How to File an Auto Insurance Claim

A Simple Process for Filing Your Auto Insurance Claim

Help filing your car insurance claim after an accident
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An auto insurance claim is a request made to an insurance company for compensation for damages sustained after a car accident, or for representation or intervention on the insured's behalf when they are liable for damages. Car insurance is expensive, so if you are involved in an accident, you will want to make a claim. 

Contact the Police 

After a car accident, start filing a claim by contacting the police. It is always best to have an officer take down the details of the accident or incident in the police report. You will probably be shaken up after a car accident and may not be in the best position to assess what's happened. In a worst case scenario, if the other party becomes difficult, the police will be there to make sure you are safe. The police will also make sure ambulances or emergency service people are there to help handle injuries or dangerous damage such as leaking fuel or oil.

After the fact, you will have a police report that will help you with your claim.

File an Accident Report

Many states have laws for reporting accidents to the Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) or the police. Make sure you understand your legal responsibilities and follow what needs to be done. If you are not sure, ask your insurance agent, or contact your state insurance commissioner's office

Collect Information About Your Car Accident

Having your car accident information list ready will help you keep track of the information you will need to file your auto insurance claim. It is important to document the details of the accident and be ready to provide them to the insurance company.

Call Your Insurance Company

Call your insurance company from the scene of the accident while you wait for the police or after you are safe. They will walk you through the next steps and tell you what information you need to send them.

If your car is not drivable, your insurer can advise you on next steps such as transportation for you and your car. If you have this coverage on your policy, your insurer can arrange for your car to be towed, as well as reserve you a rental car. If you do not call them, you won't know how they can help and you may spend more money than is necessary. Once you have called your insurance company, they will open the claims file.

Claim Specialist

Once your claim is reported to your car insurance company, they will assign a claims professional, such as an adjuster, to work on your car insurance claim. The adjuster will represent you in any discussions with third parties, and their insurance company, or any other people involved. They will investigate the circumstances and work for you to get the claim settled and your vehicle repaired.

You will likely meet with your claims adjuster or have a discussion on the phone. If your car is at a garage to be repaired, the claims adjuster will contact the garage and review the estimate of repairs.

Your claims adjuster may also specify the garage that will repair your car. Sometimes insurance companies prefer certain garages for car repairs, or they may offer guarantees on work. Make sure you understand how your company handles payment for car repairs. In addition, If you need a rental vehicle while your vehicle is being repaired, and you have the endorsement for rental vehicles when your vehicle is damaged due to an accident, your claims adjuster can make the arrangements.

The claims professional will also review any potential personal injury claims and handle any payments that need to be made as well as approve costs for repairs.

Always provide the claims person assigned to your case with any information they require to make sure the claim moves quickly. The more information they have about the accident, the better they will be able to help you and avoid delays. The claims professional is there to answer any questions, including when your payment will be made and what to expect.

Diminished Value Claim

A partial loss is when, after a car accident, your vehicle retains some value. However, once your car is in an accident, aside from the normal expected repairs, you may suffer a greater financial loss and be eligible for additional compensation. Therefore, you may want to consider making a diminished value claim, which is affected by your specific situation and your state of residence.

Total Loss Claim and Gap Insurance Coverage

If you are concerned about a total loss, which means the vehicle damage will exceed the vehicle value, and you have a newer vehicle, you may want to ask your adjuster about the gap insurance part of your claim, which would have been purchased initially as part of your policy. Gap insurance is an endorsement or amendment added to your policy.

You will also want to know how the total loss is determined and the time frame for settling the claim. Understanding realistic timelines helps you manage expectations involving a claim and avoids frustration.

Cost of Car Repair and Claim Payment

Once the adjuster has concluded their research, you should know the estimated cost to repair your vehicle, as well as any deductible that you will need to pay, and how the claim will proceed. The estimate would normally outline the work to be done, as well as if the insurance company will use aftermarket or generic parts. Once you and the adjuster agree, the work can be done and you can get your car back after the repairs.

Note that if your insurance company does not approve repairs, you may not get paid. As part of your insurance contract, you need to work with the insurance company in allowing them to assess damage and work on agreed settlements.

Never accept, offer, or approve anything until your insurance company has had a chance to review it. When you want an insurance company to pay for damages, part of the agreement is that you hand over control of the situation to them, and you do not make any commitments on their behalf. Always be sure not to make repairs before you are approved, because these may not be reimbursed.

Coverage for a Car Accident or Claim

Claims can be paid from the comprehensive coverage, collision coverage, or any of the minimum car insurance requirement sections, such as liability. Claims may also be paid from multiple sections of your policy, depending on the circumstances of your car crash. Also, depending on whether the accident is responsible, and the type of damage that occurred, your insurance company can provide coverage based on the provisions of your car insurance policy.

Your insurance company is there to represent you and deliver on the promise in the contract to cover your damages. You should not need to coordinate all of the details when you have a claims adjuster representing your claim. Your claims adjuster should leave you feeling taken care of and that they are on your side.

Problems With a Claim

If you have problems communicating with your claims adjuster or don't understand something, then speak to your insurance representative or agent. You could also inquire whether the insurance company has an ombudsman or claims service supervisor. Usually, if you run into trouble during a claim and you speak up, issues can usually be resolved.

If at any time you feel like things are out of hand, or taking too long, you can contact your state commissioner's office to find out what you can do. Calling your state commissioner's office before you have to hire a lawyer may save you money and rectify any claim issues. You can even have them help you file a complaint. The insurance company is supposed to help you, and, as a consumer, you have the right to a fair and expedient claims settlement and customer service.

If, at the end of your claim, if you aren't happy with the service, you might want to speak to an agent about your changing insurance company to an insurance company with high service ratings for claims.