your expenses but they are at fault your insurance will cover the rest. This part of the insurance will cover physical injuries or property damage that occurs as a result of the accident.
  • Full Coverage – If you want to make sure that your vehicle and you are protected no matter what happens this type of insurance will take care of every piece that we mentioned and then some.

Should I File an Insurance Claim If I am Not at Fault?

It’s recommended that you always file a claim with the insurance company whether you are at fault or not. You might find that you have more property damage or damage to your car than you originally anticipated. If you didn’t file a claim, you will have to pay these expenses out of pocket because there is no proof that the damage is from the car accident.

You will also need to file an insurance claim if you have medical bills or need to seek medical care. The insurance will be able to reimburse you for medical expenses if you file a claim.

At-Fault vs Third Party Car Insurance Claim

A third-party insurance claim is when there are three parties rather than two. The first party is the insured person, and the second party is the insurance company. The third party will be another person, such as someone who is not the policyholder of the insurance company. This is usually a liability claim.

At-fault insurance claims are when the other party files a claim saying you are the one at fault. The insurance company will need to determine if the claim is accurate, and they will do their own investigation to see who is at fault.

How Long Does a Car Insurance Claim Take?

The car insurance claim usually takes around 30 days. However, the exact time will depend on the claim. Some claims have more things to research and investigate than others. Some claims can be solved in as little as one to two weeks but depend on the agent working.

Keep in mind that it takes an entire team to go through claims and file all the necessary work and papers. The team members on your claim will determine how quickly the process happens and gets finished.

How Long After a Car Accident Can You Claim on Insurance?

This depends on the state and the damage that happened. Each state has a different set of the stature of limitations. In most states though, the claim will need to be filed between 2-3 years after the car accident for bodily damage.

Personal property damage usually has longer statutes of limitations. Some states have the limit of 2 years like bodily harm, while other states allow you to file the claim in as many as 10 years. However, you shouldn’t wait that long.

9 Steps To File Your Car Insurance Claim 

Okay, so what do you do if you need to file a claim with your insurance company? Well, it doesn’t have to be as difficult as you might think.

1. Gather Your Info

First, make sure you get as much personal information as you possibly can. Get names, phone numbers and addresses from everyone in your vehicle, everyone in the other vehicle and anyone who saw what happened.

You may even want to get work numbers or email addresses to make sure you can contact them. You want to be sure that you or your insurance company can get in touch. Also, make sure that you take your own photos of the accident and that you are recording everything that you remember in a summary.

You want to give all of this information to your insurance company, after all. But make sure you also have a copy in case you need it again.

2. Call the Police

You want to make sure that you call the police if there is any kind of accident because that’s going to get you an actual police report. It’s also going to make sure that everyone gets a copy of what happened. This is going to be extremely important for getting what you’re entitled to with your insurance or the other person’s insurance.

It’s even more important if you have trouble with the other party for any reason.

3. Take Plenty of Pictures

Take photos of everything that you can. You want photos of anything you hit, any damage that was caused to your vehicle, your property or the other vehicle or property.

Take photos of anything that you possibly can and make sure that you have these available to put in your report for your insurance company. That means on top of any photos that the police take.

Also make sure that you take pictures of things like the insurance card for the other driver as this can be a whole lot more accurate and important than trying to record this information for yourself.

You may also be able to take photos of your own information to make this process simpler for everyone involved.

4. Call Your Insurance

Once everything has been taken care of at the scene and you are finished with the police it’s time to call your insurance company. You want to make sure that you open up a claim as quickly as you can so that it can be processed and taken care of right away.

You want to make sure that you explain everything that you can and also find out just how you can submit all of the information associated with the accident. That way you can get them started on processing the money you’re going  to get back right away.

5. File Immediately

As we mentioned, you don’t want to wait too long to file a claim because you could actually reduce your return or slow down the entire process of getting that return processed. This is true even if the other person was at fault.

Make sure that you communicate with everyone involved and that you are sharing all of the information that you have with your insurance. The sooner you get it all to them the less likely you are to lose or forget anything.

You also want to reach out to your insurance even if someone else is at fault because you might be able to get it processed sooner. Your insurance may be able to get the other insurance company to do something faster than you can or if the other driver doesn’t submit it this makes sure that things are getting taken care of.

You may be able to submit everything via an app with your insurance company or on their website. Maybe you’ll need to wait for someone to come out and assess your vehicle or let them set you up with where you need to go for any repairs.

You’ll also need to pay for your deductible before you get any kind of benefit. That means even if you get money back from the other insurance company to cover things you’ll pay your insurance the deductible before it’s taken care of.

6. Review Your Claim

You’ll be assigned someone to take care of things once you’ve filed your claim. Make sure that you’re keeping in touch with them and that you’re getting regular updates about your claim.

You want to know what’s going to happen with that claim and how you’re going to get money back. Your insurance adjustor, the one in charge of your claim, will handle everything between the other insurance company and even the people in charge of the accident process.

You may not need to meet with the adjustor at all but you’re likely going to talk to them at least a few times. If you don’t hear from them regularly make sure you call to check in, even if that’s all you’re doing.

Also, make sure that you’re aware of everything that’s happening and that you ask questions whenever you’re uncertain. You don’t want to find yourself out of the loop when it comes to your vehicle.

Keep in mind that they’re in charge of all aspects of your insurance claim including personal injury, property damage and more.

7. Turn in Additional Information

If your insurance adjustor asks for more information make sure that you get it to them immediately.

You don’t want them to be waiting around for something because they could get pulled away from your case or it could delay or impair your ability to get your money back.

