How To File An Auto Insurance Claim

Trying not to have a wreck is the thing most drivers are concerned with, but if you do, knowing how to file an auto insurance claim is going to be essential to recover and get back on the road. The auto insurance claim process for car accidents can be complicated. People want to know how much time to file an auto insurance claim they have and how to file an automobile insurance claim with their own insurer or with another driver's. After an accident, it's important to gather information, file a report, and work with your insurance company in their determination of fault and claim value.

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Chris Tepedino is a feature writer that has written extensively about auto insurance for numerous websites. He has a college degree in communication from the University of Tennessee and has experience reporting, researching investigative pieces, and crafting detailed, data-driven features. His works have been featured on CB Blog Nation, Flow Words, Healing Law, WIBW Kansas, and Cinncinati.com. ...

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Rachael Brennan has been working in the insurance industry since 2006 when she began working as a licensed insurance representative for 21st Century Insurance, during which time she earned her Property and Casualty license in all 50 states. After several years she expanded her insurance expertise, earning her license in Health and AD&D insurance as well. She has worked for small health in...

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Reviewed by Rachael Brennan
Licensed Insurance Agent

UPDATED: Nov 17, 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.

If you need to add more coverage, start by comparing auto insurance rates with our FREE comparison tool.

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.

How Accidents Influence Your RateLegend: Serious Driving Violations Minor Tickets/Accidents Clean Record CaliforniaFloridaIllinoisNew YorkTexas 255075100125150175200225250275$164$91$64$225$159$126$49$42$34$153$107$93$276$127$105

More often than not, filing a claim with your insurance provider may end up in a rate increase for your policy. But by comparing rates near you, you can avoid wasting extra money each month on rate hikes. Use our FREE rate comparison tool to see how much you can save.

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