UPDATED: Sep 29, 2020
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Odds are that if you’re reading this page right now, it’s because you’ve been lucky enough to never have had to file an auto insurance claim before. But whether you’re trying to learn how “just in case”, or whether you suddenly find yourself in need of filing one, knowing how the process should work beforehand is a good way to protect your rights and hopefully save yourself some time, frustration, and money.
Before filing your claim, go over your auto policy very carefully if you haven’t done so already. Filing a claim is only helpful if it’s for something which your policy currently covers. Otherwise, your provider won’t pay out the claim (and may use it as an excuse to raise your rates). For example: if you get hit and your vehicle gets damaged by an uninsured driver, but your policy only covers underinsured drivers, you’re going to be up a creek without a paddle.
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A Step-By-Step Guide to Filing a Car Insurance Claim
If and when you actually do have an accident, you’ll be a bit rattled. It is a very jarring experience, but you need to keep a level head. You should also follow the following steps to the best of your ability:
Step 1: Exchange Your Information
You’ll both need to give each other contact information (Name, Phone Number, Address, etc), and insurance company information. In addition to this, you should probably get the contact information of any bystanders that witnessed the accident. Their accounts might be needed later on.
Step 2: File an Accident Report
The next thing you’ll want to do is file an accident report (in some situations, this is not optional; it is legally required). These forms can be found at DMV offices and police stations. In the event of a major accident, you’ll be required to file a report to the DMV within 3 days. This is especially true if your accident meets any of the criteria listed below:
- More than $1,500 of damage to your car or any other property
- More than $1,500 damage is done to any other vehicle and towing is necessary
- Injury or death results from the accident
As a general rule of thumb, if your accident is so severe that you are legally required to inform the authorities, then it will also be necessary to tell your insurance company about the accident. The sooner you do this, the better. Fault will be determined after the fact.
Step 3: Tell Your Company About the Accident
If you are not deemed at-fault in the accident, then you can either file a claim with your own insurance provider or with the culpable party’s insurance company for repairs and damages. Generally, it’s a smart idea to use the at-fault driver’s insurance to pay for car repairs, as they will pay for the costs. This prevents you from having to pay an auto insurance deductible on collision to your insurance company, for example.
But even if you are not at fault in the accident, there are certain situations in which you may still need to file a claim with your provider. If the other driver doesn’t have sufficient insurance, for example, or if their insurance company questions their client’s culpability, you may need to file a claim with your own insurance company while everything gets resolved – especially if the accident leaves you without a vehicle and you need transportation to get to work, school, or other important commitments.
In the case of damages to your vehicle, the insurance company will pay for the cost of repairs. Insurance adjusters will take a look at the damage, and a reasonable amount will be decided upon to reimburse you for the expenses. Always remember that if you don’t believe this amount is in sync with the damages your car suffered, you’re always entitled to get a second opinion at another body shop. Automobile liability insurance claims will give you a monetary stipend for medical expenses incurred by the accident.