They may ask you for things like medical records, estimates, receipts and even photos. No matter what they are requesting about the accident make sure you clarify any questions you may have and send the information as soon as you possibly can. Sending it immediately will make sure they’re able to continue on with the process of processing your claim.

Remember that they know what they’re doing and they know what they’re asking for. They also know how to get everything taken care of as quickly as possible. If you follow along with just what they want and need you’re going to set yourself up for a much faster return. And that means you don’t have to worry about all those expenses that would otherwise be your responsibility in the meantime.

8. Get the Results

Once everything has processed and the insurance company has gone through all of the information that you submitted they’re going to give you a result. They’ll let you know what they’re paying for and what they aren’t as well as any additional information about your deductible.

You want to know everything possible about the offer they’re making and what they’re saying they’re going to cover for you.

If you get any additional repairs or work done that isn’t covered by your insurance you could find yourself paying for that out of pocket, so you want to know what is and isn’t being covered.

9. Don’t Be Afraid to Negotiate

Remember, the amount that they’re offering you and the work they’re offering to do is just that, an offer.

You have the ability to reach out and try to get a better offer. You’ll need as much information as you can about your policy as well as the records and information that you have about your specific case. You may even want to look for information about insurance payouts for similar cases.

If you don’t like what they’re offering and they refuse to negotiate you may have to hire an attorney to come and help you. Remember that this could cost you quite a bit of money and definitely eat into the amount that you’re expecting to get from the insurance. You may or may not be able to get court costs reimbursed even if you do win your lawsuit.

What if You’re Denied?

If you’re denied you have the same types of options as if you’re given an offer you don’t like. You can attempt to negotiate and send in more supporting documents. Your claims adjustor will be able to tell you why your claim was denied and should be able to help you figure out what you can do to get it looked at again. If that doesn’t work you can hire an attorney and go through the court process.

Will My Insurance Go Up If Someone Hits Me?

An insurance rate rise can be caused by a chargeable accident. It is an accident in which you are more than 50% responsible and that causes:

  • Property damage, such as another vehicle or a fence.
  • Bodily injury and death

A chargeable accident might be defined in some states by a dollar amount. Minnesota's example: A chargeable accident can be defined as an accident in which the car insurance company has paid more than $500 for bodily injury liability, collision, or property damage coverage. There are some exceptions.

Massachusetts is one of the states that considers a chargeable incident a claim payment of over $1,000 for another person's property damage, collision, or bodily injury coverage. This applies to accidents in which the operator is more 50% at fault, and private passenger vehicles.

Some car accidents can be charged. These are some examples of accidents that are not subject to charges:

  • When your car was damaged, it was legally parked.
  • Your car was rear-ended by another vehicle. You (or the driver) weren't convicted of any moving traffic violation.
  • The driver of another vehicle was convicted of moving traffic violations in connection with the accident. You were not convicted of moving traffic violations.
  • Accidents were caused by collisions with fowl or animals.
  • Your car insurance company was capable of recovering 80% or more from your collision insurance claim via subrogation
  • Your car was hit in a hit and run accident. (Depending on your state, you may need to report the accident to police within 24 hours of discovering the damage.
  • Personal injury protection (PIP), which covers accident payments, is the only insurance that pays. No collision or liability insurance is offered.

What Happens When an Insurance Claim is Made Against You?

When an insurance claim is filed against you, the other party that was involved in the accident tells their insurance that you were at fault for the accident. The first thing you need to do is make sure your insurance company is on your side and they are fulfilling their duties to protect you.

Your insurance is there to protect you against claims, so you always need to be in touch with the company to ensure they are helping you. 

FAQs

In most cases, you can cancel car insurance claims. Once it has been filed, you will have a certain amount of time to cancel it. One of the main reasons why people cancel car insurance claims is because they don’t want to pay the deductible.

Filing a claim can be complicated and cause your insurance premiums to ride, so in some cases just paying the deductible is easier than going through the car insurance company.

If you have been through the claim process already and signed the paperwork and agreement, it can be hard to reopen the car insurance claims. Most car insurance companies want to settle quickly, so you might find yourself signing paperwork and getting your compensation much quicker than you expected.

After signing the papers, you might start to wonder if you really for the compensation you were entitled to. Since you can’t reopen claims after the paperwork, make sure you feel like the compensation is fair before completing the papers.

If you made an auto insurance claim for medical bills, they will be tax-exempt. The insurance company usually pays the hospital directly or they will reimburse you for the medical bills.

If they reimburse you, this could be considered income since you already spent the money and now you are receiving the check back.

A 50/50 car insurance claim is when the insurance company determines that the liability or fault of the accident is shared equally between the drivers. This means you and the other driver will both accept 50% of the fault and the responsibility for the accident.

In most cases, you will only receive 50% of the overall claim from the other party’s insurance company. Since you are determined to be 50% at fault, you won’t be able to receive the full value of the claim back since your insurance company will also have to give some money to the other party.

Windshield claims are usually considered comprehensive claims which do not affect your insurance rates and premiums the same way that at-fault collision claims do. There are usually limits on how much you can claim though for the insurance.

If you are constantly filing windshield claims, then the insurance company might raise your insurance. They might also refuse to pay for future windshield claims stating maybe you are driving on unsafe roads or that you are filing too many claims in 12 months.

Most drivers are aware that crashes can have an impact on insurance costs. In this chart using The Zebra data, you can see that an at fault crash increases the average cost of minimum coverage from $565 to $884. The price increase is even more significant if you have full coverage. You can expect to pay as much as 50% more on average.

How Much an at-fault Crash Raises Average Car Insurance Costs